“We need to speed up the time it takes for great ideas to become thriving businesses – for the sake of the world.”

Marga Hoek, CEO of The Dutch Sustainable Business Association, award winning author and Chair of the judging panel at the 2015 Climate-KIC Venture Competition final in Birmingham on October 29th, was pleased by the very high standard of the eight finalists; “They were very focused, very clear about what they wanted to achieve and why, and had a good grasp of how they could scale up their ideas to become fully-fledged businesses. And that fact shows just how effective the Accelerator Programme is. It’s working. Really working.”

Marga, and her fellow judges, Pierre Nougue (Cofounder and Managing Partner of ECOSYS Group and Cleantech Open France) and Murray McCaig (managing partner with ArcTern Ventures, Canada’s leading early-stage venture capital firm in the cleantech sector) were impressed by the breadth of the start-up’s thinking. She puts it down to the intense training that they received during their year-long journey through the Accelerator. “They’ve been very highly drilled so they can pitch their ideas around the world and win the investment and customers they need.”

“This is my second time as Chair of the jury of Climate-KIC,” she said, “We had to be careful not to focus on the ideas themselves like we did at ClimateLaunchpad – all of which were really clever – but on the business aspects: could these start-ups really go out and build a business quickly? They have to be ‘investor ready’. That was top of our criteria for success.”

Designed for real investment

Marga is clear that the Venture Competition isn’t just about rewarding ideas that sound good but have little chance of thriving in the clean-tech market: “It’s about speeding up the time it takes for a world-changing idea which can mitigate the effects of climate change to get to market. The competition is designed to generate not only publicity but very real investment.”

The judges found themselves with eight equally innovative choices: “We needed to be analytical and indeed very critical,” said Marga, “We don’t help these start-up if we are not. And we asked ourselves each time, would this idea have a real impact, and could it be scaled up quickly enough to achieve real change?”

Bouncing back as valuable learning experience

What about the five start-ups who came away without a prize? Marga sees the experience of pitching for all 28 entries to the competition as a positive experience: “Being an entrepreneur is all about being able to recover from set-backs. It’s about bouncing back. No one really lost in Birmingham, but not everyone could win. The experience will have done them all good. If you can only win, then you’ll never survive in a tough business world.”

Good advice for all the participants in this year’s competition, and for those who will be competing next year, and the year after that!

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