Branson starts search for Britain's best new business

17th March 2014

  • Virgin Media Pioneers competition launches with prizes worth over £25,000
  • Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pitch your business to Sir Richard Branson

Virgin Media Pioneers – the online community for entrepreneurs – has launched its annual, nationwide search to find Britain’s best up-and-coming business leaders, offering them unique opportunities to pitch for investment from Sir Richard Branson himself.

Founded by Virgin Media in 2010, the free peer-to-peer network supports more than 6,000 young people, providing mentoring, advice and unique business opportunities. This year there are two chances for innovators to ‘Pitch to Rich’ and a panel of prestigious judges. 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 in order to further their prospects.

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 Start Up 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 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 – an established 12-week, high-growth training and mentoring programme for ambitious digital entrepreneurs with training, mentoring free workspace and access to capital. All semi-finalists will receive an HP tablet to help them manage their businesses.

Tom Mockridge, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Media, said: “The online world is powering Britain’s economic growth and transforming the prospects of young entrepreneurs. Our network puts Virgin Media at the heart of this information superhighway and with Virgin Media Pioneers we provide opportunities for them to accelerate their ambitions as we champion the next generation of digital innovators.”

Sir Richard Branson, Pioneer-At-Large of Virgin Media Pioneers and founder of the Virgin Group, said: “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. 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 previous year’s Pitch to Rich winner, Dan Watson, who created the SafetyNet sustainable fishing project, also joined the prestigious panel.

The call for written entries opens today and five entrepreneurs will be short-listed for each award and asked to prepare pitch videos to face a public vote. The entrepreneurs with the most votes by 22ndApril will then pitch for money-can’t buy advice and support on 13th May at the Branson family home in Oxfordshire.

Pitch to Rich follows the successful ‘Three New Things’ initiative from Virgin Media Business which is supporting three game-changing technologies with the power to transform everyday lives and business.

To enter, or to find out more about Virgin Media Pioneers, go to or on Twitter @VMPioneers #Pitch2Rich or Facebook @VirginMediaPioneers.

Notes to editors

Entries close at midday on 7th April 2014.

Competition criteria:

  • A UK resident with a UK-based business
  • Aged 18 or over
  • A registered Virgin Media Pioneer (free to register)
  • Available 13th May 2014 for a live pitching event in Oxfordshire
  • Agree to the Terms and Conditions of the competition

About Virgin Media Pioneers

Virgin Media Pioneers was formed by Virgin Media in 2010 as an online community for young entrepreneurs. 6,000 members now interact, using videos and blogging to create a peer-to-peer support and mentoring service.

Virgin Media Pioneers also offers original content including the Pioneers TV series targeted at early-stage entrepreneurs as well as connecting people from all walks of life who are passionate about business across a range of industries – from fashion to digital to catering.

Regular free events and unique opportunities are also held, such as the annual Trade Mission, which in 2013 took 5 early-stage tech businesses to New York to explore expanding their British businesses abroad and secure partners and support.

For more information, go to

About Virgin StartUp

Virgin StartUp is a not-for-profit organisation launched by Virgin Group in October 2013. The organisation helps entrepreneurs with the funding, resources and advice they’ll need to make their business idea a reality.

Our main focus is to help you get the support you need to turn your great idea in to a successful and sustainable business.

If you are aged 18 or over and a British citizen or legal UK resident who wants to start or expand a new business that’s less than a year old in England, then you may be eligible for a start-up loan and mentor support.

For more information, go to

About the Accelerator Academy

The Accelerator Academy is a successful and established 12-week high growth training and mentoring programme for ambitious digital entrepreneurs looking to grow their business, through training, mentoring and access to capital.

Focused on start-up and early stage, high-growth potential Tech, Media, Telecoms (TMT) businesses and ambitious entrepreneurs, applicants are initially assessed for suitability by an online assessment, and around 10-12 successful companies are selected (25 entrepreneurial founders and co-founders) as Accelerator Academy participants to take part in the part time (evenings / weekends) course, with successful exited TMT entrepreneurs mentoring them personally (2-3 businesses per mentor, to ensure sufficient ‘facetime’).

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