The Chivas Venture 2016 finalists found themselves launched into a heady, hectic itinerary of workshops, high stakes pitches and parties - from the high-powered guidance of Accelerator Week in Oxford, through to the nervy exhilaration of finals in New York.
With previous participants facing challenges ranging from building a robot to taking part in a Great British Bake Off-style event in the countryside, the Chivas Venture is not just a competition, but a varied programme of activities and seminars that broaden the mind and open it to new ideas. And how many people can say, like this year’s new finalists, that they’ve forged lasting business relationships while taking part in an epic treasure hunt around Oxford?
We asked last year’s alumni about the knowledge, experiences and friendships they gained during the Chivas Venture’s second year.
WeFarm: The knowledge sharing platform for farmers without internet access.
“My favourite memory is the first time I saw the other four finalists pitch,” The founder of WeFarm, Kenny Ewan, said. “Until that point the competition was run in a way that all of the stages of the competition had been behind closed doors. When they announced the winners of the semi-final they took us immediately over to the studio to do a stage rehearsal for the live final. It was a surreal moment. I was scheduled to be the final person to pitch, and for the first time I watched the other four get up on stage in front of the cameras and do their pitches. It was genuinely a humbling moment for me, both in terms of the amazing work the other four were doing and how that reflected on us for being there alongside them. I had butterflies thinking about following them.
EyeControl: The startup giving ‘locked-in’ people the freedom to communicate.
Or Retzkin, CEO of EyeControl, said: “It is one of the strongest and most memorable experiences I’ve ever had. Starting with the Accelerator Week, in Oxford - which was a great adventure - meeting all of the other entrepreneurs, seeing so many different companies, organisations, cultures and skills in one place. After a few days we all became very close and it was a kind of like an entrepreneurial boot camp. You go inside and get a kit for the whole week. You don’t really know what to expect. It’s a very tight and very intense week; there are pitching workshops, you’re baking cakes together, going out together. You only have an experience like that a few times in your life. If I could compare it to anything…maybe…no. I don’t want to compare it to other stuff!”
Wakami: The fashion brand empowering women in Guatemala and beyond.
“It was intense but inspiring,” Maria Pacecho, Wakami’s founder, said. “It was essentially a competition but we weren’t in it just to chase the funding, although my thought was that we could do even more good with it. The whole experience was exciting and it introduced me to other similarly-minded individuals who also had really important information to share about their back stories and future intentions. What Chivas are doing is incredibly important because it brings social entrepreneurship to an entirely new audience. I was incredibly proud for the company to do so well [in the Chivas Venture] but not for me personally. I was proud for the people who make our accessories and, obviously, my team. They all work so unbelievably hard and it was a recognition of their achievements.”
Coolar: The solar powered refrigerator keeping medication cool in the developing world.
“What really surprised me was everything I learnt,” Coolar’s founder Julia Römer explains. “Normally in a competition you don’t learn that much. Normally you wouldn’t have an Accelerator Week where you’re sitting in Oxford and learning with the (Skoll Centre, with people trying to help you define your social enterprise. That’s something that’s really amazing and specific to the Chivas Venture. Normally you’re just a participant in a competition and you have to pitch, and then you get a prize or you don’t get a prize. But this was so much more than that.”
Eco Mensajeria: The completely sustainable courier service delivering a green message.
Edison Santos, founder and CEO of ECO Mensajería: “My abiding memory was actually the song I coined during the competition! I came up with it for all my Chivas Venture friends, and sang it with them in the London Natural History Museum, and in New York City at the finals. It was just a way to feel united with them but it was a take on Queen’s We Are the Champions. It went: “We are The Ventures, my friends, the best 27 of the earth. We are the Ventures, we are the Ventures. There is no time for losers because we are The Ventures of the world.” It sort of became our unofficial anthem! I hope maybe it could become the Chivas Venture anthem! New generations will just have to adapt the number of participants and that’s it! My legacy is to inspire them to share a moment where they all get together and sing from their hearts in one voice, full of pride and gratitude for being one of this exclusive group of leaders, capable of changing the world.”
CrashDetech: The mobile app providing real-time data that helps reduce roadside fatalities.
Jaco Gerrits, CEO of CrashDetech, said: “There were so many highlights. Being completely overwhelmed when we first won the local competition; the amazing support we’ve received locally and internationally; the excitement of arriving in New York. It’s really difficult to single out one. The best parts of the competition have to be the moments I got to share with the other amazing finalists from all over the world. I now get to call them my friends.”
DiagnoChip: The affordable medical kit diagnosing diseases quickly and efficiently.
Mario Soto, co-founder of Diagnochip: “The best moment of the competition for me was definitely the first time I met all of the participants. I instantly felt we were old friends sharing an exceptional opportunity in our lives.”
Epitrack: The app using crowdsourced data to contain diseases and prevent epidemics.
Onicio Leal, co-founder and CEO of Epitrack: “It was definitely the Accelerator Week. We learnt the basis and semantics of how to make a difference in the world using our businesses as a tool for change. To better understand the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship, leadership, marketing, branding and so on. Everything about that week was amazing to me.”
Habitec: The startup rebuilding Angola’s educational system, one desk at a time.
“The support and assistance of the Chivas Venture team in providing us with all the tools to make us true leaders was the highlight for me,” Habitec’s co-founder, Felisberto Caramba said. “It was the most unique experience of my business life; it put the Habitec brand on an international map. The competition was one long learning experience, where you learn from each other, you improve your pitch with others, and you create a very powerful network that will last forever.”
LocalAlike: Preserving local cultures and promoting community based tourism in Thailand.
Somsak Boonkam, founder of Local Alike, said: “It was undoubtedly sharing the moment with all the other social entrepreneurs. There is something incredibly comforting about the fact that there are so many extraordinary people around the world that are trying to use business as a force for good. Meeting at Oxford University just before the start of the Accelerator Week, there was a very palpable sense of that determination.”
Taka Solutions: The pioneering startup making buildings more energy efficient.
“The Accelerator Week period in Oxford and London was the highlight,” The co-founder of Taka Solutions, Charles Blaschke, said. “Getting to be around that many other high quality, genuine people with the same goals and in similar positions around the world was incredible. We learnt from the best people, in the best venues, and went to the most amazing parties. It is truly an experience that is impossible to recreate.”
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