A grand tour: Branson’s start-up bus to Voom around UK and Ireland

2 May 2017

Voom pitch bus. Image: John Kennedy

Start-ups across the UK and Ireland will be vying to win a share of €1.2m in prizes as part of the Voom pitch tour.

Local business founders with the courage to pitch their business idea at every stop of the Virgin Voom start-up tour will be in with a chance to secure a slice of the €1.2m prize pot and gain insights from the founder of Virgin, Sir Richard Branson.

For the first time since the competition’s conception, Voom is hitting the road. As part of the pitch tour, the Voom bus will travel across Ireland and the UK to identify compelling businesses and inspiring entrepreneurs.

‘We’re bringing the Voom tour into communities, and challenging people to put aside their fears and pitch their business ideas as we travel across Ireland and the UK’

The national competition will return in March 2018.

Over the next six months, the Voom tour schedule will include Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Dublin, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle and Winchester.

“The Voom bus is going on tour to seek out brilliant Irish and British entrepreneurs and to help them break down the business barriers in their way,” Branson said.

“We’re bringing the Voom tour into communities, and challenging people to put aside their fears and pitch their business ideas as we travel across Ireland and the UK.

“The Voom tour is a fantastic way for people to get started on what could be the most significant journey of their business life.”

Irish start-ups rise to the occasion

In Ireland, the tour will take place at TechConnect Live 2017 on 31 May in the RDS in Dublin.

Virgin Media Business is looking for local entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas at each stop.

Each regional stop has a prize worth €5,000 and Branson will be on hand to dispense valuable advice on launching and scaling start-ups.

“Last year was the first year of Voom in Ireland and what a success it was, with 10pc of shortlisted entries Irish ventures,” said Paul Farrell, vice-president of commercial at Virgin Media.

“Our recent Virgin Media Business Insights Report found a confident business community growing sales at home and abroad, increasing employment, developing new products and services, and investing in digital technologies and online strategies to drive their potential. 86pc of respondents rated their growth prospects for 2017-18 as good/very good, with revenue expected to grow by 19pc this year.”

2016 was the first year that Voom invited Irish entrepreneurs to join battle with their UK counterparts, with the final few pitching to a panel that included Branson.

The original thousands of entries were whittled down to 160, and 10pc were Irish ventures.

The overall winner in 2016 was Bio-Bean in the ‘Grow’ section of Voom, with MacRebur taking the ‘Start-up’ gong.

Irish start-up FoodCloud’s charge to the final of Voom ended with a wonderful second place, securing the company €25,000, a Virgin Media Business broadband package, mentoring and brand support.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years