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Data intelligence company wins West Midlands premier pitching competition 

28 March 2024
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VentureFest WM winners 2024

The co-founder of a software company that provides environmental, social and governance (ESG) intelligence for global supply chains has been voted the winner of the ninth Minerva Pitch Up competition run by Aston University, University of Warwick and University of Birmingham.

Mandeep Soor, CEO of Bendi AI, beat off competition to win the Best Pitch Award at Venturefest West Midlands held in Birmingham last week. 

Bendi AI aims to reduce the risk of human rights, environmental and governance risks in supply chains through 24/7 risk monitoring. Its software maps millions of data points from news, legal cases and social media in multiple languages globally.

Venturefest offers West Midlands entrepreneurs and innovators the opportunity to grow their businesses by meeting with potential investors and others.

The event saw the culmination of the Dragon’s Den-style contest in which around 60 businesses have battled it out over the last six months, before the eight finalists pitched to a panel of judges on the day. 

Mandeep Soor (Bendi), Elena Boos (Visionary Farms) and Felix Hughes (Bueno Europe Ltd) competed in the final in a head-to-head contest in front of the Venturefest audience, who then voted for the winner who would take home a £2,000 prize, with the runner-up securing £1,000. 

The audience of more than 500 entrepreneurs, innovators and investors voted Mandeep Soor the winner, and Felix Hughes runner-up.

Contestants that didn't compete in the finals had the opportunity to showcase their businesses in the exhibition space, including One Learning, Ingrained Oil and Clearscope.

Mandeep Soor said: “It's been an honour to pitch Bendi and what we're building alongside all of the incredible founders at Venturefest - to then win, is just unbelievable. I've already been approached by numerous people with offers of support, connections and more.

“By winning this prize and the support of Minerva Angels I hope to close our funding round to scale our tech, hire essential team members and build out the vision to take Bendi's supply chain risk data beyond corporates to financial services and insurance.”

Felix Hughes said: “Bueno is thrilled to be the runner up in Minerva Birmingham Pitch Up finals at Venturefest West Midlands 2024. With 800,000 Brits owning property in Spain, becoming a runner up in the Venturefest final will be transformative, it establishes Bueno as an innovative British banking alternative in Spain for both holiday owners and expats. 

“Bueno’s journey to becoming a Venturefest finalist started with attending the NatWest Scale-Up Accelerator in the West Midlands. From the support received from NatWest and the Pitch Up team will help Bueno to grow  to profitability in 2024.

“Being runners up in this competition is an amazing achievement for the team and we would like to thank Minerva Business Angels, Aston Centre for Growth, University of Birmingham Enterpriseand NatWest for enabling this completion. 

Paula Whitehouse said: “Supporting small businesses to grow is what Aston Centre for Growth is all about and we are delighted to work in partnership with Minerva Business Angels and University of Birmingham Enterprise to help entrepreneurs access finance for growth.  


Nicky Godding is editor of The Business Magazine. Before her journalism career, she worked mainly in public relations moving into writing when she was invited to launch Retail Watch, a publication covering retail and real estate across Europe.

After some years of constant travelling, she tucked away her passport and concentrated on business writing, co-founding a successful regional business magazine. She has interviewed some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million-pound businesses and reported on many science and technology firsts.

She reports on the region’s thriving business economy from start-ups, family businesses and multi-million-pound corporations, to the professionals that support their growth and the institutions that educate the next generation of business leaders.

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