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This Whiskey Brand Gives $1M to Social Entrepreneurs Every Year

The first European winner of Chivas Venture was the U.K. based Change Please earlier this year ©Chivas Venture
The first European winner of Chivas Venture was the U.K. based Change Please earlier this year ©Chivas Venture

It’s been fоur years since the whiskey brand Chivas Regal started an interesting initiative on the borderline between public relations and corporate social responsibility. Every year since 2014 Pernod Ricard, the company behing the brand, organizes a social entrepreneurship contest and has so far deployed $4M to social ventures all over the world. So far 100 startups have received the funding and coaching they needed to turn ideas into businesses. The success stories vary from smart beehives, to brain-body cognitive training software for people with brain impairments, to affordable self-adjustable focus glasses or turning plastic waste into housing. Teams from 15 European countries have been finalists so far. According to the Chivas Venture Impact report the 73 startups that made it to the national finals.

The call for applications for the 2019 edition of the Chivas Venture contest is already open. And teams with an idea on how to leave a positive footprint in the society is welcome to submit an online application. This year the contest is held in 20 countries and Bulgaria is among the selected ones. “It depends on the company’s strategy across markets whether ”, the organizers of Chivas Venture in Bulgaria explained Trending Topics.

How it goes

The whole process of being a participant in Chivas Venture might take more than half a year from the application to the finals and might end up with a very small amount of raised money but great visibility and PR. Candidates go through several selection phases – a pre-selection national, national finals, international online voting and the global final.

The first step for startups that use business to solve social or environmental problems is to submit an application til October 31. The local organizers of the event take care to put together a local jury that together with experts from the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, at the University of Oxford, shortlists the most promising entries. Pre-selected teams are then invited to pitch to experts in charge of selecting country winners. In March 2019 the 20 global finalists will take part in an Accelerator Programme in London hosted by The Conduit, local hub for social change. After the intensive training in London the first $100K of the Chivas Venture fund will be put into the hands of the public, during three weeks of online voting. The $100K will be proportionally deployed to the teams depending on the votes they receive. The last phase is the Global final in Amsterdam where finalists will pitch

In front of expert judges and live audience and the the final decision on who gets the remaining $900K of the funding belongs to the jury.

Beat it if you can

Last years winner in the contest was the U.K. startup Change Please which is empowering  homeless people by training them as baristas and giving them jobs. According to the founder Cemal Ezel the company aims to close the gap between talent shortage in coffee outlets and the raising consumption of coffee in a sustainable way. In 2017 the big prize went to the Thai entrepreneur Peetachai Dejkraisak who found a way to help farmers to increase their earnings by providing them with training on internationally-certified organic farming methods. The winners of previous years have found a way to build affordable homes out of plastic waste and invented vending machines for the developing world. Change Please is so far the only European company that has won the contest. Even though the other winners come from Asia and Latin America, Chivas Venture is very popular within the CEE region.

In Europe only Bulgaria and U.K.

Bulgaria is the only European country besides the U.K. that has had participants and semi-finalists since the very beginning of Chivas Venture.  In 2015 Arthesis, a company that designed and manufactured taylormade 3D printed prosthetic covers for leg amputees, has reached the final of the contest in the U.S. and raised $17K based on the audience’s votes. In the second edition of the contest Bee Smart Technologies, that developed a smart sensor system for hives that allows beekeepers to monitor conditions in the hive repotely has ranked sixth in the final votings. The company raised $10.7K to continue work on the product.  The third semi-finalist from Bulgaria is Sea Harmony with its vertical reef mussel-farming technology. The farms which are made from durable materials that do not pollute the sea water have attracted $6K during the semidinals. In the beginning of this year the Bulgarian startup Nasekomo reached the semi-finals of the contest with a system that uses insects to convert food waste into protein to feed fish and livestock. Following the trend of Bulgarian teams raising less and less with the years Nasekomo managed to get only $3K.

It’s not all money but…

Well, money might not be everything in this contest, there are a lot of fringe benefits, even for those who don’t get the big slice of the fund. The story of Sergey Petrov and Bee Smart Technologies is a confirmation for that. “During the whole process we learned how to structure a business and maintain it. The mentoring during the acceleration program has helped us significantly. I must confess we had barely an idea how to do that when we entered the contest”, Petrov told Trending Topics. In his opinion the contacts and network and also the media coverage that companies get during the contest is what helps companies a lot. In fact, according to the organizers 89% of the contest finalists say that they have or intend to collaborate with other Chivas Venture peers.

“We also learned how to set the right KPIs and explain the impact of our business in a clear and understandable way. And that’s something anyone aiming to go to the finals needs to train in order to be successful”, Petrov advises future participants. Indeed, shortly after the contest Bee Smart technologies received an investment of €200K from the local fund Neveq.

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