Global $1m contest seeks GCC social enterprises

The Venture calls for Gulf startups generating social impact to stake their claim on $1m prize fund

The Venture, a global contest that sees social entrepreneurs compete for a share of a $1m fund, is calling on GCC-based entrepreneurs using their business as a force for good to take aim at next year’s prize.

The annual event, which is open to any for-profit startup with a social impact, sees entrants take part in regional competition rounds, culminating in a global final. Regional winners graduate to an accelerator week, where expert entrepreneurs and business leaders offer insights, mentoring and advice, before the final pitch, slated for July 2017 in the US.

This year’s finale took place in New York before a judging panel that included actress and philanthropist Eva Longoria, and Pernod Ricard CEO Alexandre Ricard.

"People want companies that are doing more than just making money"Winning startup Conceptos Plasicos, a Columbia-based business that transforms plastic waste into construction materials for low-cost housing, secured $300,000.

The aim of the fund is to help promote and scale companies using business as a force for good, said Richard Black, global brand director for Chivas Regal, founder of The Venture. “There is a clear and growing desire around the world for change,” he said. “People want to support and associate themselves with companies that are doing more than just making money.”

In the three years since its launch, The Venture has given $2m in funding to social enterprises from Chile to Japan. The fund does not take equity in the companies it finances.

"It’s the best thing that has ever happened. It really changed our focus as a company"Charles Blaschke, managing director of UAE-based Taka Solutions and winner of the GCC round of The Venture 2016, said the contest offers benefits beyond just the prize money.

“From a personal and business standpoint, it’s the best thing that has ever happened,” he said. “Accelerator week was essentially a hyper-focused, one-week MBA specific to social impact, and it offered huge value to us. It really changed our focus as a company.’

Taka, which retrofits buildings with energy-efficient solutions to slash carbon output and costs, pitched a free app to help individual tenants understand and trim their energy consumption. The overarching goal, says Blaschke, is to cut global energy use by 20 per cent.

“This is what business should be – there to solve a problem and have social impact, but also turn a profit,” he said. “The more business we do, the more good we can bring to the world. The money fuels the growth.”

The deadline for applications for the GCC round of The Venture is November 30, 2016. To apply, click here.