FoodCloud, a social enterprise founded in Ireland, was one of six businesses to reach the finale of the Virgin Media Business VOOM 2016 entrepreneur competition. The software platform connects businesses that have surplus food with charities who donate it to people in need.
CEO and co-founder Iseult Ward writes about the incredible journey from a public vote to a live finale, pitching to Richard Branson for a slice of £1.2 million.
We heard about the Virgin Media Business VOOM competition last May and immediately entered. It was the first year that Irish companies could compete, and we knew it would be an incredible opportunity. We were one of 3,000 startups that entered and could never have imagined how we would progress, competing against so many strong businesses.
We picked the ‘Grow’ category. FoodCloud was launched in October 2013 with one Tesco store in Dublin. Three years later, we work with over 500 businesses, 1100 charities and have helped redistribute the equivalent of over 3.2 million meals to date. We work with Tesco and Aldi across all of Ireland and are expanding with Tesco in the UK.
The first round of the competition was a public vote, and we created a video to tell people about what we do and what we want to achieve in the future. We got almost a thousand votes, which secured us a place in the VOOM Pitchathon. On June 2nd we pitched alongside 159 other startups in London.
We were chosen as one of 40 startups that made it through to the semi-finals. The semi-finals involved six interviews covering all aspects of our organisation.
We were overwhelmed when we found out that we had made it through to the final three in the ‘Grow’ category. The final took place on the 28th June and involved a two-minute pitch to Richard Branson, Tyra Banks, Sara Blakely, Marcus Butler and Virgin Media Business Managing Director, Peter Kelly, followed by a Q&A from the panel.
In retrospect, the pitch was more important and bigger than us and our success. We are trying to solve social and environmental problems while being a successful business and we are at the forefront of social enterprises that seek to change the world. It’s important for influential business leaders, like Richard Branson, to support this movement and show them that social enterprise can work side by side with big businesses in leading the change we need to see in the world.
One of the more unexpected insights from the competition was just how fantastic Irish people are in coming out to support each other. We were overwhelmed with the messages that flooded our inbox and all the support from the Irish community and media.