Start-ups pitch to Richard Branson at his family home

Sam Shead
Sam Shead

Sam Shead

Sam Shead joined Techworld as a reporter in July 2013. He studied Geography with Science Communication at Royal Holloway University before completing a postgraduate diploma in journalism at Cardiff University. Areas that he covers for Techworld include startups, entrepreneurship, wearables, mobile and telecoms.

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Billionaire Sir Richard Branson looked to spot the next big thing yesterday as he listened to start-ups pitch their business ideas to him at his family home in Oxfordshire.

Half a dozen entrepreneurs made 90-second pitches to Branson and a panel of high-profile judges, including Jack Wills co-founder Peter Williams, NotOnTheHighStreet founder Holly Tucker and Moonpig founder Nick Jenkins. The six finalists were chosen from over 400 applications.

Premium self-storage service Boxhug won the startup category and art marketplace miPic won the innovation category. The Startup Award is for businesses in their first 12 months of trading while the Innovation Award is for successfully trading small tech firms looking to grow their business further.

The two winners will receive £5,000 each, as well as mentoring and advice on legal, branding and marketing issues.

As the winner of the Innovation Award, miPic will also be offered free enrolment to Virgin's Accelerator Academy – a 12-week, high-growth training and mentoring programme for digital entrepreneurs. 

In the Twitter-based public vote, miPic tied with Audiowings, a set of wireless headphones that connect to platforms like Spotify via 3G or wi-fi and store music internally. 

Prior to the pitches, Branson said he was looking for "an idea that's going to make a real positive difference to people."

When asked which cities in the UK the best start-ups are coming from, Branson said: "I don't know but I'm sure you do."

Here’s a closer look at each of the finalists.

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