Duke of York New Entrepreneur of the Year Award Finalists Announced at Live Pitch and Panel Debate


Vonage UK was among those celebrating the best of British entrepreneurs yesterday, as lead supporter of the Duke of York New Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

The live pitch and panel debate, where the award semi-finalists had a chance to pitch their business ideas to a panel of savvy established entrepreneurs, was hosted in the spectacular St George’s Hall in Liverpool and was directed by Michael Hayman co-founder of campaigning communications agency Seven Hills.

In its inaugural year, the award celebrates the potential in the leaders of the UK’s most promising start-ups established in the last 18 months. The panel, which consisted of Ed Wray, co-founder of Betfair, Charmaine Eggberry, former Wayra director and CEO of Plan B Consulting, Thea Green, Nails Inc. founder, Guy Rigby, Head of Entrepreneurs at Smith & Williamson and our very own Simon Burckhardt, Managing Director of Vonage UK, listened intently to the 3 minute presentations before offering valuable advice as well as some probing questions!

The event kicked off with a speech from HRH The Duke of York, who set the tone of the day by explaining his belief that “entrepreneurship needs to be part of everyday life”, and going further to call for young entrepreneurs to be seen as role models like professional footballers, a fitting sentiment in the current football climate, before the hopeful semi-finalists took centre stage.

We saw pitches from a wide range of business sectors including education, engineering, training, recruitment and even tropical fruit! Sitting in the audience we were blown away by the inspiration, dedication and passion shown by the entrepreneurs. The Duke of York New Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalists were:

  1. Jamie Clarke, BioDome Systems Ltd
  2. Leanne Morris, Carter Morris Talent Solutions
  3. Richard Llewellyn, Forell Ltd
  4. Emma Cerrone, Free:Formers
  5. Alistair Smit, The Magic Thermodynamic Box
  6. Ben Weaver, Outlook Publishing Ltd
  7. Vivian Chan, Sparrho (Distylled Ltd)
  8. Soraya Bahrami, Toucan Fruit
  9. Kathryn Birch, Translive Global
  10. Jay Radia, Yieldify

In the breaks between the pitches we were invited to put questions to the panel and stir up some debate. We learned that entrepreneurs tend to spread themselves too thinly and need to recognise their failures but not to be ruled by them; “don’t celebrate failure, but don’t be scared of it”, commented Ed Wray when asked about his biggest mistake.

We also learned that there is a huge range of initiatives available to support and help develop British start-ups, with start-up costs currently lower than ever before. Guy Rigby playfully explained “there’s [only] a shortage of funding for bad ideas!” The most controversial question put to the panel was “how do we get more women in the boardroom?” Charmaine Eggberry, First MD of Blackberry, stated that she wanted to be seen as a good businessperson first, with her gender being irrelevant.

Finally, and after another round of grilling from the panel, the 10 semi-finalists were reduced to 5 finalists as follows:

    1. Emma Cerrone, Free:Formers



    1. Alistair Smit, The Magic Thermodynamic Box



    1. Ben Weaver, Outlook Publishing Ltd



    1. Kathryn Birch, Translive Global



    1. Jay Radia, Yieldify


The eventual winner will be chosen via a combination of scores from the judges and a month-long public vote. The announcement will be made on 11th November at the National Business Awards event in London, where over 1,000 of the UK’s business leaders and influencers will gather celebrate the nation’s business achievements.

Vonage UK congratulates these five deserving and inspiring entrepreneurs and wishes them luck for the upcoming final later in the year!