With the digital revolution progressing in full swing, more and more new, exciting business opportunities, alternative avenues, effective start-ups and all-round solutions have come to set the world alight, awakening industries across the world to a new generation of young, informed and technologically savvy entrepreneurs and innovators. What’s more inspiring is that among those riding this wave of change are enterprising individuals who have made changing society and the environment for the better central to the mission of their respective businesses.
In keeping with the company’s spirit inspired by its founding brothers James and John Chivas who realised early on that success always tasted better shared, Chivas Regal launched in 2014 the Chivas Venture, an annual global competition to identify and support the next generation of sustainable start-ups dedicated to making the world a better place. Since the launch of the competition, almost 6,000 social enterprises have applied for the chance to receive a share of the annual $1 million fund. This year, participants from over 30 countries across six continents took part in the Chivas Venture.
In our print editions earlier this year, we wrote about the launch of the search in Malaysia, from which FOLO Farms, a Johor-based, family-run farming coterie led by Will Chua, specialising in turning food waste into nutrient-rich compost and growing healthy, organic vegetables, emerged as winner, becoming the Malaysian finalist to compete on the global stage of Chivas Venture 2017 in Los Angeles.
The following is a recap of the participants’ journey with Chivas Venture.
In preparation for the Chivas Venture Final, the 30 finalists were flown to Oxford to take part in a transformational Accelerator Week programme designed by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship embedded within the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. Across the five days of intensive learning, the finalists had the opportunity to develop leadership skills, take part in practical workshops and be inspired by global experts on critical topics that affect social startups.
“In today’s uncertain political and economic climate, social enterprise has never played a more important role in securing a better future for our society. There’s an incredible pool of entrepreneurs in the final 30 of this year’s Chivas Venture competition, who we believe really have what it takes to make a difference. We’ve got a great programme lined up for this week, and we look forward to being inspired by our finalists, while giving them an unforgettable experience,” said Andrea Warriner, deputy director of the Skoll Centre.
At a social entrepreneurship event entitled “Make Society Great Again”, the finalists were exposed to a series of talks held at Impact Hub Westminster, during which co-founder of Innocent and Jam Jar Investments, Richard Reed, called for entrepreneurs around the world to be resilient.
“Given Brexit and Trump, we now need entrepreneurs more than ever before. We are the best possible hope and chance the world has got,” said Reed, adding that politicians don’t start businesses; it’s only entrepreneurs that ever star businesses, creating jobs, wealth and opportunities.
Reed was supported by environmental entrepreneur and co-founder of Elvis & Kresse, Kresse Wesling, as well as Karen Lynch, CEO of Belu Water, the UK’s most ethical water brand, who said, “Social entrepreneurs exist because there are problems in the world. This is our opportunity; we can make a difference through business. Within the chaos, we are the ones who can move faster, innovate and break the rules.”
VOTE FOR CHANGE
Kicking off the global competition with a preliminary reward of US$250,000 apportioned from the US$1 million fund, the last five weeks leading up to the finals in July saw the 30 participants compete against each other in a challenge designed to put the reach of their respective causes to the test. During this time, Chivas invited people from across the world to vote online for their favourite social start-up in the 2017 instalment of Chivas Venture. In the end, the finalists were rewarded based on results generated from the pole. Thanks to the public’s support, Malaysia’s FOLO Farms took home US$10,771.62.
“We’ve grown from strength to strength, from being chosen as the Malaysian finalist, to our transformational training programme at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, and the culmination of the competition: the upcoming Chivas Venture finale in LA,” said Chua, who expressed his appreciation by saying, “We are grateful for the opportunity it has given us to highlight food waste on the forefront of global consciousness. With the prize money, we aim to invest in much-needed farming equipment and resources to expand operations across the nation, making our healthier vegetables accessible to all Malaysians.”
Mexican startup WeaRobot, which builds robotic exoskeletons to support those suffering from muscle-restrictive diseases, received the largest share over all with over US$50,000 in funding. Its CEO Rodriguez-Leal said, “Chivas Venture has changed our business beyond all expectations. During the voting period we received support and messages from thousands of people, sharing their stories of how our technology can positively impact their lives. This funding will enable us to perform our initial clinical study to prove the benefits of using our product in rehabilitation.”
Others who have benefitted from this initial funding included I-Drop Water from South Africa, which became equipped to provide sustainable, clean water to 3,500 school children.
THE FINAL PITCH
Held in LA, the Chivas Venture 2017 finals took place across four days with a star-studded judging panel made up of over 20 change-makers committed to using business as a force for good. As the days progressed, one by one the finalists took the stage and delivered the pitch of their lives. 30 became 10 and 10 became five.
In the end, it was up to Alvaro Vasquez of Bioestibas (Colombia), Chioma Ukonu of RecyclePoints (Nigeria), Peetachai Dejkraisak of Siam Organic (Thailand), Son Preminger of Intendu (Israel) and James Steere of I-Drop Water (South Africa) to battle out the remaining fund of US$750,000 live before an audience consisted of film stars such as Javier Bardem and The Avengers’ Colonel James Rhodes a.k.a. War Machine, Don Cheadle, and bring the third edition of the Chivas Venture million-dollar global competition of social entrepreneurs to a spectacular close.
Making up the final panel of judges this year were Oscar-winning actress, philanthropist and businesswoman Halle Berry; founding executive director of the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University, Sonal Shah; founder of MissionU, Pencils of Promise and best-selling author of The Promise of a Pencil, Adam Braun; and Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard, which owns Chivas Regal, Alexandre Ricard.
Following moments of intense pitching and thorough assessment of each business based on their ability to create sustainable change through a viable business model and potential to scale, the event’s host, Beauty and the Beast’s Lefou, Josh Gad, announced that the grand prize of US$400,000 were awarded to Thailand’s Siam Organic, which aims to end small-scale farmers’ poverty.
The additional finalists to receive funding and recognition were Nigeria’s Recycle Points (US$200,000), which helps consumers to create value from their everyday waste; Colombia’s Bioestibas (US$50,000), which produces ecological stowage from flower waste that would otherwise pollute the environment; South Africa’s I-Drop Water (US$50,000), which aims to change the way water is consumed and sold in Africa through vending units that purify and dispense water in-store; and Israel’s Intendu (US$50,000), which aids brain rehabilitation through the use of video games.
Reacting to his victory, overall winner Dejkraisak said, “I am so happy and grateful – this will have a massive impact. We have extremely limited resources, so to have funding like this from Chivas Venture is just incredible. It will fast-track our project by three to four years, and save me a lot of grey hair and sleepless nights!”
When asked by host Josh Gad if social entrepreneurs are today’s superheroes, X-Men star and judge Halle Berry commented, “All of the finalists here tonight are our modern-day heroes. They are all fighting to make a change and have a positive impact on the world.”
Pernod Ricard’s Alexandre Ricard added, “The calibre of finalists this evening was extremely high. To see Neil and the other finalists succeed will be the ultimate fulfilment for us as judges. We wish them all the very best.”
This leaves us with a vision of the future as imagined by this year’s 30 finalists – a place where protein bars are made from crickets and shoes made from garbage; where walls of moss clean city air and human waste is turned into affordable cooking fuel.
While FOLO Farms did not make the cut for the final pitch, we still take this opportunity to congratulate Will Chua and the team on the US$10,0000 received in funding and for having made such great strides in your work, as well as thank you for taking up the cause of change for a better environment and healthier living, and inspiring us with your passion and drive.
Continuing its commitment to support future generations of entrepreneurs, starting from 4 September 2017, Chivas invites social enterprises from across the world to apply for the chance to win a share of US$1 million in funding in the 2018 edition of Chivas Venture. Visit www.chivas.com/the-venture for further details.