Liquor company Chivas Regal has announced the Australian launch of The Venture, a fund and accelerator seeking to enable a new generation of social entrepreneurs to create positive change. Australian entrepreneurs with socially-driven ideas or emerging startups using innovation as a force for doing good are invited to apply for a chance to win a share of $1 million, participate in a week-long accelerator programme in Silicon Valley and pitch in front of global investors.
Michael Klim, Australian Olympic swimming legend and founder of skincare company, Milk & Co, is supporting the initiative to heighten the profile of ethical and sustainable businesses in Australia and to encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to get involved.
“We should be very proud of the incredibly impressive social enterprises coming out of Australia at this time. I’m really excited to see the ideas and talent an initiative like The Venture will uncover and the positive and sustainable impact this could have on our community,” said Klim.
There are two set of perceptions that have grown over the last few years. First, people are realising that charities aren’t equipped to make tangible differences on their own because they’re either not sustainable or are sustainable until people stop donating their money. Second, there is a growing perception that profits can be used for good. Many social entrepreneurs are firm believers of the ‘profit-for-purpose’ philosophy that drives social entrepreneurship today: ‘the more profitable you are, the greater your impact’. Australian companies like Thankyou Group, Amazonia, Zambrero and StartSomeGood are achieving great things because their growth has a direct impact on their social purpose.
As little as a year ago, social enterprises and social purpose-driven companies in Australia and globally were struggling to access capital to grow their operations. In an independent study commissioned by Chivas Regal, 68 percent of participants cited lack of access to funding as a barrier to starting a social business.
But the tides are turning. Earlier this year, Geoff Gourley launched the $100 million Impact Investment Fund specifically targeting social businesses. There are retail funds like Australian Ethical Super and Future Super, as well as organisations like Renata Cooper’s Forming Circles that invests small amounts of seed funding into small businesses and startups that strive to make a social impact. The Australian launch of The Venture is another example of attitudes changing.
Win the Right Way, a series of advertisements and short films that deliver a powerful provocation and the latest instalment of Chivas Regal’s Live with Chivalry campaign, is being used to support the launch of The Venture. Oscar-nominated actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Golden Globe nominated actor and singer Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) star as the storytellers, introducing the stories of social entrepreneurs from around the world and calling on others to follow their lead.
The Venture is in its second year running. More than 1,000 social entrepreneurs applied in the first year; 16 winners were chosen from 16 countries, who took part in the accelerator week. This was whittled down to five finalists who pitched before a crowd of investors. The winner in the final pitch was Chilean food distribution enterprise Algramo, which was awarded $300,000, the largest share of the fund. Other finalists that received funding include Chipsafer from Uruguay, which received $150,000 for its livestock tracking device; SenSprout from Japan, which received $150,000 for its wireless field-monitoring system that enables efficient farming; Lumkani from South Africa, which received $75,000 for its technology that decreases the risk of devastating fires in informal settlements; and Diseclar from Colombia, which turns waste materials into stylish furniture, received $75,000.
“Entrepreneurship and generosity sit at the heart of the Chivas brand, so supporting those who use their success to improve the lives of others is a perfect project for the brand,” said Anne Martin, Marketing Director, Chivas Regal Australia. “We are excited to be supporting the most inspiring social entrepreneurs in the country and aid their future businesses and careers.”
Entries are now open and close on October 21st. The Australian winner, along with up to 20 other global winners, will be announced in December.
Image: The Venture 2014 finalists. Source: Chivas Regal.