From plantable ponchos to 3D printing: Six entrepreneurs win opportunity to ‘Pitch to Rich’

25th April 2014

  • Finalists from across UK will pitch to Sir Richard Branson and prestigious panel
  • Entrepreneurs preparing for the business pitch of their lives
  • Public vote picked snowsports app and plantable ponchos among finalists

A snowsports app, biodegradable rain ponchos and 3D printing software for schools are among the pitches of the six finalists for Virgin Media Pioneers’ Pitch to Rich competition. The entrepreneurs won a public online vote and will now pitch to Sir Richard Branson for a prize package and money-can’t-buy mentoring.

This year’s finalists have beaten more than 400 rival pitches to reach the final for two awards - the Start Up Award, in partnership with Virgin StartUp, for businesses in their first 12 months of trading, and the Innovation Award for successfully-trading, small technology businesses looking to make the next leap forward.

The entrepreneurs will pitch live at the Branson family home in Oxfordshire on 13 May to a prestigious judging panel of British entrepreneurs, consisting of Nick Jenkins, founder of the personalised greeting card website Moonpig; Holly Tucker, co-founder of online gift business, Not on the High Street; Peter Williams, co-founder of ‘fabulously British’ clothing outfitters Jack Wills and Dina Toki-O, up and coming digital influencer and fashion Youtuber, as well as Sir Richard Branson.

Supporters will also be able help pick a winner. They can watch the pioneers pitch live online on 13 May and vote for their pioneer to win even more investment. For further details follow @VMPioneers#Pitch2Rich.

Finalists in the Start Up Award are:

Igor Rubets, 36, founder of Boxhug which offers First Class Storage by the box; collecting, safely storing and returning customers’ belongings from their doorstep. Igor said: "Wow, I am speechless, thank you everyone for your support and voting for us, this is an opportunity of a lifetime and it means so much for me and my team!" (@Boxhug)

Lettija Lee, 30, founder of London-based start-up PecoPoncho, a brand of plantable, disposable rain ponchos. Lettija said: “It's an invaluable opportunity and I'm really looking forward to meeting the panel and presenting my brand." (@PecoPoncho)

Carl Thomas, 31, founder of Audiowings, a business which is developing premium headphones that wirelessly connect directly to platforms like Spotify via 3G. Carl said: "It's a massive privilege to have the opportunity to present Audiowings to some of best business minds in the country. We're all really excited about the event!” (@Audiowings)

Finalists in the Innovation Award are:

Jamie Grant, 28, founder of Lines, the first snowsports app that utilises motion sensors in smartphones. Jamie said: “Having the opportunity to pitch our company to Sir Richard Branson is a real honour - and it’ll be a great chance to get feedback from industry professionals. A big thank you to everybody who voted for us and made it possible!” (@ChooseYourLine)

Chris Thorpe, 45, former chief technology officer for Moshi Monsters and founder of I Can Make, a business which sells fun educational content for people to make on 3D printers. Chris said: "We're so excited to be in the final, as Sir Richard's work has been a big influence on the whole I Can Maketeam. We hope that our 3D printable kits and content will inspire both him and the inventors and engineers of the future." (@IcanMakeHQ)

Carl Thomas, 30, who runs miPic, a social platform for mobile artographers to share images and sell art to a global audience earning money for free. Carl said: “Making it to the final and being judged by one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our generation makes all the risks of starting up alone in business seem worth it. I am proud of miPic's recognition and want to seize this priceless opportunity.” (@miPic_app)

The finalists are now preparing their pitches before they go head to head, in a bid to impress the panel of business experts on 13 May.

Sir Richard Branson, Pioneer-At-Large of Virgin Media Pioneers and founder of the Virgin Group, said: “I always look forward to judging the Pitch to Rich final and this year we have been impressed by the quality and ingenuity of the pitches we have received. I look forward to meeting all of the finalists and wish them all the best of luck with taking the stage on the day and showing us what their businesses are capable of.”


The two winners will be announced on the day. The winning prize package for each award includes £5,000 of investment plus mentoring, including legal, branding and marketing advice, as well as a significant networking and profile raising opportunities.

The Innovation Award winner will also be offered free enrolment to the Accelerator Academy – an established 12-week, high-growth training and mentoring programme for ambitious digital entrepreneurs. All finalists have already earned an HP laptop worth £500 to help them manage their businesses.

Last year’s Pitch to Rich competition was won by brothers Joshua and John Okungbaiye, founders ofHigh Spirit, which makes theft-proof rucksacks.

To enter, or to find out more about Virgin Media Pioneers, go to or on Twitter @VMPioneers #Pitch2Rich or Facebook @VirginMediaPioneers.


Notes to editors

About Virgin Media Pioneers

Virgin Media Pioneers was formed by Virgin Media in 2010 as an online community for young entrepreneurs. 6,000 members now interact, using videos and blogging to create a peer-to-peer support and mentoring service.

Virgin Media Pioneers also offers original content including the Pioneers TV series targeted at early-stage entrepreneurs as well as connecting people from all walks of life who are passionate about business across a range of industries – from fashion to digital to catering.

Regular free events and unique opportunities are also held, such as the annual Trade Mission, which in 2013 took 5 early-stage tech businesses to New York to explore expanding their British businesses abroad and secure partners and support.

For more information, go to

About Virgin StartUp

Virgin StartUp is a not-for-profit organisation launched by Virgin Group in October 2013. The organisation helps entrepreneurs with the funding, resources and advice they’ll need to make their business idea a reality.

Our main focus is to help you get the support you need to turn your great idea in to a successful and sustainable business.

If you are aged 18 or over and a British citizen or legal UK resident who wants to start or expand a new business that’s less than a year old in England, then you may be eligible for a start-up loan and mentor support.

For more information, go to

About the Accelerator Academy

The Accelerator Academy is a successful and established 12-week high growth training and mentoring programme for ambitious digital entrepreneurs looking to grow their business, through Training, Mentoring and Access to Capital.

Focussed on start-up and early stage, high-growth potential Tech, Media, Telecoms (TMT) businesses and ambitious entrepreneurs, applicants are initially assessed for suitability by an online assessment, and around 10-12 successful companies are selected (25 entrepreneurial founders and co-founders) as Accelerator Academy participants to take part in the part time (evenings / weekends) course, with successful exited TMT entrepreneurs mentoring them personally (2-3 businesses per mentor, to ensure sufficient ‘facetime’).

About Virgin Media

Virgin Media offers four multi award-winning services across the UK and Ireland: broadband, TV, mobile phone and landline.

The company’s dedicated, ultrafast network delivers the fastest widely available broadband speeds to homes and businesses. And we’re expanding this through our £3bn Project Lightning programme, which will reach 17 million premises.

Our interactive TV service brings live programmes, thousands of hours of on-demand programming and the best apps and games in a set-top box, as well as on-the-go for tablets and smartphones.

We launched the world’s first virtual mobile network, offering fantastic value and services to customers. We are also one of the largest fixed-line home phone providers in the UK and Ireland.

Through Virgin Media Business we support entrepreneurs, businesses and the public sector, delivering the fastest widely available broadband speeds and tailor-made services.

Virgin Media is part of Liberty Global, the world’s largest international cable company. Together Virgin Media and Liberty Global serve 27 million customers across 14 countries.

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