Britain’s future entrepreneurial leaders recognised by NEF Fast Track

08 July 2019

Six inspiring young entrepreneurs have overcome fierce competition to impress the country’s business leaders with their innovation and business capability and have been selected by NEF Fast Track, the UK’s leading entrepreneur development programme, for the prestigious David Pearl Pitch Prize & CVC Young Innovators award. 


See: CVC Young Innovators award

NEF Fast Track has been the springboard for over 300 young entrepreneurs to start more than 150 ventures.  The year-long programme finishes with the award of two grant prizes – the David Pearl Pitch Prize, aimed at pre-seed and seed ventures that demonstrate huge potential for success, and the CVC Young Innovators award, which recognises the most-promising, new businesses in either the commercial or social enterprise sectors. 

We’ve sat down with one of the winners of David Pearl Pitch Prize 2019, Finn Sims, founder of ReLi for a chat about his sustainable business and the NEF Fast Track Pitch Day experience.


The David Pearl Pitch Prize saw more than 30 entrepreneurs pitch ventures that addressed varying issues facing society – including new sustainable consumer products, ways to make education more accessible, solutions for accountability in the fashion industry, non-toxic products in the beauty industry and new technologies that learn how to plan a wedding or choose music based on emotions. The judges selected four winners to share the £10,000 grant, which is to be used to help accelerate and grow their business.


David Pearl Pitch Prize NEF Fast Track 2019

(from left: Neeta Patel, James Darby, Shana Gujral, Katie Lewendon, Finn Simms, David Pearl)


The winning businesses are:

Finn Sims, ReLi – ReLi makes eco-friendly portable chargers made from 100% recycled plastics, sourced from plastic PET bottles and food packaging.

Judges feedback: “Incredibly interesting and impressive – a brilliant and vital solution to the challenge of recycling.”

Shana Gujral, Bourbon Streat – an experiential street food business bringing New Orleans flavours to the UK.

Judges feedback: “A confident and bold pitch for a great idea that motivates people to cook at home more.”

Katie Lewendon, Wedminute – the AI wedding planner that allows you to book the fundamentals of your wedding in a matter of minutes.

Judges feedback: “[Katie] has identified an opportunity in a crowded and competitive market with a smart and interesting commercial model.”

James Darby, Fireside Foods – a premium ready meal service for the elderly. 

Judges feedback: “A very confident and compelling pitch that proposes a solution to in-home support for an ageing population.”

Neeta Patel, CEO of the Centre for Entrepreneurs (home of the NEF Fast Track programme) said, “The funding environment is getting tougher for first-time entrepreneurs. While it has never been easier to start a business and although technology has lowered barriers to entry, these entrepreneurs need money to grow and access to finance has become more difficult. NEF’s David Pearl Pitch Prize and the CVC Young Innovators Award recognise superb entrepreneurial talent and provides essential  funds in their very early days to grow, develop their products and go on to succeed.”

David Pearl, Chairman and Chief Executive of Pearl & Coutts said, “I am delighted to be able to support these talented and innovative young entrepreneurs, at the start of their business journeys.”

In addition, leading private equity firm and long-term NEF Fast Track supporter, CVC Capital Partners, have announced the winners of their annual Young Innovators Awards. The £40,000 in grant funding recognises the most-promising new businesses founded by NEF Fast Track alumni and will be shared among the winners to help ramp up the growth of their ventures.

CVC Young Innovator Award 2019 Winners

(from left: Maud Millar, Véronique Rapetti, Emily Harper)


The winning businesses are:

Emily Harper, Art-K – aims to increase children’s access to art. Already running 22 art classes in the UK, it was started to fill the need for supplemental art programmes given the decline in arts teaching in schools.

Maud Millar, Adapt – the first ‘intelligent’ revision timetable that actually works for students – giving them a prioritised list of tasks designed for them by subject specialists, and automatically adjusting their timetable each day to reflect on what they did (or maybe didn’t) get done.


Judy Marsden, Director of Philanthropy at CVC said:  “We launched the CVC Young Innovator Awards five years ago to give young entrepreneurs early stage funding to kick start their businesses. Both Art-K and Adapt are worthy winners and we look forward to supporting them over the next year through cash grants and access to CVC’s resources and network” 

NEF Fast Track is the Centre for Entrepreneurs’ talent programme developing future entrepreneurial leaders. It provides the UK’s brightest, most entrepreneurially minded young people with skills, training, mentoring and business coaching to help aspiring entrepreneurs speed up the process of starting and growing their ventures. Since NEF’s launch in 2011, 300 young entrepreneurs have gone on to launch more than 100 new businesses, raised £56m in funding, and create over 1,500 new jobs. 


For any additional information or if you wish to speak to any of the winners, please contact:

Laura Moross

T: 07969673895



Additional information on Pitch Day participants

A brochure featuring all 30 business that pitched at the NEF Fast Track pitch day is available to download here (pdf).


About Centre for Entrepreneurs

The Centre for Entrepreneurs is the UK’s leading entrepreneurship foundation. We work to make the country more entrepreneurial. 


Our activities are grouped under four key pillars:

  • Delivering entrepreneurial development programmes;
  • Researching the state of entrepreneurship and how to unlock potential in neglected groups, communities and locations;
  • Building thriving entrepreneurial communities; 
  • Engaging and informing policy makers and the public.