Nearly a year after Chivas Regal began its search for the next big idea in Social Enterprise, The Final Pitch, held at the Herbst Pavilion in San Francisco, would see the remaining $750k of start-up funding distributed amongst the five remaining social businesses.
Barely 24-hours after sixteen finalists had been trimmed to five in the semi-finals, Chile's Jose Manuel Moller, South Africa's David Gluckman, Colombia's Juan Nicolás Suárez, Uruguay's Victoria Alonsopérez, and Japan's Yoshihiro Kawahara, were preparing to take the stage in front of a live audience and the judges.
As the qualified finalists departed for final rehearsals, the rest began the day with an inspiration session, with Sonal Shah on Cultivating Disruptive Leadership, live via Periscope. Sonal told the audience:
"Marginal change is not enough any more–we need to rethink the system. Change traditional thinking by asking, 'What's the cost if we don't do something?'"
"Disruption isn't the next cool app you make. It's about an ability to believe that you can make that change happen."
In the press conference that followed, the judges explained how The Venture was trying to see those ideals realised:
Actor, Adrian Grenier told the assembled media:
"Our values are changing–we want to make sure companies are creating value for us beyond the products they make."
The sun was still shining down on the Herbst Pavillion as the invitees and press made their way inside, with the moment of truth drawing ever closer for the finalists.
South Africa's David Gluckman told us:
"I'm excited! Very nervous, but ready to pitch hard; ready to compete; ready to have some fun!
"My colleague gave me a great piece of advice this morning. He said when you get on stage just appreciate where you are, what you're doing–appreciate how great this is... and that's it really. How wrong can you go?"
Meanwhile the guests made their way through the interactive Social Enterprise gallery, which not only displayed all sixteen finalists' businesses in light boxes, but allowed guests to donate $100 to the business of their choice, using interactive bid cards.
At 7pm, the judges took their seats, and the main event began.
Actor and comedian, James Corden hosted the evening with a typically light-hearted take on events, entertaining the audience with glib remarks, and at one point refusing to release judge Adrian Grenier from an embrace as he welcomed him on stage!
With the audience suitably warmed up, South Africa's David Gluckman was the first to take to the stage, explaining the contributing factors to the problem of slum fires, and how his community response system can mitigate the damage to property and loss of life.
Jose Manuel Moller was next, outlining how he came to understand the poverty tax as a student in Santiago, wherein poor families are forced to pay 40% over the odds for basic goods they cannot afford to buy in bulk, and how Algramo provides a solution through their reusable packaging and locally-based vending machines.
Columbia's Juan Nicolás Suárez took the slot just before the break, presenting Discelar's case for a cost-efficient building alternative to wood, possessing the same practical benefits, and made entirely from waste material.
After the break, Yoshihiro Kawahara outlined the utility of SenSprout sensors in agriculture, in providing vital information to farmers about their crops, which can make their crop cycles more efficient. Using a SenSprout sensor, farmers can produce the same amount of food, using 30% less water. Given 70% of water use worldwide is agriculturally-based, this is of significant benefit to both the farmers and the planet.
Victoria Alonsopérez rounded off the pitches, outlining the ways in which Chipsafer is helping cattle farmers in her native Uruguay, and her ambition to see the company become the number one cattle tracking technology in the world.
Asked if she would ever stray away from the social enterprise model she had built, she responded:
"No, I need to do something that has an impact in the world, otherwise it doesn't make any sense to me."
As the judges retired to deliberate, keynote speaker Peter Diamandis spoke to the audience about his theory of abundance.
The basic premise is that, despite what we are used to hearing in the media, in reality the world is actively getting better for mankind in every possible way. Peter ran through the data backing up this supposition, covering factors such as poverty, war and infant mortality, finishing by detailing the mission of his organisations, Singularity University and the X-Prize Foundation.
"We are living in a world that is far better than it ever has been. Technology is the force driving this, and the entrepreneurs that are applying it."
"I truly believe we are living in a world where there is no problem we cannot solve."
It was an inspirational start to the final chapter of this year's competition. As he departed, Pernod Ricard CEO, Alex Ricard returned to announce the results of the judges' deliberation. He started by thanking the judges and finalists, before revealing that rather than picking one winner, they would be taking a portfolio approach.
The final results were:
Discelar – $75,000
Lumkani Fire – $75,000
Chipsafer – $150,000
SenSprout – $150,000
Algramo – $300,000
The five were uniformly delighted with the result, and Alex Ricard drew proceedings to a close, inviting all sixteen finalists on stage and toasting them to a rapturous applause:
"You have inspired us all, and shown us that great ideas really can change the world."
And so The Venture draws to a close, for this year at least. Congratulations to our five winners, and the rest of the finalists for their invaluable contribution to the project.
Thank you for sharing your journeys with us, you have been nothing short of inspirational throughout. Best of luck in the coming business year.
For more expert entrepreneurial tips and insights, the latest news on technology and business trends, and all the news about The Venture competition head to theventure.com