Big Venture Challenge is a national competition to find 25 of the most ambitious social entrepreneurs in England.
The 25 winners of Big Venture Challenge receive an initial £25K grant and the chance to access up to £150K of seed funding if matched by loans or equity from co-investors, plus first class business support and mentoring designed to keep pace with high growth social entrepreneurs.
These social entrepreneurs have vision, talent and determination. In other words, they are:
- people with big ideas to transform disadvantaged communities across England
- people who have got what it takes to build credible ventures
- people who have the ambition to scale up impact fast
The purpose behind it:
Big Venture Challenge, a competition to find 25 of the nation?s most ambitious social entrepreneurs and give them the chance to fast-track their
ventures to the next level. The initiative, run by UnLtd and supported by the Big Lottery Fund and the Millennium Awards Trust, offers more than £1.2m of capital investment to the winners of the nation-wide „Dragons Den? style competition.
The competition runs in three stages. In stage one, which opens today, the search is on to find 25 winning entrepreneurs. These winners will receive funding of £25,000 each and intensive business support, including support from the competition?s corporate partners, including Deutsche Bank, Hogan Lovells, Coutts and The Supper Club.
Of these 25, the best ten ventures will receive a second round of £50,000, with a final two which demonstrate the fastest growth receiving an additional third round of £100,000 – a potential additional £150,000, but only if applicants can match it with loans or equity from co-investors. This mix of investment capital and grants is unusual in such a competition and reflects one of the
competition?s main ambitions to attract new investors to the social capital market place.
After pitching at TWiST:LDN and TechPitch 4.5 in June/July (joint 1st and 2nd place) I had got the attention of an investment manager at UnLtd who asked me to apply to a competition they were running as he thought we were a good fit. The only issue was I had just 24 hours before the deadline. So I spent 5 hours of the next day filing in forms with not much hope but at least I would be on their radar. A month later I was asked to have an informal chat (which was essentially due diligence in a nice relaxed atmosphere) and I got grilled for 90 minutes on my business and myself. Only then did I find out there had been 636 applications and I was one of 90 or so to be interviewed.
I felt quite impressed by this achievement and was very pleased to talk to someone who seemed so interested in the business and asked intelligent questions. Then I thought nothing more of it until a week later I was asked to provide some references for a phone call chat. I started to get nervous at this stage as this meant getting other people involved and their hopes would be up too. Fortunately I had some wonderful references and from what I heard they blew the socks off UnLtd. It started to get very real then.
I was then asked to do a “dragon’s den’ style pitch to a panel of experienced entrepreneurs – 41 of us had got through to this point. It was in a big city lawyers office and it felt very lonely to be there with my big ideas, my fledgling business, my mac and my iPad. They then had a tech failure and I had to pitch with my presentation just on my laptop which most people could not see the screen. So I had to become animated to cover up my lack of seeable visuals. I thought my pitch went well (10 minutes) but then I had to get through 30 minutes of questions. Some of them quite merciless and others very encouraging so I came out of the panel very confused and feeling I’d messed it up.
I had to wait another couple of weeks until the winners were announced, I spent the night before preparing to pick myself off the floor the next morning with disappointment (I’m still not great with rejection – my mum says I need to grow rhino skin). So when I got an email at 9.01 am I opened it with great trepidation and when the first line was congratulations I think I just scanned the rest and screamed! The next hour was spent on the phone to loved ones and friends. All the people who believed in me and MyChoicePad from the beginning and now someone else external to them believed in me – a wonderful feeling.
Post-excitement I am now faced with a fair amount of expectation and a substantial amount of time networking and trying to raise more funds to keep the momentum going. It’s daunting but I’ve never felt more alive.