VOOM (Sir Richard Branson’s annual startup competition) is over, and Efoldi came as close to winning as one can without, in fact, winning—runner-up, to be precise. First place went to a road paving material, concocted of waste plastic plus a secret ingredient, that makes asphalt obsolete and doesn’t get pot holes. Once we heard about the pot-hole elimination, we knew we were up against it.
But, as always, Efoldi absolutely dominated the “sheer delight elicited from audience upon seeing product turn from chair into car” category. It was, in fact, a Guinness World Record level of sheer delight. Unfortunately, the Guinness representative who’d proctored Virgin’s pitchathon had already left, having confirmed that the 29-hour ordeal was the longest pitchathon ever achieved by mankind: an unprecedented accomplishment, albeit aided by the fact that it was also an unprecedented effort.
It may be that earlier dreamers, lost to the mists of time, aspired to the pitchathon title but inadvertently broke the tedium record instead, died of boredom, and were therefore disqualified by Guinness. Given that a half-hour pitchathon (with surviving participants) would have set a Guinness record, we must congratulate Sir Richard on going the extra mile.
In any event, we thought we’d look into Guinness’s fastest time for a case to transform into a chair and then into an electric vehicle. When we searched Guinness for “folding car,” however, the site was nonplussed—it helpfully pointed out that we obviously meant “flying car” and then offered up the best it had.
Thus, we learned the following true facts:
- The fastest time to pull a car connected by iron ropes to two full cans of Wahaha porridge suctioned onto the hands of the pulling man was achieved China in 2010.
- The fastest time to push a car 50 meters with a spear to the pusher’s throat was achieved on the set of Wir Holen den Rekord nach Deutschland (We Get the Record to Germany) in 2013.
- The fastest time that a dog rolled down a manually operated car window was achieved in 2004 by a Hungarian border collie who managed it with his paws and nose.
- The fastest speed for a car driven blindfolded is 200 miles per hour, achieved in 2014 in the U.K.—a remarkable harbinger of Brexit.
All in all, the juxtaposition of particular nation and particular eccentric achievement struck us as bizarrely appropriate. And it appears that the folding e-carlet category is wide open.
But back to VOOM: The three-month competition, now in its fifth year, was entered by 3,500 hopefuls, all but 160 of whom were rendered considerably less hopeful by the public vote. In early June, the remaining 160 participated in the aforementioned interminable pitchathon. Forty were selected for the semifinals, which narrowed the field to six finalists—three, including Efoldi, in the startup category.
On June 28, Sumi Wang and Efoldi left Surrey for London to compete for, in Virgin’s words, “their slice of the £1 million prize fund.” Getting to London was a nightmare: traffic jams and train foul-ups that were a disorienting contrast to the upper-crust VOOM environs. The final ceremony opened on a huge dark stage illuminated by swinging spotlights, faced by an audience of over 600 and presided over by five judges who’ve entrepreneured themselves to fame and wealth:
- YouTube vlogger Marcus Butler
- Model turned mogul Tyra Banks
- Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson
- Spanx founder Sara Blakely
- Virgin managing director Peter KellyWe’ll look into them shortly and continue our insider’s view of how the competition unfolded, so to speak.
Your Efoldi friends