The Voom 2018 finalists will compete for a share of more than €1m in prizes.
The Voom pitch finals are set for 23 May, where contestants will pitch to Richard Branson and an array of expert judges to win prizes that could transform their businesses.
Today (30 March), the diverse panel of judges has been revealed, with experts and figureheads from all corners of industry and entrepreneurship.
A diverse panel
From telecoms and property development to beauty and the creative industries, the panel is well equipped to cast a discerning eye on entrants.
Co-founder of Innocent Drinks, Richard Reed; TV presenter and serial entrepreneur Sophie Morgan; Tropic Skincare founder Susie Ma; and MD of Virgin Media Business, Peter Kelly, will be joining Branson on the panel.
The UK’s most successful distance runner ever, and director of ‘going the extra mile’ at Virgin Media, Mo Farah, will be presenting a special award for the business that has gone above and beyond to achieve its goals.
Branson said: “We have great team of judges who will help scrutinise business plans and pitches before deciding who will win Voom 2018. The judges know all about the challenges of starting a business – and have the insight needed to spot a great idea and turn it into a business.”
Speaking at the launch event, Ma reminisced about her own business journey. “It wasn’t long ago that I was looking to grow my business by securing funding, so I know just how challenging it can be.”
Funding is key
Reed explained that even the best ideas need to find the right funders. “Starting Innocent was the best business decision I ever made, but we could only do it because we met a backer that really believed in us. Voom provides a platform for people to reach their dreams, offering the resources, expertise and exposure that are so vital in making bright ideas into brilliant businesses.”
Morgan said that she would be looking out for pitches that demonstrated relentless ambition and the desire to overcome obstacles and barriers on the path to success. “I’m looking to find the next generation of exciting business leaders with the tenacity and vision to think big and take the world by storm.”
Kelly added: “Whether an entrant, finalist or winner, we know that being part of the Voom community opens doors for the businesses involved, and we encourage both entrepreneurs and more established businesses to take part.”
So far, the competition has seen 15 Irish applicants, including CleverBooks, an augmented-reality education texts company, which is currently in second place in the Small Business category.
Public voting is still open for the contest, and businesses can also enter up until 8 May.