Minerva Pitch Up Final at Venturefest West Midlands 2024 — Innovation Insider

Minerva Birmingham Pitch Up is a partnership between Minerva Business Angels (part of University of Warwick Science Park), University of Birmingham Enterprise and Aston Centre for Growth, Aston University. The 2024 competition was sponsored by NatWest.

Pitch Up attracted around 60 companies, in a variety of sectors and stages, who were given the opportunity to learn about what attracts investors, and to refine their own pitching skills in a series of sessions in the months before Venturefest West Midlands.

From these businesses, the investors’ top eight companies were asked to present at Venturefest WM’s Pitch Up heats in front of judges from the world of investment, resulting in three finalists for the ultimate pitch-off battle in which the audience decided the winner!

Final panel:

• Pam Sheemar, Entrepreneur Regional Enterprise Director at Natwest

• Surjit Kooner, Investment Director at Midven

• Aanisah Begg, Head of Structuring – Investment at WMCA

The three finalists:

• Bendi – Mandeep Soor

• Bueno – Felix Hughes

• Visionary Farms – Elena Boos


Best Pitch Award, £2,000 cash prize and access to Minerva Business Angels.

The runner up, £1,000 cash prize.

The Pitches

Mandeep Soor, Co-Founder & CEO at Bendi, a pioneering supply chain risk intelligence platform, kicked off the pitching session with a compelling vision. Their primary aim? To assist businesses in mapping out their intricate supplier networks and pinpointing potential risks lurking within their supply chains.

Mandeep highlighted a staggering statistic that 85% of corporate value is derived from supply chains, there are many intangibles that can reduce revenue, including regulatory breaches, misconduct, and contagion, as well as ESG and supply chain issues. Bendi underscored the critical need for proactive risk management.

They illustrated the real-world consequences of supply chain risks, such as reputation damage and regulatory violations, and showcased their innovative solution—a lightning-fast mapping tool capable of identifying risk events and flagging issues in real-time, all within seconds. Their sleek dashboard interface promises ease of use and comprehensive risk assessment.

With impressive traction already gained, including two major clients, including Amazon, pilot projects with industry players like Boohoo, and ongoing discussions with renowned companies such as Burberry, Bendi stands as a testament to its efficacy.

Backed by a team of three co-founders boasting relevant experience in the field, Bendi is on the cusp of revolutionising supply chain risk management.

In their current fundraising round, they seek £800k, with £300k secured through grants and £350k already committed. They now seek the final £150k to propel their vision to new heights.

Next up, Bueno took the stage, aiming to revolutionise the property banking market. They began with a compelling scenario, painting a vivid picture of the frustrations faced by property owners, particularly in Spain, where regulations mandate in-person visits for direct debit maintenance, leading to inconveniences like unexpected utility shutoffs.

Highlighting the abysmal customer ratings of Spain’s largest banks, scoring 1.2 and 1.3 out of 5 on customer rating websites, Bueno identified a clear gap in the market. Enter Felix Hughes and his team, armed with Bueno—a virtual bank designed to streamline property banking entirely online, eliminating the need for regular branch visits.

Backed by a seasoned team boasting successful exits in both banking and tech sectors, Bueno’s revenue model pivots on a subscription-based service, already raking in £8k in revenue. Their ask of £750k underscores their ambitions for rapid growth and expansion.

Looking ahead, Bueno envisions scaling their operations beyond Spain, venturing into new markets across Europe and eventually worldwide. With a focus on simplifying property banking and enhancing customer experience, Bueno stands poised to disrupt the industry and redefine the way property owners manage their finances.

As the final presenter of the day, Visionary Farms stepped up to showcase their groundbreaking innovation in agri-tech, aimed at saving our planet. CEO and Co-founder, Elenor Boos, opened with a sobering reality: traditional field farming, while historic, is increasingly challenged by the erratic impacts of climate change, leading to food shortages and soaring produce prices.

Elenor explained that the solution lies in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), leveraging smart greenhouses, vertical, and indoor farms. However, she pointed out a critical barrier: the complexity of CEA systems, which demand synchronisation of 27 different factors alongside substantial knowledge and resources for implementation.

Enter Visionary Farms, with a mission to simplify CEA through their cutting-edge technology. Their solution focuses on optimising grow lighting, climate control, and automated hydro systems for maximum efficiency and usability.

With 13 turnkey projects already underway and five existing farms experiencing significant improvement, Visionary Farms demonstrates tangible traction in the market. Their target market boasts a Total Addressable Market (TAM) of £55bn, with a Serviceable Addressable Market (SAM) of £28bn, and an initial Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM) of £5bn in the UK and Europe alone.

Emphasising their role as technology providers rather than growers, Visionary Farms unveils a revenue model centred around hardware component sales and software development and implementation.

In their current fundraising round, they seek £1.25m in seed funding, with £200k already committed. This investment will fuel an 18-month runway, during which they plan to further solidify their market position before embarking on a Series A round.

With a commitment to sustainability and innovation, Visionary Farms stands poised to revolutionise agriculture and pave the way for a greener, more resilient future.

A live vote from an audience of around 200 fellow-entrepreneurs, investors and support organisations decided the fate of our entrepreneurs.



Huge congratulations to Mandeep Soor and the team

Text reads: Locally-led Innovation Accelerators delivered in partnership with Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, Innovate UK and City Regions.

Logos include: Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, Innovate UK, West Midlands Combined Authority and Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands