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Sir Richard Branson has announced the re-launch of his Virgin Media Business competition Pitch to Rich 2015, which aims to find Britain’s most innovative startups in a bid to win a mammoth £1m business accelerator prize fund.

The serial entrepreneur announced the return of the prestigious competition in a three-minute television broadcast on Channel 4. Building on the UK’s exponential growth in the SME sector, this Virgin Media Business initiative is the latest competition to celebrate the countries recent successes in the startupsphere.

Branson went on to continue that bravery and energy were key characteristics in becoming a successful entrepreneur and alongside a panel of prestigious judges, he will choose winners in three categories in a live final on June 26 2015. The categories are as follows:

  • Start-up For exciting new businesses with huge potential. Winner receives £150,000 marketing support, mentoring and help from Virgin startup’s professional business advisers for a year. Two runners-up get £50,000 marketing support.
  • New Things For big, new, disruptive ideas. Winner gets £50,000 cash towards development, plus mentoring from Virgin’s Investment Team. Two runners-up receive £10,000 each fro development.
  • GrowFor existing businesses that are ready for major expansion. Winner gets £250,000 marketing support, and two runners-up receive £100,000 marketing

The respective winner in each category not also receives financial investment, but also a series of other supplementary prizes including:

  • Full internet and fixed mobile voice package for 12 months
  • Unlimited Virgin travel for 12 months
  • A place on the accelerator network programme

A further marketing support prize of £50,000 will be rewarded to the most popular runner-up, voted for by people in the audience.

The Virgin Media mogul concluded: “Launching a business can be challenging and, at times, overwhelming. But entrepreneurs shouldn’t let this hold them back from achieving their full potential. Pitch to Rich is a brilliant opportunity for UK businesses to make their mark on a global stage.”

“If you think your business has great potential, then enter Pitch to Rich today, as you never know where it may lead you.”

The UK’s fintech sector appears to be going from strength to strength with the announcement of a new £175,000 government-backed competition to find Britain’s “Strongest Entrepreneurial Talent”.

Aptly titled “The Future of FinTech”, IC Tomorrow – part of Innovate UK – is hoping to find pioneering ideas within the fintech field which aim to solve challenges around five identified areas including education, compliance and regulation, cyber security, payment transactions and personal finance.

With backing from some of the worlds leading financial frontrunners such as Lloyds Banking Group and American Express, the competition looks to reward 5 successful startups with up to £35,000 each in order to pilot their ideas and products.

Further well recognized backers include Money Advice Service, RBS, Experian and The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The competition truly acknowledges the hard work and talents of its entrants with the five winning entrepreneur’s retaining 100% of their intellectual property, as well as invaluable support to take their ideas from conception to commercialisation.

Worth an estimated £20bn to the UK economy as reported by UKTI, The Future of Fintech competition aims to celebrate Britain’s leading position in the rapidly expanding field.

IC tomorrow programme manager, Matt Sansam, commented: “The UK has become a hotbed for financial technology innovation, with many of the world’s fastest growing companies basing themselves here.

“This collaborative contest aims to support and accelerate their growth by providing commercial introductions to industry leaders. It also enables UK-based global players to harness the creativity of start-ups and help bring their ideas to market.”

Entries for the competition close at 12pm on Tuesday 21 April 2015. For more information, visit: http://tinyurl.com/pys9pm8

In Britain, we’re simply a nation of animal lovers. From man’s best friend to those infamous cat vines (yes I’m talking about ‘cat in shark onesie rides automatic hoover!’), we just can’t get enough of our furry friends. And with rising pet care costs, increasingly busy lifestyles and a nation obsessed with endless animal-based media, 2015 is proving the perfect time to launch your pet sitting startup!

The Audience:

One major selling point of a pet sitting business is that your target demographic is rather limitless. Providing the customer owns a pet (or knows someone that does) your service is likely to appeal. And with 24% of UK households owning a dog and 17% owning a cat according to The Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association (PFMA), there is massive scope to turn our boundless love for ‘Lucky’ and ‘Ruby’ into a lucrative business.

Securing Professional Support:

The margin between startup success and startup slump is incredibly narrow, so it is imperative that you recruit expert opinions and support from within your field. When it comes to pet sitting, The National Association of Pet Sitting and Dog Walkers (NARPS UK), is committed to providing aims and objectives that hope to elevate the reputation and profitability of the UK pet sitting industry and include:

  • Setting industry standards by working with government, local authorities and partner organisations.
  • Promoting best practice and representing the interests of members and the wider profession at local and national government levels.
  • Supporting pet care professionals to deliver high standards of care by providing quality information, education and training.
  • Providing members with benefits, which reduce costs and achieve a more profitable business.

Lets Get Sitting:

So if the thought of starting a business amongst our furry friends has you bounding about the room in excitement, NARPS UK is on hand to help get your paws off the ground. Simply visit their website and follow their 10 step guide to pet sitting success by choosing a membership package, creating a profile and logging in to your newly created account. Here members can enjoy access to invaluable resources such as business plans, discounted insurance, custom made software/mobile application, and a Lantra accredited pet sitting and dog walking course.

Ready to unleash your potential? Head over to www.narps.co.uk for more information.

Original article published on www.startups.co.uk

Startups Annual 100 competition returns for its sixth year run and is searching for the most innovative and original SME’s currently operating in the UK.

Launched in 2008, Startups 100 2015 is a definitive list of the hottest rising stars in the world of start-ups, compiled by limiting entries on the basis of companies that were incorporated on or after January 1st 2012.

Previous entries in the index include property advertising giant Zoopla, black cab app Hailo and delivery experts Shutl – all of which have demonstrated exponential growth and success.

Last years compilation showcased the likes of global “going out” app YPlan and pop-up shop marketplace Appear Here, with the 2015 list hoping to amass an equally impressive selection of high caliber enterprises.

Ian Wallis, Startups.co.uk editorial director, said:

“We’re looking forward to seeing what the make-up of this year’s ascendants might be and what it will say about the consumer and business trends we’re likely to see grow in the next decade.

“Within that, we know we’ll find some companies destined to become household names. The question is, will it be you?”

Entries close 20th March 2015. Application forms can be downloaded for www.startups.co.uk

London’s status as a global tech startup hub was further backed today by the chief executive of Cooley – a Silicon Valley based law frim – who consider Google, Facebook and Linked-In amongst their clients. Joe Conroy, following the launch of the new London-based practice said, “Right now, it’s a fairly small and nascent community compared to the States, But increasingly our [private equity and venture capital clients] are coming over here and looking for the next big thing. For the first time, we think that community has real legs to grow.”

According to the promotional organisation London & Partners, British startup’s raised $1.4bn in capital funding last year, whilst increasingly attracting investment from overseas.

Tech City based in trendy East London is seeing rising interest from business support companies attempting to cater for the local startup community, amongst global powerhouses such as Barclays, KPMG and Taylor Wessing.

Initially launching with 55 lawyers, Cooley’s first Eurpoean Office will be headed by Justin Stock, former head of Morrison & Foerster’s London corporate practice. The firm will offer technology start-ups tailored services such as early-stage financing and data privacy advice.

“You can’t approach an emerging-growth company before it gets its first round of financing and say you’re going to charge £700 an hour to do an incorporation that is mostly form-driven,” said Mr Conroy.

Original article published on www.telegraph.co.uk

Japan – Land of the rising sun, birthplace of a somersaulting Italian plumber and the creator of every trendy commuters fishy lunchtime affair, sushi! But not only is Japan a country alive with culture and traditions, it is also one of the most technologically advanced places in the world.

This is exemplified in Japan’s rapidly expanding startup sector, with some of the most innovative and original ideas set to shakeup modern day living as integrated tech becomes more readily attainable.

Here at StartUp Roar we have selected our top 3 Japanese startups that we think are destined for new app stardom; from incentivising house chores to rewarding loved ones with a well-deserved coffee break, nothing is too weird or wonderful for our partners in the East!

1). Air Closet – Ever looked at your wardrobe brimming with clothes and thought you still have nothing to wear? Fear not, for Air Closet is effectively a library of clothes that you can borrow, with membership costing approximately £40 a month – you receive a package containing three items of clothing, selected for you by a professional stylist, and are allowed to keep the items for as long as you like.  It looks like you can only borrow three items at a time though, so once you’re ready to get your next batch, you simply send the clothes back (free return delivery and no need to wash) and review. The more feedback you share, the more accurate the stylists can be

2). Living Room – Your children have left their toys all over the floor, refuse to brush their teeth and simply don’t want to help with the household chores. Is there any hope? Yes says Living Room, a Japanese platform that helps to gamify the cleaning, washing, tidying, hygiene – you name it – experience for children. Set for release in February, children are assigned tasks through characters in a ‘game’ app (John the Adventurer in “Chores Quest” for the boys and Princess Marie in “The Magic of Chores” for the girls). The children’s apps are connected to a parent app, where Mums and Dads can confirm when a job has been completed – and once they give the green light, the children receive an in-game reward. The platform also includes a ‘Mama & Papa café’, where parents can discuss ideas and suggestions.

3). Giftee (JP) – How many times has a friend come through for you last minute – whether paying for your taxi home after losing your wallet on a night out, or coming over at a moment’s notice and offering a shoulder to cry on? Giftee specialises in small token gifts, allowing users to show their appreciation through digital vouchers for little treats, such as a cup of coffee, a slice of cake, a beer, a bowl of ice cream or even a copy of their favourite magazine. It’s the perfect way to spread the love.

Despite venture capital investments falling by 11% in Europe during 2014, the UK was still considered the “most favoured destination” during the final quarter receiving €524m across 69 deals in equity finance.

This appetite for investment – particularly overseas – in startups was exemplified earlier this week by startups.co.uk in their compiling of the 25 biggest deals in 2014.

Arguably one of the most impressive startup beneficiaries came in the form of mother-daughter fashion duo Freda Thomas and Julie Deane who raised a major £12.6m round from Index Ventures. Established in 2007 with just £600 worth of initial capital, The Cambridge Satchel Company was nurtured from a simple side hobby into one of the fastest expanding startups in the UK.

Fed up of flimsy low quality school bags for her children, Deane wanted to revive the classic sturdy satchel reminiscent of the original Oxford and Cambridge designs, whilst also chipping away at the kid’s private school fees. The Leicestershire based company now employs over 100 staff and sells its colourful designs across 100 different countries worldwide.

The £12.6m investment from Index – who have also invested in other lucrative fashion brands such as Moleskine, ASOS and Net-a-Porter – will be used to increase the brands US presence, implement a senior management team and make improvements to the company website.

Deane has said of the investment “Digital is at the heart of everything we do, which is why we are so excited to be entering into this partnership with Index, who have no equals in the digital arena”.

The complete investment list can be found by visiting www.startups.co.uk.

Startup Success – London leads the way in Startup business smash in 2014!

2014 was clearly the year of the Startups with Companies House filing a record breaking 581,173 registrations for new businesses, nearly a 100,000 increase than that of 2012 (484,224).

London was the biggest contributor accounting for nearly 1/5th of all new registrations for small and new business at 184,671. However, Britain’s second biggest cities also reported healthy numbers, clearly demonstrating a growing appetite for people wishing to start their own business: Birmingham in 2nd with 18,337 and Manchester narrowly behind with 13,054 respectively.

Evidently not all new businesses registered with Companies House will result in actual trade, but what is clear is that the UK certainly has a growing appetite for the startup industry.

Serial Entrepreneur and Chairmen of the Centre for Entrepreneur’s Luke Johnson, commented “Starting a business is easier, quicker and cheaper than ever thanks to new technology.

“Entrepreneurs have higher profiles than in the past and are seen as role models. Traditional jobs for life have largely disappeared, as have occupational pensions.”

Original article can be found: http://startups.co.uk/start-up-business-record-smashed-in-2014/

The UK government has published draft legislation which aims to help SMEs source finance. The Small Business Enterprise and Employment Bill will introduce a requirement for banks turning down SMEs for loans to share their details with government-designated platforms who will help the SMEs access alternative sources of funding.

Statistically,  just over half of SMEs seeking funding from banks are rejected the first time and often don’t try a second time. The aim of the draft legislation is to try to help SMEs find funding despite being rejected by the banks. Many SMEs simply don’t realise that there are funding options other than from bank-offered debt funding. Yet for many SMEs peer-to-peer lending and equity and rewards based crowd funding could provide the required funding, often at better rates than those offered by the banks.

Andrea Leadsom, economic secretary to HM Treasury said “A key part of our long-term economic plan is to ensure that small businesses are able to access the finance they need to grow and succeed. The best way to deliver this is to increase competition in the sector and reeve the barriers to new sources of finance for SMEs.”

The government has received widespread support for the proposals and the Bill is expected to come into force in early 2015.

Tens of thousands of startups and new businesses flock to Helsinki for annual funding competition.

Today (Tuesday 17th November) sees hundreds of startups and new businesses from around the world, flock to Finland’s freezing capital, Helsinki, for the annual Slush tech conference.

Slush is widely considered one of the largest tech startup conferences in Northern Europe and Russia with attendees from over 80 different countries expected to the 10,000 mark.

Miki Kuusi, Director of Slush said of the event “You can see great speakers and get an experience that’s worth coming to” and that the event itself is “an experience”.

One huge draw for startups is the conference offers the world’s biggest pitching competition prize worth an estimated £127m in venture funding from national and international investors.

The event’s appeal is further heightened by its Slush 100 competition for early-stage startups, which boasts a prize fund of £200,000 – the largest sum of its kind.

The prize has been offered by the Finnish Business Angels Network (FiBAN) and the Finnish bank Evli.

Since the decline of former Finnish based mobile technology giant Nokia, the Finnish government has been looking at ways to reinvest in Finland’s emerging tech talents in a bid to boost the local economy.

One way this has been achieved is through Tekes, a government technology initiative that is providing funds to new companies in order to create growth. This has proven a huge success – a country that has 4% of Europe’s population is now producing 26% of Europe’s startup exits.

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