Almost a year after over 2,500 applications were first received, the winner of The Venture was revealed at a live event in New York City on Thursday 14th July. Here the final five explain what it was like to pitch for a share of $1million.
With $250,000 of the prize money already allocated before the event courtesy of the public vote, the remaining $750,000 of the competition’s fund was at stake, as WeFarm, Conceptos Plásticos, Coolar, Eye Control, andWakami contested The Venture’s Final Pitch Event, in front of a live audience.
The five finalists had just five minutes to pitch to the judging panel, made up of Sonal Shah, director of the Beeck Centre for Social Impact and Innovation, actress and activist Eva Longoria, Joe Huff of Lstn and Alexandre Ricard, CEO of Pernod Ricard.
Conceptos Plásticos earned the most amount of funding with $300,000, while WeFarm, the UK entrant, came second receiving $200,000. Each of the remaining three startups also received a share of the money. Wakami and Eye Control, which enables ALS sufferers to communicate with their eyes, received $100,000 each. Coolar, whose innovative cooling system enables doctors to preserve lifesaving vaccines and medicine in off-grid regions, won $50,000.
The live event, hosted by The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, brought to a close The Venture’s second year. What began with over 2,500 applications from all over the world, concluded with Conceptos Plásticos winning the largest share of The Venture’s $1million fund. Each of the five finalists showcased the best of this growing movement of business as a force for good, and below they reveal what it was like to take part in The Venture.
How would you summarise your experiences at The Venture finals this week?
The founder of Wakami, Maria Pacheco: “I think it’s been a beautiful experience. It's been a rollercoaster of emotions, possibilities and connections.”
Or Retzkin, the founder of EyeControl: “It was one of the hardest weeks I’ve ever had. It’s been intense, but very inspiring. I haven’t slept a lot, with all the preparation and nerves. The comments we’ve had from the judges have been really positive and I’ve only had good feedback. This week will help us improve ourselves and our business.”
Kenny Ewan, founder and CEO of WeFarm: “It’s been humbling. Last night at the first rehearsal it was the first time that I saw the other finalists pitches and it was really humbling for me. You realise the competition, the level of stuff they’re doing. It made me feel proud to be a part of this and to have made it through to the last stage.”
Julia Römer, founder of Coolar: “It's been amazing and intense and exhausting. It’s been positively shocking because when you’re in a competition with so many amazing startups you can never be sure that you’ll make the final round. It was a shock to find out I was.”
Oscar Andres Mendez, founder of Conceptos Plásticos: “It's been awesome. Very interesting and it's broadened my knowledge to be here. To be in the top five has shown us that our project has incredible potential. We are going to give solutions to many people.”
What will The Venture funding do for your business?
Maria: “Firstly we need to invest in a good branding and communications strategy. We would invest in bringing people onboard with the experiences that we need. Technology, online marketing...communication is key for us. We really hope to reach bigger markets - more markets mean more sales, which means more communities with incomes. Income in the villages means that dreams can be fulfilled.”
Or: “The first thing we would do with the money is further product design. This is the first mission for us. Beyond that we would like to do more R&D to adjust the new product to the existing software. Finally, marketing which is still a priority but we want to make sure our product is as good as possible first.”
Kenny: “For us it’s about accelerating our business in order to get it to the next stage. We’ve had a really great first year and we’ve built a great platform for ourselves. We’ve shown it's worked, we’ve shown that its needed. We want to take it to as many people as possible. Our goal is to launch in India and reach 100,000 farmers there.”
Julia: “We’ll be expanding our manufacturing and field testing of our pilots. We want to also develop further partners and general production processes so we can get ready to start.”
Oscar: “We will improve all of our processes and increase our capacity. We want to replicate our business model in other countries. We have already developed another product from our voting campaign - so we’ll be looking to get IP protection for that as we know how many people need our solutions.”
What is the biggest thing you have learned during your Venture experience?
Maria: “I’ve learned two things: dreams can come true and I’ve learned to try and enjoy the ride. Resting and celebrating is an important part of the journey as a successful social entrepreneur.”
Or: “I learned so much from the other 26 finalists. It helped give me a deeper view of their businesses and how they work. You get to see what each entrepreneur does with their businesses. Accelerator Week helped me build the social impact section of my pitch which has really helped me and it was also great practice for me to do the pitch in English.”
Kenny: “As a social entrepreneur I feel I’ve learned a lot about the context and the ecosystem. You don’t often see all the awesome things in countries across the world. There are many great businesses all over the world - it’s been great to feel like a part of something bigger than yourself.”
Julia: “I learned a lot about the social impact metric - how you can measure what your business really does. It can sometimes be difficult to work out how to measure it. Sometimes it's not always the obvious way to go as it might have less impact, but just getting in that mindset will help us in the future. Make sure your model is sustainable and scaleable; your impact is then a lasting one.”
Oscar: “To be here with all of these people and to understand and embrace what 26 other amazing entrepreneurs, people I can now call my friends, are doing in 27 countries all over the world. This was all about shared experiences, and shared knowledge with each other. It will be so helpful for our business and for all of our futures. Before the challenge we knew that we had a good project - with the viral video we’ve had, we now know that so many people want this product. The Venture’s exposure has confirmed our thinking.”
What advice would you give someone thinking of applying to The Venture?
Maria: “Do it. Apply. It’s a life changing experience. It’s the opportunity to share with the world your cause, your mission, your voice.”
Or: “I would suggest anyone who has a social startup or business to try to get into this program. It is a life changing program for the business and the entrepreneur. It opens so many doors and gives you so much exposure. I would never have imagined the exposure we would get at the start. Enjoy it and take as much as you can from the experience.”
Kenny: “My advice would be to apply and to not think you won’t be listened to or heard. My experience has been that there are such a wide range of people and backgrounds. Its open to all types of social entrepreneurs. Definitely give it a shot.”
Julia: “Do it! Just try. You don’t have to be super ready with everything - we were really early in our startup, but now we’re here. If you want to do something, then just try.”
Oscar: “This has been the most amazing experience. You will meet so many people. You will connect with the best people in the business. Your business will grow and scale. It’s like a trampoline - you can grow exponentially.”
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No endorsement or connection is meant between those featured in this article and Chivas.