27 entrepreneurs pitched their businesses to an expert panel of judges. Who was selected to progress to the semi-final?

After yesterday’s surprise announcement that 12 finalists, not 10, would be progressing through to the semi-final the remaining entrepreneurs turned their attentions to the pitch that would determine whether or not they would reach Thursday’s final.

As this year’s competition nears its climax yesterday saw the 27 finalists compete in the quarter-finals. The 12 successful startups that progressed through to the next round were WeFarm, Conceptos Plásticos, Coolar,EyeControl, Wakami, Optic Group ICH, Alzhup, Pollinate Energy, Habitec, JobDoh, Bee Smart Technology, and Migam.

Upon hearing their startup’s name had progressed, Julia Römer founder of Coolar, the electricity independent refrigerator that helps doctors preserve lifesaving medicines in hard to reach areas, paid tribute to those that didn’t reach the semi-final stage.

She suggested that the whole ethos and intention of the competition was more about the fantastic opportunity for like-minded entrepreneurs to come together and share different ideas.

She said: “It’s really important that competitions like The Venture exist. It shows that people believe in what you’re doing in business and your business model. Of course, the money is incredibly important but it’s also amazing to find out new possibilities for your business through networking with other like-minded people.”

She continued: “Meeting Mario from Chile as well as Angel from Nigeria, they both need to have access to cooling products like mine so I can see a future in working with them.”

During the semi-final on Wednesday three of the four global judges, Joe Huff, Sonal Shah and Alexandre Ricard were invited to hear the remaining 12 startups’ pitches, before carefully deciding which five businesses merited their place in The Venture Final.

Before hearing any of the finalists’ pitches, Joe Huff, the co-founder and director of positivity at LSTN Sound Co, explained what the judges would be looking for during Wednesday’s semi-final.

Joe Huff said: “We all have the same overall desire to see something that has the most impact, but they still have to be viable business plans. It’s really that combination of a dream that can work. The person behind it has to really project that dream for me to buy into it. That’s the essence of what i’m looking for.”

Prior to delivering her pitch Alexei Seller, co-founder of Pollinate Energy, said it was important for the remaining finalists to manage their nerves in order to deliver a clear business proposal. She also had some advice for future generations of Venture applicants.

The co-founder of the startup which provides training and tools to sell and install cheap solar energy in urban slums, said: “Practice is so important when pitching. I film myself pitching and I try to get in front of people to practice my pitching. However I don’t think it’s good to practice on the same day that you’re pitching. It could become a bit of a ‘read through’ rather than something that you’re passionate about.”

Oscar Andres Mendez, founder of Conceptos Plásticos, who won over $53,000 during the five week voting period, to help their business which transforms plastic and rubber waste into an alternative construction material for housing, shelters and classrooms, believes the whole Venture experience will be invaluable for to these fledgling startups in the future.

He said: “I think the best thing I’ve taken out of the competition so far is the experience of each person involved in The Venture. The experience they have in their respective fields and projects along with different perspectives about my own business has been invaluable. We changed a lot after the Accelerator Week and it helped refine how we could devote the business to more social aspirations. I’m still learning, since starting The Venture the media attention in my own country has been huge and we’re trying to manage and understand how best to deal with this sort of attention.”

With $750,000 of funding available during The Venture’s Final Pitch Event, the advice this varied group of entrepreneurs received during March’s Accelerator Week became even more pertinent.

Sergey Petrov, the co-founder of Bee Smart Technologies, an integrated system that measures and analyses the health and productivity of honeybees in the hive, said: “Accelerator Week helped me a lot. What I really liked about it was the preparation they did prior to us getting there. From day one they had advice that was very helpful to me. Rob and Lorraine helped me with my pitch immensely; we literally rewrote what I had and I think it’s a lot more balanced now. It clearly helped us as we managed to progress through to the semi-finals. It has definitely paid off!”

After his pitch EyeControl’s Or Retzkin said: “It was hard at the beginning and I was very nervous for the first thirty seconds. After that, the atmosphere in the room put me at ease. It was very clear that everyone in the room wants my business to succeed. After my pitch I felt a lot more relaxed, knowing that I had delivered on everything I had set out to do.”

After another intense yet rewarding day of pitching, the finalists regrouped whilst the judges deliberated over the 12 pitches they had just seen. Which of these exceptional startups would have the opportunity to pitch their social enterprise for a share of The Venture’s remaining $1 million fund?

Addressing the finalists, Sonal Shah of the Beeck Centre congratulated them for progressing this far suggested they had all improved and polished their business propositions since the Accelerator Week.

“Each of you upped your game today so congratulations,” Sonal said. “For us it got harder and harder to come to a decision, but your confidence, your belief in your organisation and what you are doing comes across in your presentations.”

“What I saw from you in London compared to what you’ve done here, you’ve come a long way. We have the hard job of bringing 12 of you down to five for the final. We’ve thought about this in multiple ways from your presentation, where you are in your growth stages, through to your business models.”

She went on to announce the top five startups, who will progress through to tomorrow's Final Pitch Event:


WeFarm - Kenny Ewan

Conceptos Plásticos - Oscar Andres Mendez

Coolar - Julia Römer

EyeControl - Or Retzkin

Wakami - Maria Pacheco

The culmination of the week – and The Venture’s second year – happens on Thursday, as the five finalists pitch for funding in front of a live audience of change makers, business leaders, media, and the evening’s host, The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah. The remaining $750,000 of The Venture’s fund is at stake, but who walks away with funding – and the opportunity to transform their business and further their positive social impact – will be determined by the four judges, including Eva Longoria.

What began with over 2,500 applications from all over the world, will conclude with the judges determining which of the five remaining startups, from an immensely competitive field, deserves a share of $1 million.

Follow @TheVenture on Twitter for live updates as The Venture Final Pitch event unfolds, and for the the latest stories, ideas and individuals that are helping to shape our future.

No endorsement or connection is meant between those featured in this article and Chivas.