Virgin StartUp, a not-for-profit incubator founded by Sir Richard Branson in 2013, is dedicated to supporting UK business founders. They provide startup loans through the Government-backed Start Up Loans programme and offer various programs tailored to different types of entrepreneurs.
One of the main motivations behind Virgin StartUp is Sir Richard Branson’s passion for entrepreneurship and his desire to support the next generation of entrepreneurs. The team at Virgin StartUp is comprised of individuals who share this passion and many of them have their own startup experience.
As the Head of Startups at Virgin StartUp, the role of managing and developing the scale-up programs is undertaken. Initially, the sole scale-up program was the Collective Impact program, which focused on purpose-driven businesses and took place once a year. However, now Virgin StartUp runs four different programs catering to various sections of the UK startup community.
One of the newer programs is the Virgin StartUp Angel Investment Accelerator, which aims to assist startups with early-stage fundraising through angel investors. Angel investment is often easier to secure, especially in the current market environment. The program provides guidance on finding angels, approaching them, and working with them.
Virgin StartUp has also launched Empower 100, a free investment readiness and growth program specifically for diverse founders in Greater London. The aim is to support underrepresented founders and spread their focus across different sections of the UK startup community.
The Head of Startups, who joined Virgin StartUp in 2022, brings her previous experience as an investor and entrepreneur to the role. Recognizing that many founders lack expertise in finance and fundraising, she utilizes her knowledge and provides guidance to help them on their fundraising journeys. Having gone through the startup journey herself, she understands the challenges that founders face and aims to help them prioritize and optimize their time.
Virgin StartUp emphasizes the concept of “investment readiness” in their programs. Investment readiness involves ensuring that startups have all the necessary documentation and information required by investors for due diligence. It enables founders to confidently pitch their business to investors as an investable proposition. This includes demonstrating a growing business, understanding the target market, and having a clear plan on how the investment will be utilized to fuel growth.
The programs at Virgin StartUp incorporate expert-led seminars, one-to-one sessions with industry professionals, and practical guidance. Founders receive personalized assistance in areas such as finding investors, effective communication, financial modeling, and legal aspects. The hands-on approach encourages practical learning and helps founders refine their businesses as they evolve.
Virgin StartUp’s focus on purpose-driven businesses stems from the desire to change business for the better. They believe that every business can create a more significant impact by becoming purpose-driven and better serving their customers. By supporting purpose-driven startups through the Collective Impact program, Virgin StartUp aims to help them make a bigger and more meaningful impact.
Applicants to the Collective Impact program are assessed based on the strength of their business proposition, the team, and their potential for impact. This evaluation process aligns with the criteria that investors also consider when assessing startups.
The application process involves filling out a short form that asks basic questions about the business, customers, and revenues. The applications are then internally judged and scored competitively against other applicants. Shortlisted candidates are invited to interviews, where they have the opportunity to further showcase their pitch deck and provide additional information. The interview process helps the selection committee gain a better understanding of the founders.
The number of applicants accepted per cohort varies depending on the program. For example, the Angel Investment Accelerator received 300 applications in January, resulting in a cohort of 14. The Collective Impact program received around 60 applications for a cohort.
Virgin StartUp is committed to supporting and investing in the growth of UK startups. Their programs provide valuable resources, guidance, and networking opportunities to help founders succeed in their entrepreneurial endeavors.
Sources: Virgin StartUp (internal source)