A digital entrepreneur who reached the final three in a national business competition has described the experience as “amazing”.
Chris Thorpe, of I Can Make, based in North Parade, Oxford, beat 400 other entrants and endured a public vote to win the chance to pitch to Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson in person.
He and the rest of the finalists were invited to the tycoon’s family home in Kidlington on Tuesday to talk about his venture, which creates fun but educational 3D printable kits and content.
Other judges at Virgin Media’s annual Pioneers Pitch to Rich contest included Nick Jenkins, who is the mastermind behind personalised greetings card website Moonpig, Holly Tucker who helped set up online gift retailer Not on the High Street, and Jack Wills co-founder Peter Williams.
Mr Thorpe, 45, former chief technology officer for popular online game Moshi Monsters, narrowly missed out on the top prize of £5,000 plus mentoring from Sir Richard and his team. But he and the other finalists were each given a laptop worth £500.
Now, he plans to carry on expanding I Can Make and developing his range of 3D printing kits, including one of Space Ship One, the world’s first civilian spaceship.
Mr Thorpe said: “It was a wonderful experience and although I am a tiny bit sad we didn’t win, I was delighted that Sir Richard named us as his personal favourite.
“He really liked the 3D element of what we do but joked that the judging process was a democracy and he’d been overruled by the rest of the panel. He was very encouraging about what we do and said we were one to watch in the future. To have him pick us out as his personal favourite is better than winning.”