Loughborough Alumni


Tom Jelliffe

19 May 2020

Investment success accelerates manufacturing goal for graduate sports tech start-up

A business founded by a recent Loughborough graduate has raised significant initial investment to develop what is believed to be the world’s most durable sports earphones.

Designed to be shock-proof, operate underwater and the first with an impact resistance rating, the earphones can also store 900+ songs to play, without the need for a Bluetooth connection. The earphones are described by their inventor as a true Loughborough collaboration with input from the University’s enterprise, engineering and sport communities.

A Geography and Management student who played football, handball and MMA (mixed martial arts) for Loughborough, Tom Jelliffe set about improving the build quality of sports earphones after he and his gym buddy broke nine pairs in their final year (2016/17).

An enterprise module and a start-up accelerator on the University’s London campus helped Tom to launch his business. Tzuka is now based in LU Inc., the University’s business Incubator, on LUSEP, its Science and Enterprise Park. It is part of a community of graduate businesses, academic spinouts and local innovative start-ups. 

Being part of the University’s graduate business programme, the Studio, Tom was able to use the world-class facilities and technical support of its Sports Technology Institute whilst its strength and conditioning gym provided a ‘living lab’ of athletes to test the concept.

Loughborough alumni are also strengthening Tzuka’s proposition: Engineering graduates are leading the manufacturing design provided by The MTC (Manufacturing Technology Centre) and Design and Technology graduates have provided product visualisation through their company Fractal CG.

Tom has ‘bootstrapped’ Tzuka for two years using start-up funds through the Studio and student interns through Santander Universities Entrepreneurship programme. He said: “Thanks to our first investors including the Wilkinson family, founders of Wilkinson Future, we will merge the manufacturing design from the MTC with the electronic engineering from Newbury Innovation to create an advanced prototype, ready for testing and then manufacture later this year.”

Tom admits that raising investment during the Coronavirus pandemic has been challenging, but it would have been much harder without the connections he made through the Loughborough Enterprise Network. He added: “I couldn’t have dreamed of a better launch pad for the business – and when Tzuka graduates from the Incubator this autumn, we aim to raise further investment and grow the business in LUSEP’s Advanced Technology Innovation Centre.”

Professor Tracy Bhamra, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise said: “Tzuka is a great example of how Loughborough supports students throughout their entrepreneurial journey to build sustainable businesses. I wish Tom every success and look forward to Tzuka adding value to the University’s world-class sports cluster to drive innovation and economic growth.”

Find out more about Tzuka

+44(0)1509 228497

Hazlerigg Building
Loughborough University
LE11 3TU  UK