During yesterday’s semi-final 12 entrepreneurs pitched their social businesses to a panel of judges which included Joe Huff, the co-founder and director of positivity at LSTN Sound Co, but only five startups were selected to progress to The Venture Final Pitch Event.
With the remaining $750,000 of The Venture’s fund at stake WeFarm,Conceptos Plásticos, Coolar, EyeControl, and Wakami were chosen to progress through to the final, which unfolded in front of a live audience.
Hosting the live final was The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah. The South African comedian began proceedings saying: “This is the future. Success is about global profit. The meaning of success around the world is changing. The Venture is a celebration of startups and entrepreneurs who believe in the power of business as a force for good.”
Trevor went on to introduce each of the judges, and the night the live final officially began.
The Venture judge Eva Longoria, who is well versed in entrepreneurship having set up The Eva Longoria Foundation said: “If you don’t have a social aspect to your company, consumers will choose a different product. These people have seen obstacles in their own countries and turned them into business opportunities.”
Joe Huff, whose LSTN Sound’s core belief is ‘what’s good for the business should be good for the world’, was impressed by the strength in depth of the competition, but particularly by the final five: “The diversity of the finalists really stands out to me. There are a lot of ways to solve world problems and create positive change. The selection of the finalists exemplifies the raw diversity of issues we’re trying to fix in business. I feel like a lot of people did a lot of work to get here so we owe them a great deal of gratitude for joining us.”
Now in her second year as a Venture judge, Sonal Shah suggested the live final showcased an array of brilliant startups, each of whom clearly illustrated how their business was creating a lasting positive social impact.
Sonal, who was the Deputy Assistant to the President and founding Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation under President Barack Obama, said: “Their poise, their commitment and that they’ve figured out a business model that can do good and make money.”
“The risks they’ve taken in their lives to be here. They believe there is a better way to do things, and now they’re here pitching for $750,000 to achieve that. Their presence here proves that social enterprise works.”
The first finalist to pitch was Oscar Andres Mendez, founder of Conceptos Plásticos. Having accumulated more votes and funding during the five week voting period than anyone else, Oscar admitted he relished the opportunity to showcase his startup on a global stage.
To articulate the positive impact of his startup, The Venture finalist also shared an array of stark facts about the rising impact of plastic waste. By 2050, Oscar explained, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish unless something is done. His business not only prevents plastic pollution and diverts waste from landfills, it also creates much needed building materials for communities to establish a physical infrastructure.
Eva Longoria asked: “You identified a great problem which is mobile housing. Your idea is super scalable, many countries want it. What’s preventing you from growing the company now?”
Conceptos Plásticos’ founder admitted he and his team were working on a scaling their model in order to further their impact, before leaving the stage to warm applause.
Next up was The Venture’s representative from Germany. Julia Römer, founder of Coolar, the electricity independent refrigerator that helps doctors preserve lifesaving medicines in hard to reach areas, started by showing a photo of her fridge at home. The entrepreneur then spoke about the 1.2 billion people in the world, that do not have the capacity to store food, medicines and vaccines at the right temperature. As per Oscar, Julia flourished in front of the expectant audience, as she clearly demonstrated Coolar’s scalable social impact.
Following Julia on stage was the founder of EyeControl, the inexpensive, mobile and screen-free communication device that allows “locked-in” patients to communicate. Having pitched his business within relatively intimate surroundings during the quarter-final and semi-final, Or Retzkin admitted that standing in front of an audience of 300 people, really sharpened his mind.
He went on to explain that his affordable and wearable device would help the 1.2 million people that are locked-in around the world.
The founder of Wakami, the startup from Guatemala which not only designs and sells fashion accessories, but also provides education, skills and resources to rural families, was next on stage. She passionately shared with the audience the nature of Wakami’s work, and how it helps to empower women to become business owners.
Maria Pacheco said: “I think this competition has generated a lot of visibility for Wakami to help us take it to the next level. We want to tell the Wakami story to people all over the world. The key thing for us is to develop a brand that brings the world together.”
She continued: “What’ I’m most proud of is that the communities we work with have a voice, and the women in those communities also have a voice. For me, my ambition after this competition is to be able to work with more people.”
The last finalist on stage was Kenny Ewan, founder and CEO of WeFarm, the knowledge sharing platform for farmers. Explaining that there are more than 500 million small scale farmers around the world without internet access, Kenny suggested his simple solution could save crop yields and make agriculture in the developing world, far more efficient and profitable.
After a series of questions from the judges, Kenny told Eva Longoria about how he was successfully scaling his business, accumulating more than 1,000 new users a week.
After his pitch, the judges convened to deliberate on how they would split the remaining $750,000 of The Venture fund. Each of the five finalists had presented compelling arguments about the merits and scalability of their business, but they now had to wait patiently whilst Eva Longoria, Alexandre Ricard, Sonal Shah and Joe Huff decided their fate.
Returning to the stage, it was time for the finalists to learn of the judges decision. Addressing the five nervous entrepreneurs, Alexandre Ricard revealed the final allocation of The Venture’s remaining $750,000 in the following order:
Conceptos Plásticos = $300,000
WeFarm = $200,000
EyeControl = $100,000
Wakami = $100,000
Coolar = $50,000
Pernod Ricard's Chairman and CEO, and The Venture judge, Alexandre Ricard, said: "It was truly a privilege to be part of the judging panel and watch the five finalists pitch for the remaining $750,000 of funding. Businesses like Conceptos Plásticos and WeFarm are great examples of how innovative, passionate and forward-thinking the social entrepreneurship movement is. Chivas is proud to support the global community of businesses that are on a mission to make a positive change in the world - I look forward to seeing the impact of these projects in the future."
Eva Longoria stated that the impact of Conceptos Plásticos helped sway her vote, because it addressed two social issues, housing and environmental.
“There’s a huge need for it,” Eva explained. “His (Oscar’s) passion for this invention and how it’s going to help the world. And how it’s going to be scalable to many other countries. It just hit every marker that we had."
She added: "I was really inspired by the finalists - I'm so grateful there are people in the world who can figure out solutions to complex global problems. We all live in a global community and I absolutely believe social entrepreneurship is the only way we can create positive change. The caliber of the 27 finalists, their business ideas and fresh thinking was amazing."
The live event brought to a close The Venture’s second year. What began with over 2,500 applications from all over the world, concluded withConceptos Plásticos winning the largest share of The Venture’s $1 million fund. Each of the 27 finalists that began the week showcased the best of a growing movement of business as a force for good.
The Venture will continue its search to find and support the next generation of startups that want to succeed whilst making a positive impact on the lives of others.
Follow @TheVenture on Twitter for all the highlights from the competition, and 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.