19 June 2017
Venture Competition 2015: Five minutes to change the world
The finals of the 2015 Climate KIC Venture Competition show just how valuable our Accelerator Programme is.
The finals of the Climate-KIC Venture Competition always make me nervous. Not just because 23 of the best ideas which have been nurtured by the Accelerator programme have to be judged and eight finalists selected, but also because these inspiring entrepreneurs, with their brilliant (and often surprising) ideas have to put their ideas on the line to try and win the top prizes.
Their start-ups are their lives; their hopes and their dreams. Each pitch made it clear that each start-up really believed that their solutions and products could help change the world. It seemed almost cruel to ask them to convince the judges that their idea is a viable one in just five minutes. It’s as if we’ve given them just five minutes to change the world, and they can either succeed or fail.
It’s Darwinian but it works!
But, of course, it’s not just five minutes. They’ve had 18 months in which they’ve been nurtured and trained through the Accelerator programme. They’ve had to really focus on what would make their idea work as a commercial enterprise. They’ve had to ask themselves not only will their idea mitigate the effects of climate change, but can it do so in a scalable way; can it grow fast enough to make a difference; will it make money for investors?
As Frans Nauta, who hosted the final on Thursday 29th October said, “It’s Darwinian; it’s cruel, but that’s how the market works, and we’re all about ventures that can survive in the real world.”
He’s right. Which is why the three judges asked very tough questions of the eight finalists. Murray McCaig, a venture capitalist based in Toronto, Canada, with a strong interest in clean-tech start-ups; Pierre Nougué, CEO of Ecosys, an organisation seeking to connect clean-tech companies around the world, and Marga Hoek, CEO of Dutch based Sustainable Science Association, were tough interrogators, able to use their deep experience in the sector to test each start-up’s credibility in front of a well-informed audience.
The prospect of eight, five-minute business pitches might not sound entertaining, but it turned out to be a piece of compelling theatre at the ICC in Birmingham. Eight innovative solutions to urgent problems were presented with great passion and verve.
We learned that deserts could be made to bloom productively; huge tankers could use less fuel if their hulls were cleaned whilst in port; water could be recycled locally without the need for huge treatment plants; off-grid solar energy power plants could bring reliable, clean and quiet energy to African villages (no need for dirty, noisy generators); waste water from mines or chemical factories could be treated and valuable substances recycled profitably; the cloud could be dispersed to people’s homes with servers generating heat as well as digital power; household appliances could enable national power grids to balance demand; and water leaching from landfill could be treated onsite without the need for thousands of trucks clogging Europe’s roads.
We wanted all of them to win. But only three could: a first prize of €40,000, a second of €20,000 and an audience award worth €5,000. We left the auditorium anxious to find out who won.
It was worth the wait.
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