Interviews

Solving social and environmental problems while being a successful business

7 min read

27 June 2016

Former deputy editor

Wanting to solve hunger and food waste at the same time is an admirable goal, and it’s the reason why Iseult Ward launched an app called FoodCloud – and is vying for the winning spot at the £1m VOOM competition finale from Virgin Media Business.

CEO and co-founder Iseult Ward’s FoodCloud makes the essential connection between companies in Ireland who have surplus food and the charities that have the power to deliver it to those who need it. The idea is simple: retailers, restaurants and cafes simply download the app for a small fee and from there FoodCloud is able to notify the relevant charities of the extra food that hasn’t sold.

And with over 30 per cent of food globally being wasted while 795m people are struggling with food poverty, Ward is hoping to make it through the finals of Richard Branson’s £1m VOOM competition.

Category: Grow

Location: Dublin, Ireland

Founding year: 2013

(1) What was your inspiration for launching the business?

The UN have said that if we could reduce the amount of food wasted globally by just 25 per cent we would have enough food to feed all of those people who are malnourished. Within communities, businesses are throwing away perfectly good food and charities are struggling to raise funding to feed those in need. We wanted to find a local, sustainable and scalable solution to this global problem.

(2) Who are your target customers?

Food businesses and charities.

(3) What prompted you to take part in VOOM this year?

FoodCloud has tested and scaled our solution with retailers and charities across the UK and Ireland – we now have 450 stores and over 1,000 charities using the platform to donate food and over 3m meals equivalent have been redistributed through the platform since we launched in October 2013. We are now in a position to scale our platform internationally and the VOOM competition is the perfect opportunity for FoodCloud to “VOOM”.

Coffee doesn’t just energise the sleep deprived – waste grounds are fuelling buildings

(4) How did you find the Pitchathon, and what did you do to prepare?

The Pitchathon was an amazing and intense experience. I practiced the pitch with the team and our key stakeholders daily until I was fully prepared for the pitch and ensured that I was in a strong position to answer any questions the judges may ask. I even practiced the pitch with a taxi driver at 1am when my flight was delayed the night before the Pitchathon!

(5) Prior to that, what was your experience of pitching?

We went through two startup accelerator programmes in Ireland when FoodCloud was first founded – this gave us great initial experience in pitching FoodCloud and our solution. Since FoodCloud has expanded, we have had great opportunities to pitch for national and international competitions including Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, and the opportunity to speak at international conferences including the European Youth Event in Strasbourg and Seeds and Chips conference in Milan.

Read more from VOOM 2016:

(6) What did you learn from the event?

Always be prepared for everything and anything in the Q&A. The questions I was asked were more general than expected and this gave me the opportunity to get across any points that were missing from my presentation.

(7) Why do you think you got through to the semi-finals?

We showed our strengths in all of the areas that the judges were looking for – we have a strong business model, a great team and the potential to have a massive positive impact on the world.

My little girl’s school assembly inspired me to get my business started

(8) What went through your head when you were told you had made it to the grand final?

I couldn’t wait to share the news with the team – we have all worked very hard and this is an amazing achievement. I was very excited to share it with them.

(9) You’re going to pitch to Richard Branson – what will you do to ensure you impress him and the other judges to win?

We are trying to solve social and environmental problems while being a successful business and we are at the forefront of social enterprises that are trying to change the world. It’s important for influential business leaders, like Sir Richard Branson, to support this movement and show that social enterprise can work side by side with big businesses in leading the change we need to see in the world.

(10) Should you be victorious, what’s the big ambition for the company over the next year and then five years?

In the short term we have a big project in the UK with Tesco and we are going to scale to 2,000 stores next year. In tandem, we want to raise investment to support internationalising our operations outside of the UK and Ireland. Within two years we want to increase our donor base by 20 times. To do this we need to build our team and continue to invest in our technology. This scale will enable us to donate almost 60m meals a year to charities across the world.

From 3,000 entrants, these are the six SMEs chosen to pitch to Richard Branson at the £1m VOOM 2016 finale.