Last night I had the pleasure of being a judge for the Host of Ideas Female Founders event. Host of Ideas is an online platform that creates connections between accredited private investors and startup and growth businesses that need funding.
There were over 80 entries and from there, the Host of Ideas team had the difficult job of shortlisting just 5 finalists. And what fantastic finalists they were! We had three judges on the panel… myself, Judith Moreton a Dealmaker from UKTI and a very successful entrepreneur in her own right, and Nick Jenkins, the founder of Moonpig.com … and yes, rather embarassingly, I couldn’t help myself but sing the moonpig.com jingle to him.
Each finalist had 7 minutes to pitch their opportunity followed by 3 minutes of questions from the 3 judges.
First up was Rosemary Francis, the founder of Ellexus, a Cambridge based software startup. Rosemary had come up with an extremely innovative way of tracking problems on Linux based programmes and the technology was saving millions for companies that use the software. Rosemary came up with the ideas off the back of her dissertation at University. What I loved about Rosemary, was her enthusiasm for her product and she had clearly found a gap in the market that had massive potential. It was really fantastic to see a young female entrepreneur, making such a splash in the IT industry.
Second to present were the amazing double duo of Helen McAvoy and Naomi Kibble of Rocktails. These girls are so dynamic and are going to be a force to be reckoned with over the coming years. Helen and Naomi started their entrepreneurial journey by learning about business from the Princes Trust and wow, have they taken that learning to heart. Naomi and Helen are in their early twenties and have created a really innovative cocktail product that you can take from shelf to freezer that creates really yummy frozen cocktails at home, that come out perfect each time. Their cocktails are already available nationally in Sainsbury’s and they are talking to other national Supermarket chains. What impressed me about these guys was that they have achieved so much so young and really seem to be doing everything right. When they get their next round of funding, I have no doubt you will see Rocktails in most restaurants and supermarkets across the country – so watch this space.
Third up was a lovely entrepreneur from our own community, Katy Hymas from Mumlin. Katy spotted a gap in the market for an alternative to the muslin for burping your baby. As someone who had a very sicky baby, the Mumlin would have been absolutely invaluable. The Mumlin works as an over the shoulder cover that protects your clothes and keeps it’s shape when washed. She has had some unique designs created as her trademark design, and is currently selling her product through her website. Katy’s product is perfect for the yummy mummy market as an alternative to muslins and definitely worth checking out.
Fourth was my personal favourite business as it ticks so many boxes for me. We had Lucy Symons from Village Infrastructure. Lucy is part of a team of three people who are looking to change the world by providing a low cost energy solution for villages across the third world, by providing small solar panels that can be used as energy stations and are run by local entrepreneurs. They are backed by the G20, connect angel investors with communities in emerging markets and support villages to pay off their first electricity utility through money that would otherwise be spent on kerosene. Their product is truly world changing and I really hope that they find the investment they need, as it will revolutionise the third world countries that they operate in.
Finally we had Rachna Singh of Hachi, a tool that helps you get introductions to anyone that you want via social networks and personal connections. They are experiencing fast growth and have increased the signups on their site from 3000 to 15,000 in the last 6 months. They are currently developing their strategy to increase their user base and a revenue model that uses premium pricing for additional features.
So who wins?
We had a very heated discussion among the judges. Firstly we had to analyse each pitch across four key criteria; opportunity, talent and execution, risk and financials. After discussing each pitch in detail, we tallied up the scores and came out with a dead tie for first place between Ellexus and Rocktails, with Village Infrastructure as a very close second. All three offered really fantastic investment opportunities with loads of growth potential. But there could only be one winner.
And the winner is: Rosemary Francis of Ellexus, with a special acknowledgement to Rocktails. Both businesses and founders were extremely impressive and I was really inspired to see such amazing female entrepreneurs who are creating fantastic businesses at such a young age. Well done to all the finalists and we really look forward to seeing what comes next!