Richard Branson has again led the biggest startup pitching contest in the UK and Ireland. And this year the competition was fierce as the winners left thousands of other startups in the dust behind them
From science clubs for kids and fashionable tees for breastfeeding mothers to sustainable fishing hooks and even a recruitment system for ex-army personnel, Voom 2018 wasn’t short of innovation in this year’s challenge.
And the judges couldn’t have had it easy as they faced no shortage of applications this year. Indeed, there were thousands of aspiring candidates eager to showcase their businesses. But in the end only six finalists were selected to pitch in front of a panel of judges including Richard Branson, Richard Reed, founder of Innocent Drinks; Sophie Morgan, serial entrepreneur and TV presenter; Susie Ma, founder and CEO of Tropic Skincare; and Peter Kelly, managing director of Virgin Media Business.
Founder Tracey-Jane Cassidy took home the top gong in the Spark & Start category with Junior Einsteins, the science club inspiring children into STEM subjects through hands on activities. This was well-deserved as she faced a stiff competition from Castify, a startup helping people find and cast actors, and Gobbler Boats, the company removing oil and plastic from the ocean.
The winner of the Scale and Grow category was Therapy Box, a London based SME, founded by Rebecca Bright. The company uses AI to help diagnose and support people with communication disabilities and Bright said her initiative has saved the NHS over £6m.
Apart from each winning a share of the £1m prize pot, both the winners also received an advertising campaign and mentoring services to help them grow their business.
A few other prizes that were handed out during the evening. For instance The Crowdfunder Award won by Hookpod, a sustainable fishing hook preventing the death of fishes and turtles caught by tuna boats.
Another winner was Milky Tees, a startup which made stylish and comfortable tees for breastfeeding mothers. It won the International Voom award.
Mo Farah, director of Going the Extra Mile at Virgin Media, presented a special award to Heroes4Hire. The startup recruits and trains former employees from the armed services.
Commenting on the winners, Branson said: “I’m blown away by the quality of the pitches and the incredible passion today’s finalists have demonstrated. Congratulations to the fantastic winners and to our runners up who worked extremely hard to get here. I hope they’ll go on to inspire others - I’m excited to watch them all continue their journey business.””
While these startups are worth to watch out for, sometimes an idea in your bedroom can earn millions with a little effort and tenacity. So for all you budding entrepreneurs out there, remember that this is a good time to get yourself pitch perfect for Voom 2019.