Avengers Star Zoe Saldana Supports Social Startups at Final of Chivas Venture

Actress, entrepreneur and philanthropist Zoe Saldana was in Amsterdam last night to help select the winner of the 2019 Chivas Venture, a social startup competition that gives away $1m in no-strings funding to businesses who blend profit with purpose to have a positive impact on the world. From 20 global finalists, Mexico’s Xilinat walked away with the largest amount of funding, receiving $310,000, following a live pitch at Europe’s leading tech festival, TNW Conference.

Looking to transform the global sugar industry, Xilinat converts agricultural waste into a natural sugar substitute that looks and tastes like normal sugar yet is low in calories; helping tackle obesity while providing a sustainable alternative for diabetics and the health-conscious.

Reacting to his win, Javier Larragoiti, Co-Founder and CEO of Xilinat said: ‘This moment tastes pretty sweet! I’m super happy to have been crowned winner of the Chivas Venture 2019; with this funding we can go ten times bigger – and that means helping so many more people around the world.’

Chivas Venture judge Zoe Saldana commented on our collective responsibility to drive positive impact: ‘We are all responsible for the future of our planet and our societies; we need our governments to be agents of positive change and it’s up to us to let them know when they’re doing a good job and when they’re not…Big businesses around the world also need to take responsibility and I’m in awe of what Chivas as a brand is doing; investing funds and driving awareness of these incredible entrepreneurs who are building businesses that are making our world a better place.’

The Global Final, hosted by BAFTA winning actor and director, Richard Ayoade was the culmination of the fifth year of the Chivas Venture. This year’s competition featured 20 entrepreneurs from across the world, all competing for a share of Chivas’ $1 million fund. Through quarter and semi-final pitches, the 20 finalists were whittled down to five Grand Finalists, who had just three minutes to impress a panel of judges and an audience of global business leaders, tech professionals, investors and entrepreneurs.

The judging panel – which comprised Zoe Saldana; Alexandre Ricard (Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard – parent company of Chivas Regal), Cemal Ezel (Founder of Change Please and global winner of the Chivas Venture 2018); and Sonal Shah (Economist and founding Executive Director of the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovationat Georgetown University), assessed each startup based on their ability to create sustainable change through a viable business model and potential to scale.

In the four years since the competition started, the Chivas Venture has given away $4m in funding. In that time, the Chivas Venture Global Finalists have impacted over 2 million lives, in 50 countries, across 6 continents around the world – blending profit with purpose to drive major change, including providing over 34m litres of safe drinking water, recycling 1,300 tonnes of waste, and helping over 2,500 farmers’ families out of poverty. Through the Chivas Venture, Chivas aims to show that blended is better, in life, business and Scotch, a belief instilled by founding brothers James and John, who shared their success with the local community as their business grew.

Pernod Ricard Chairman and CEO Alexandre Ricard added: ‘The Chivas Venture is much more than a contest; it is an accelerator for social startups who blend profit with purpose. The impact of all our Global Finalists, and particularly our winner, Xilinat, will be felt across the world. The Chivas Venture is a true reflection of the spirit of the brand’s founding brothers and I couldn’t be more proud of the impact it has had to date.’

The four other finalists to receive significant funding were: Syntoil from Poland ($250,000) – which is solving the environmental problem of rubber waste from used tires; Portugal’s SPEAK ($110,000) – which breaks down cultural barriers by reducing the marginalisation of immigrants and refugees through informal networking; Tykn from the Netherlands ($50,000) which leverages blockchain technology to protect immigrants and provide them with access to human aid; and Copia from the USA ($50,000) which tackles both hunger and food waste by creating a technological platform that helps businesses measure and donate their food surplus for financial compensation.

A People’s Choice Award was also announced on the night, after over 135,000 votes were cast by the public in the lead-up to the Final. $50,000 was awarded to Brazil’s Cataki, which has created a mobile app to connect waste generators with waste collectors.

The Global Final comes four weeks after Pernod Ricard unveiled its 2030 Sustainability & Responsibility road map, an ambitious set of environmental and social targets supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The new road map covers four key areas: nurturing terroir, valuing people, circular making and responsible hosting, all of which are closely aligned to the businesses championed by the Chivas Venture finalists.