A Mexican company that transforms corn waste into a low-calorie, eco-friendly sugar alternative took the top prize at an international startup competition in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
XiliNat, founded by 29-year-old Javier Larragoiti, won US $310,000 in no-strings funding at the Chivas Venture contest, held in the Dutch capital as part of Europe’s leading tech fest, the TNW conference.
“This moment tastes pretty sweet!” Larragoiti said.
“I’m super happy to have been crowned winner of the Chivas Venture 2019; with this funding, we can go 10 times bigger and that means helping so many more people around the world.”
Larragoiti explained in a Chivas Venture video that the story of XiliNat began when he found out at the age of 18 that his father had diabetes.
He said there was a lack of “attractive options” to persuade people to stop consuming sugar, pointing out that even some diabetics won’t use sweeteners because they don’t like the taste and aren’t natural.
“We developed a patented technology to create the best sugar substitute. It has exactly the same taste, it’s low in calories, its protects your teeth against cavities, it’s ideal for diabetics and it’s completely natural,” Larragoiti said.
“Each tonne sold will benefit the health of at least 10,000 Mexicans and improve the lives of 13 farming families from whom we buy . . . [agricultural] waste,” he added.
At the Chivas Venture, an initiative of the company that makes Chivas Regal whisky, Larragoiti made a live pitch for funding to a judging panel that included actress Zoe Saldana and Alexandre Ricard, CEO of beverage company Pernod Ricard.
A total of 20 entrepreneurs from across the world competed for a total of US $1 million in funding.
Judges assessed each startup on their ability to create change using a viable business model.
Other companies that competed for funding included a Polish startup that transform tires and used rubber products into refurbished industrial projects, and a Portuguese business that created a platform that connects refugees and immigrants to volunteer language teachers.
Larragoiti’s innovative product, also called XiliNat, can be purchased on the company’s website for 200 pesos (US $10) for 454 grams.