What is more valuable to a business trying to make its way in a crowded and competitive marketplace – a share of a £1m funding pot or a personal endorsement from entrepreneurs including Sir Richard Branson?
Three firms that will soon be in a position to answer that question are Kino-mo, Fourex and JustPark, which today saw off their rivals in a pitching competition organised by the music-to-airlines business mogul and one of the companies he co-founded.
The Pitch to Rich competition, sponsored by Virgin Media, saw almost 2,500 companies enter and 685,000 members of the public cast their votes for their favoured businesses. The public vote whittled the entries down to a shortlist of 261, with a judging process that selected the best 28 companies for another round of voting. Nine finalists eventually won the right to pitch their ideas direct to Sir Richard, with one winner picked in each of three categories.
The winners will now share more than £1m of support, including advertising campaigns, cash investment and mentoring. Sir Richard said: “Overcoming fear is the first step to success for entrepreneurs – the winners all exemplify that, and the hard work and commitment they have shown underlines what is needed to set up a business.”
Fourex was Virgin Media’s winner in the “New Things” category. Its service is a new solution to an old-age problem – what to do with the small amounts of foreign currency most of us typically have left over from foreign holidays. The cost of exchanging this cash at the bank or bureau de change is often prohibitively expensive, even assuming they’ll accept it – as a result, Britons are thought to have around £3bn worth of loose change sitting around their homes that they can’t use.
Fourex, also based in London, has built self-service machines that will now enable people to cash in that money, however small the amount. The machines will exchange notes and coins from almost country in the world for sterling.