Thursday night, “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah announced the winners of Chivas Regal’s “The Venture”, an international contest open to social entrepreneurs who are using their business as a force for good.
With a dedicated fund of $1M, “The Venture” is striving to enable social entrepreneurs around the world to scale and gain exposure.
As part of the Chivas program, the group of finalists took part in an Accelerator Week program earlier this year, created by theSkoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the Saïd Business School of the University of Oxford.
Only five were selected to pitch at Thursday’s finale in front of a live audience and a jury that included actress and philanthropist Eva Longoria and Pernod Ricard Chairman and CEO Alexandre Ricard.
All five received funding in the end, but the big winner was Conceptos Plásticos ($300K), a Colombia-based business that transforms plastic and rubber waste into an alternative construction foundation for permanent housing.
The enterprise’s triple impact (social, environmental and economic) was a decisive argument for the jury. “From a business point of view, we were looking at the cause the company addresses, the scale of impact the project has and its long-term sustainability,” said Ricard.
NEW YORK, NY – JULY 14: Finalists, Maria Pacheco, Kenny Ewan, Or Retzkin, Julia Romer and Oscar Andres Mendez join judges, Eva Longoria, Joe Huff, Sonal Shah and Alexandre Ricard at Chivas’ The Venture Final Event on July 14, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Chivas The Venture)
WeFarm took second place with $200K in funding. This knowledge-sharing platform for small-scale farmers allows members without access to the internet to share farming tips, ask, answer and rate questions all via a free SMS service.
Two of the five finalists were awarded the same amount ($100K). Israeli-based startup EyeControl is an affordable, mobile and screen-free communication device that allows “locked-in” patients to communicate anytime, anywhere.
Wakami from Guatemala designs and sells handmade fashion accessories that are produced in 16 rural Guatemalan communities to retailers in 20 countries around the world. Finally, Coolar from Germany ($50K) developed an innovative solution in the form of a portable refrigerator that provides an electricity-free, sustainable solution for vaccine, medicine and food storage in off-grid regions like Ethiopia and Rwanda.
The remaining $250K had been allocated throughout the last few weeks to the most popular social enterprises via a public voting. Conceptos Plásticos won that round as well, bringing home an additional $53,148 to its $300K prize.
The divided $1M fund is a direct contribution from the Chivas Regal company, which has a long legacy of corporate social responsibility.
“We don’t want to be the typical investors asking for a return,” said Ricard. “The number one criteria is really about social and environmental impact. ” The Venture Fund doesn’t take any equity in the companies it finances.
Longoria also prioritizes social impact through her foundation, which supports Latinas through education and entrepreneurship. The foundation estimates that more than 700,000 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs are currently going unfilled in the United States, yet only a small percentage of Latinas are graduating with the skills to fill them.
“What I’m trying to do is educate Latinas to get into STEM fields, because Latinos are the fastest growing demographic in the United States so they’re the future workforce of our country,” Longoria said. “We have to steer them and direct them into the opportunities that are going to be available to them.”
As a movement, social entrepreneurship continues to gain traction worldwide, with funds like Acumen specializing in social impact investment.