This week saw the culmination of months of work for 80 companies and start-ups who entered the Virgin Media Business #VOOM 2018 pitching competition. Eager entrepreneurs uploaded their pitch to the #VOOM website, where their supporters could vote for them and support them financially through crowdfunding.
Suw spent Monday 21st May up in Manchester judging the semi-finals, alongside Rosanne Gray from Virgin Unite, Phil Geraghty from Crowdfunder, and Luke Pharaoh from Virgin Start Up. Together, we were the the pitch judges for the Spark & StartUp category, for entrepreneurs and companies with 0 to 19 employees. We listened to nearly 40 two minute pitches and had a four minute Q&A with each entrant before they went on to be grilled by specialist judges on finance, marketing, and business planning & leadership.
If you want to watch the pitches, which alternate between the two categories, Spark & StartUp then Scale & Grow, and you can find them on Facebook:
The quality of the semi-finalists was incredibly high with some fantastic pitches for great businesses, some of them just ideas at this stage, some of them already established. Far too many of them deserved a place in the finals, so it was difficult to choose just three. In the end, we whittled it down to:
- Castify – the easiest way to cast actors
- Gobbler Boats – clearing our oceans of pollution
- Junior Einsteins – nourishing a love of science
And in the Scale & Grow category, the judges chose:
- Rejuce – beautiful juices from ugly fruit & veg!
- Action Petz – where dogs’ dreams come true
- Therapy Box – detecting and supporting communication disability
Then on Wednesday morning at Tobacco Dock, the finalists gathered to make their pitch for one last time to five judges: Richard Reed, founder of Innocent Drinks, Sophie Morgan, serial entrepreneur and TV presenter, Susie Ma, The Apprentice finalist and founder of Tropic Skincare, Peter Kelly, managing director of Virgin Media Business, and, of course, Virgin Group founder, Sir Richard Branson.
Just as in the semis, the finalists had a two minute pitch and a short Q&A afterwards (you can watch the whole final on the Virgin Media Business #VOOM Facebook page – it starts at about 25 minutes in). The judges had the unenviable task of having to decide on the two winners, who were:
Spark & StartUp: Tracey-Jane Cassidy – Junior Einsteins
Inspiring a love of science and learning in naturally curious children through hands-on interactive experiments at amazing science events. (left)
Scale & Grow: Rebecca Bright – Therapy Box
Therapy Box uses machine learning to diagnose, treat and support people with hidden communication disabilities. (right)
Paypal International Award: Lauren Hampshire – Milky Tees
Milky Tees are unique breastfeeding T-shirts with hidden zips at each side to help mums breastfeed easily, discreetly and stylishly!
Virgin Unite Impact Award: Joanna Wright – Organic Blooms
Picture 9 acres of organic cut flowers, add a handful of chickens and a team of amazing people, and you have the inspirational Organic Blooms.
The G Award: Gauthier Van Malderen – Perlego
Perlego is a textbook subscription service that is trying to make academic content more affordable.
Crowdfunder Award: Becky Ingham – Hookpod
Working to make longline fishing safe for marine wildlife, saving seabirds and potentially turtles from becoming bycatch in tuna fisheries.
Sir Mo Farah Going The Extra Mile Award: Nigel Blanchard – Heroes4Hire
A veterans only handymen service that recruits, trains and fully employs only ex-servicemen and women throughout the country.
Congratulations to all the winners and runners up!
Ada Lovelace Day became a #VOOM Partner because we believe that women make amazing entrepreneurs and we wanted to encourage more women to take part in a competition that would not only give them a chance to win financial support and access to amazing advisors, but that would help anyone who took part by raising their profile and helping them raise money through crowdfunding. We could not be more delighted that the list of winners ended up included five women out of seven awards.