Virgin Media Business has pledged to back solar charging hubs for the developing world, 3D-printable plastic satellites and printed-to-measure shoes, through its Three New Things competition.
The three winners, BuffaloGrid, CubeSat and Three Over Seven, were chosen from over 100 entries and announced at the British Film Museum in Central London yesterday.
As part of their prize, the start-ups will meet with Virgin founder Richard Branson to discuss their ambitions, in addition to receiving mentoring and support from Virgin Media Business' senior leaders and £25,000 worth of business telecoms.
When asked why Virgin Media Business, which falls under Branson's billion pound Virgin empire, isn't investing more heavily in these companies, managing director, Peter Kelly, told Techworld: “We took the view that there are multiple elements of value. The raw broadband connectivity, which is really what the £25,000 is all about, is only one relatively small component of the package.
“For £25,000, a small, medium business can get a lot of comms so its not like an insignificant amount for a small business.”
Following the unveiling of the competition winners, the 250-strong audience was given the chance to vote for their favourite technology, opting for New Zealand-based Three Over Seven.
The company, which received 114 of a possible 250 votes, launched its shoes-with-no-socks-idea on Kickstarter at the end of January and received $119,000 (£71,200) over a 30-day period even though it only asked for $30,000 (£17,950).
The customised shoe company, which says its shoes will never smell, is aiming to build a mobile app that can scan a user's foot, before sending the data to a 3D printer so that it can be manufactured.
The company's co-founder, Tim Brown, told Techworld that he recently recruited someone who has a masters in 3D printing.
"We’ve been working with him for a while because my intuition is the shoe making process has to change," he said.
Brown added he'd like to ask Branson about "people" and how to find the most talented staff.
BuffaloGrid was also backed by Virgin Media Business for its mobile phone solar-powered charging unit, as was 3DSat for its new space-resistant material that can be used to make cheaper and lighter CubeSats (minature satellites).