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Finalists In VC Bill Tai’s New Startup Contest Will Pitch Branson On Necker Island

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Extreme hobbies lead to extreme places.

Bill Tai, the partner at Charles River Ventures who took up kitesurfing and turned it into a multi-annual gathering of Red Bull athletes and entrepreneurs called MaiTai, is taking it to the next level.

He’s launching the third in a series of startup competitions that scout for teams from around the world. This time, the top 10 finalists will get to pitch on-stage at the Consumer Electronics Show next year in Las Vegas, then the top three teams will go on to pitch Sir Richard Branson and other mystery judges at Necker Island. The winner will get seed investment but the size of the final prize isn’t being released yet since commitments are still coming in.

In a previous Latin American startup challenge, the winner got $1,000,000 in angel investor funding. More than 500 companies competed and the winner was a veterinary pharmaceuticals startup. A finalist out of the Australian startup challenge, Canva, went on to raise $3 million from the MaiTai community.

Now Tai is making the third competition global. Contest guidelines, more prizes and details will be available March 31 at the contest’s website.

“We’re in a world today where startups can begin from anywhere,” Tai said. “During the last generation, unless you were in Silicon Valley, you really had no chance.”

Tai picked up kitesurfing more than a decade ago. It became an all-consuming hobby. When he learned that Red Bull-sponsored athlete Susi Mai had a rhyming last name, he sent her an e-mail saying that they definitely had to do something cool together.

That evolved into MaiTai, an organization that brings together athletes and founders around the world.