End of the (ad)venture
Readers of the Esquire business section will already be familiar with the Chivas-backed Venture initiative. The globe-spanning social entrepreneurship competition rewards start-ups that use business to create positive change, with a share of $1million in funding as the grand prize this summer, judged by, among others, actress Eva Longoria and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah. The winner of the Gulf region finals was Taka Solutions, a Dubai-based company that retrofits buildings to leverage energy savings, and is developing an app to do the same for homes and apartments. Founder Charles Blaschke delivered the pitch in a nerve-wracking semi-finals in New York this week, narrowly missing out on a place in the finals tonight. He spoke to us the morning afterwards about the experience.
How has the trip been as an experience?
New York is great. It’s such a bustling and innovative city. Everyone here is setting out to achieve something and you can really just feel the drive and determination when you’re walking through the streets.
What other sort of businesses were competing last night?
Oh, businesses of all kinds really. They had guys there recycling plastics to build houses in Colombia, others helping out people with Alzheimer’s. There was even one pitch about helping honey bees. There was such a diverse group of really great people that I can see how the judges had such a hard decision. The comradery there was fantastic though and even though we didn’t win we got to network with a whole bunch of like-minded people, so that’s always a benefit.
What do you think went well?
I think the Q&A session went really well. They had [American economist and public official] Sonal Shah there as a judge and she gave us some tough questions about the crowded energy app marketplace, but I think we really went out there and smashed it. One of the questions we were asked was how we differ from what big companies like Google are doing, which is obvious in itself really because we’re nothing like them. I answered about IoT hardware being their driver, and I think they were very happy and surprised by my response about the value of our app. We’re not selling a product, we have no ulterior motives and we’re just trying to help the consumer at the end of the day.
On the flip side, what do you think you could work on?
I’m not really sure to honest. I thought everything went really well. I think the main thing that went against us was the fact that we’re already a viable business and they might not have seen us as the most deserving of the prize money because of that. But if that was their biggest issue then I’m not complaining. We’re a business. We’re supposed to make money.
Were you nervous before giving such an important pitch?
No, I really wasn’t. I’d gone through my pitch so many times that I could have delivered it with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back.
What does being a social entrepreneur mean to you?
Before getting knocked out of this competition, I’d have told you that a social entrepreneur was someone who was able to contribute to society in a positive way while still making money. Now I’m less sure and it seems to be more charity rather than business focussed. All I know is that to me it’s about making a difference in the world without sacrificing anything.
You’re all about energy efficiency. Just how inefficient are building currently?
Really inefficient. They are terrible. Just about every building in the world could decrease its footprint by about fifty percent. The worst thing is that we’ve worked out the figures and shown them to big businesses and offered them solutions but they still won’t take them. We are literally giving them a way to help save the planet and come of them are flat-out rejecting it. It’s crazy.
What’s next for Taka Solutions?
Well, we’ve always intended to introduce our business into more into people’s homes and help their houses run more efficiently. However we’d placed it on the back burner recently in the hope that we’d get the funding from The Venture. Things obviously didn’t work out in that regard but we’re still hoping to make the world a better place one step at a time.
Visit theventure.com to learn more about the competition