In addition to the cash prize, winners of Virgin Media Pioneers’ competition will have the chance to pitch their business to Sir Richard Branson.The winning prize package for each award includes £5,000 of investment plus mentoring, including legal, branding and marketing advice, as well as an opportunity for the winners to build their network and raise their profile. The Start Up Award, in partnership with Virgin StartUp, is for businesses in their first 12 months of trading. It is open to entrepreneurs with any type of early stage business that meets the Government StartUp Loans scheme criteria. Every entrant will be supported in an application to seek funding and a business mentor with the newly formed Virgin StartUp not-for-profit organisation. The Innovation Award, meanwhile, is for successfully-trading small technology businesses looking to make the next leap forward. The winner will be offered free enrolment to the Accelerator Academy. This is a 12-week, high-growth training and mentoring programme for digital entrepreneurs with training, mentoring, free workspace and access to capital. “Starting a business with very little capital is something I can relate to but with a little backing early on and the right idea, anything is possible,” says Sir Richard Branson. “I’m looking forward to meeting more of Britain’s best young entrepreneurs through the Start Up Award. The Innovation Award is about propelling the next great British tech business forward so we’re looking for disruptive businesses who could one day give Silicon Valley a run for their money.” Last year’s “Pitch to Rich” competition was won by Joshua and John Okungbaiye, founders of High Spirit, for their theft-proof rucksacks which captured the interest of Sir Richard and judges Thea Green, the founder of Nails Inc.; Hummingbird Bakery’s Tarek Malouf; Richard Reed who started Innocent Drinks; and SBTV founder Jamal Edwards. The call for written entries opens this week and five entrepreneurs will be shortlisted for each award and asked to prepare pitch videos to face a public vote. The entrepreneurs with the most votes by April 22 will then pitch at the Branson family home in Oxfordshire on May 13.
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