June 7, 2014 4:13 pm

Blog: countdown to the awards

A bird flies above Monaco harbour, Monte Carlo©Reuters

It is judgment day at the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year event in Monaco. The 60 entrepreneurs from 51 countries have made their pitch to the judging panel and will have nothing to do except soak up the 28 degree sunshine and enjoy the Hermitage Hotel’s lavish hospitality until the gala dinner this evening, when this year’s global winner will be enough.

The judging process is transparent in that we have had it explained that the evaluation of each entry will be made based on six factors: entrepreneurial spirit, financial performance, strategic direction, global impact, innovation and personal integrity.

Last year’s winner, Hamdi Ulukaya, was a worthy winner based on these criteria. Having moved to the US from rural Turkey, in 2007 he hit upon the idea of selling Greek-style yoghurt to the Americans, who up until then had been used to a very different type of processed product.

Six years later, his business, Chobani, was selling $1bn of its dairy creation and was the number one yoghurt brand in the US.

The growth alone, akin to the achievements of Silicon Valley technology companies, would have won Mr Ulukaya the award. But he had another key ingredient to his success, a great story, about an immigrant achieving enormous success and keeping the American dream alive.

There are a number of incredible growth stories among this year’s finalists also.

Others have been innovators and inventors.

Yesterday I met Alexander Galitsky, co-founder and managing partner of Almaz Capital. This Ukrainian-born founder is literally a rocket scientist, having worked as a senior engineer on the Soviet space programme, notching up numerous patents for technological breakthroughs in the process.

His first start-ups were illegal because they were before the end of the communist system in Russia. He was the first Russian to be named technology pioneer at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2000.

Almaz, the business that is being considered for the EY award, is providing a bridge for western investors to put money into Russian technology companies with the potential to expand rapidly.

The fund earned $76m from just three exits: Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine, when it listed on Nasdaq, which at the time made it the biggest IPO on that exchange since Google; QIK, a mobile-based video conferencing service, when it was sold to Skype; and Vyatta, a software company, sold to US technology company Brocade.

Taking part in the FT’s Twitter Q&A this week was Kaswara Al-Khatib, a serial entrepreneur from Saudi Arabia and another EY finalist. His business Made in Saudi Films pioneered movie production within his home nation. Previously almost all film production was done outside Saudi Arabia. He is being judged on another venture, Uturn Entertainment, which is considered the largest multichannel network in the region, attracting more than 600m views of its original content.

These are just a couple of contenders in what is a very strong field this year. Their numbers are going to be important, but it is likely to be the founder’s ability to tell a great story about the journey that will set him, or her, apart. This is an important truth.

There are many great business ideas out there. But those that can turn those ideas into fast-growing, multinational businesses are usually those who can tell a great story about what they have done and what they want to achieve.

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