Sir Richard Branson’s ‘Pitch to Rich’ became more #DOOM that #VOOM as the Virgin backed business competition descended into farce – and was then given new hope.
Thousands of people were left unable to vote for their favourite business pitch over the Bank Holiday weekend because of technical issues with the Virgin website.
Virgin apologised and last night announced they will reopen the voting process on Monday 18th May at 10am until Wednesday 20th May at 5pm to compensate for technical issues.
The technical melt-down meant hundreds of people attempting to vote for child safety app Mobile Force Field were unable cast their votes over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Those that did get through to the voting site then found they were unable to click on verification emails meaning their votes did note count despite a frantic weekend of campaigning via social media.
Thousands of parents including celebrity Piers Morgan pledged their support to the Mobile Force Field Sir Richard Branson bid but then found they could not vote.
Morgan, the former Mirror Editor and TV personality tweeted support for our child safety app to his 4.5 million followers and Twitter and urged them to support our #VOOM ‘Pitch to Rich bid’.
Despite more than 1,763 shares on Twitter, 666 on Facebook and countless efforts from individuals trying to vote directly only 333 votes were registered on the official site when voting closed at 5pm yesterday – bizarrely the bid rose to 358 by the following morning, 16 hours after the competition closed!
Lancashire business man Steve Clarke of Cameron Clarke Leasing tried to vote but encountered problems however he tried explaining: “I’m so sorry, I’ve tried on so many devices but I just can’t vote so far.
“I’ve tried iPhone, desktop, MacBook and iPad but it just will not connect, if everyone’s having the same trouble it will be a real shame.”
Peter Wild of Edgworth added: “I’ve been trying all
weekend but the link to the Virgin website just doesn’t load, it doesn’t matter how I try or what device I use it simply won’t work!”
Charles Redman from London, said: “I tried for so long to vote but the site wouldn’t load, then when it eventually did the link on the verification email I received wouldn’t not respond and so therefore my vote did not count.”
Virgin Business were bombarded with messages of frustration over the Bank Holiday weekend with thousands of businesses experiencing difficulties as their supporters tried to vote.
The telecommunications giant, who describe themselves as the UK’s only telco with a national fibre optic Next Generation Network, apologised via their Twitter feed throughout the weekend.
They promised in an investigation amid feeds of foul play with fears that some pitches have simply ‘purchased votes’ from IT business offering batches of in exchange for cash.
Mobile Force Field received emails from an individuals or organisations allegedly offering 1,000 votes in exchange for $300 payable via PayPal – a tactic expressly forbidden by the competition rules
Mobile Force Field MD Matt Archer, said: “It is hugely frustrating, the competition stated some pretty strong guidelines as to how voting would be run and there are thousands of businesses who have worked so hard to attract votes – and yet it appears most of them simply haven’t been recorded?
“Our final position showed that we had attracted 333 votes yet more than 1723 people had shared our link via Twitter and 666 had shared via Facebook?
“It does not make sense that people would take the time and trouble to share the link and not register the vote?
“That view is amplified further by the text messages and emails we have received from people apologising for being unable to vote as the website was down or the verification email simply never sent?
“Having taken the time and trouble to vote and finding that they were unable too because of technical issues is heartbreaking and many, many other businesses found themselves in the same difficulties.
“The Mobile Force Field team would like to say thank you to all those who tried to vote and sorry for taking up your time on what appears to have been an impossible task.
“If you do have time and are prepared to try again we have a second chance. We need at least 500 additional votes to make it through to the next round of voting.”
The link voters will need on Monday morning is: http://www.virginmediabusiness.co.uk/pitch-to-rich/grow/mobile-force-field
Nick Wallen and Linda Russell, Directors and co-founders of cosmetics company JooMo Ltd were so disgusted by the process they withdrew from the #PitchtoRich contest posting an open letter to Sir Richard Branson – yet then were incredibly shortlisted to go through to the next round!
Their letter stated:
“The structure of this voting system brings the whole notion of UK Entrepreneurship and business ethics into disrepute. Either by choice or accident, it leaves the door open for sharp practices and depressingly familiar sociopathic behaviour that drive so many talented and caring people away from the perceived ‘nasty’ and ‘uncaring’ world of business.”
“We believe that this is the first time you’ve used this system for selection? If so, we really do wonder whether it was just a case of not having thought it through, combined with a ‘cunning plan to be a lead generator at the same time?”
Pitch to Rich is a competition launched by Sir Richard Branson in a bid to find Britain’s
next entrepreneur. He offered a £1 million prize pot, divided between three categories with the winners promised support and marketing investment required to grow their business or idea.
Business were invited to submit their ‘Pitch to Rich’ and then invite members of the public to vote for their idea, with the top 50 in each category gaining a place in the next round and a chance to pitch to Sir Richard and his team of marketing experts.
Competition guidelines made it clear that any companies attempting to ‘buy’ votes would be expelled from the pitching process and yet it appears from suspicious website activity that this has taken place – and is almost certainly responsible for the repeated crashing of the Virgin website over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Virgin named the 150 finalists in the three categories within three hours of closing the vote, verifying a staggering 2,407 pitches in an incredibly quick turnaround considering the tens of votes which must have been cast.
The Virgin Media Business website yesterday announced the competition will be reopened on Monday May 18 at 10am until Wednesday May 20 at 5pm to compensate for technical difficulties.
Mobile Force Field remains hopeful that Virgin Media Business will find a way to rectify this election issues but will be forced to watch and watch.
Read JooMo Open Letter