Delighted to be in London's ITV studios yesterday for the Virgin Media Business VOOM 2016 finale. Since starting out five years ago from a tent in Oxfordshire, the event has gone from strength to strength, so much so that it is now Great Britain and Ireland’s largest and most valuable business pitch competition.
Joined by supermodel, Tyra Banks; founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely; YouTube sensation Marcus Butler; and Virgin Media Business Managing Director, Peter Kelly, I took to the ITV stage to hear the six finalists pitch their businesses, to vie for a share in a £1,000,000 prize pool, plus mentoring to really help their business thrive.
Listening to the finalists – who were split into two categories: Start Up and Grow – we knew we had a tough job on our hands. All of the companies shared a common theme; they were all wonderfully purposeful and incorporated a sense of social responsibility into their business plans.
The judging deliberations were long and difficult, with opinions split, but in the end we decided to crown Bio-Bean the winner of Grow and MacRebur Ltd the Start Up winner. Having founded three airlines, I particularly loved Bio-Beans’ model to recycles waste coffee grounds into sustainable biofuels. The company is doing wonderful things to help us achieve a sustainable world. While MacRebur is also putting us all on the road to a better future by producing new asphalt out of waste plastic. Not only are they helping to rid the world of potholes, they are also helping to save the planet by recycling plastics that would otherwise go into the ocean or into landfill.
MacRebur and Bio-Bean managed to beat 5,000 other entrepreneurs to be crowned as the winners of VOOM 2016 – having gone through a public vote, a world-record breaking Pitchathon and Professional assessments to make it to the dramatic Live Finale. It was a gruelling, three-month long journey that would have tested any business person – including yours truly and my esteemed fellow panellists. I’m incredibly excited to see what great things these two businesses do in the future.
I’m also looking forward to watching the journey of our runners-up, eFOLDi, Sibberi Tree Water, Vibe Tickets, FoodCloud. Just because they didn’t win VOOM 2016 doesn’t mean they aren’t destined to achieve. My fellow VOOM judge, Sara Blakely placed second on my TV show The Rebel Billionaire, and has since gone on to become one of the world’s most successful businesswomen!
I’d like to thank all of this year’s entrants for throwing their hats into the ring to compete in the VOOM competition. Entrepreneurship is not an easy career path, but it can be amazingly rewarding and worthwhile. I think it’s vital that big business supports aspiring entrepreneurs – it’s a fundamental pillar of the Virgin brand - and I encourage established and successful business to do so.