How the overall Startups Awards winner is chosen

With entries now open for the Startups Awards 2017, we give you a behind-the-scenes look at the judging process and how the winners are picked

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With entries now rolling in for the Startups Awards 2017, we’ve compiled a guide to show you exactly how the Startups Awards application process works – from the entry process right through to the judging day and the esteemed awards ceremony.

The longest running awards of its kind, celebrating the UK’s top start-ups and small businesses since its inception in 2004, the Startups Awards has maintained a reputation for identifying impressive UK start-ups that have gone on to become household names and fast-growth brands. Previous winners include the likes of Purplebricks,, Naked Wines and Crowdcube.

The awards also garners great sponsors. This year our headline sponsor is the amazing Start Up Loans, the government-backed company which provides low-interest loans to individuals looking to start and grow a business.

While you’ll have probably have seen past videos from our incredible Startups Awards judging days, we’ve gone one step further for 2017 and added more information on what goes on behind-the-scenes.

So, is it your dream to be crowned a Startups Awards winner? Well read on for insights on how our esteemed winners are chosen… 

The Startups Awards entry process

There are 14 awards your business can enter this year, alongside the People’s Champion award and the overall award of The Start Up Loan Start-up of the Year.

In order to enter you must fill out an application form and select which categories you wish to enter. Businesses are permitted to enter as many categories as they like for one overall administration fee of £50 plus VAT.

The application form contains various questions which will aid the judges in their decision, and includes information on key financials and a synopsis of the business.

To start your entry submission, click here.

To be eligible for the Startups Awards 2017, your start-up must:

  • Have started to trade no earlier than 1 August 2013 and no later than 31 July 2016.
  • Be ‘independently owned’. This defined as a business which is substantially owned by its founders and/or a group of independent investors; is not quoted on AIM or any other stock market; and is not a subsidiary or associated company of another business.
  • Be UK based and UK founded.
  • Have great potential. For every category the judges are looking for an excellent start-up. Businesses with great potential will always rank more highly in the final reckoning. This will be based on revenue growth, profitability, and major client wins.

Take a look at what we’re looking for from each category and interviews with previous winners you could be joining

Featuring two new awards accolades for 2017, the Startups Awards categories are: 

  • The Start Up Loans Start-up of the Year
  • The Start Up Loans Inspiring Entrepreneur of the Year
  • People’s Champion
  • App of the Year
  • Crowdfunded Business of the Year
  • Export Business of the Year
  • Franchisee of the Year
  • Innovative Business of the Year
  • Product Business of the Year
  • Retail Business of the Year
  • Service Business of the Year
  • Tech Business of the Year
  • The Founders Pledge Social Impact Award
  • Venture funded Business of the Year
  • Women in Business Award
  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Once entries close on September 15, five start-ups will be shortlisted for each category.

All 60 shortlisted businesses will be in the running for the People’s Champion. The People’s Champion award is subject to an open vote where members of the public, and your peers, select their favourite start-up via a poll on  A ringing endorsement from the public if ever there was one, last year’s People’s Champion was shaving brand Cornerstone – who received a whopping 5,000 votes! 

This year, we have got two new awards which includes the Start Up Loans Inspiring Entrepreneur of the Year. Open to eligible start-up businesses that have received a government-backed Start Up Loan, the winner of this category is also decided by public vote after a shortlist is decided upon. Votes are cast based on what business story our readers find to be the most inspirational. 

The Startups Awards judging day  

The winners and runners-up from the 60 shortlisted businesses are then decided at a dedicated Startups Awards Judging Day – in which a series of high-profile entrepreneurs and sponsors review the shortlist over lively discussion and debate.

Shortlisted businesses should be contactable on the Startups Awards judging day should the panel have any urgent queries or require further information.

Every year, we bring together a panel of the UK’s most experienced entrepreneurs, business experts and industry players to judge our Startups Awards shortlist. Last year’s judges included Emma Sinclair MBE of Enterprise Jungle, Nick Jenkins of Moonpig and Dragons’ Den and Cassandra Stavrou of PROPERCORN.

All categories are judged on this day, except the People’s Champion award and the Start-Up Loans Inspiring Entrepreneur of the Year award, which are voted for by the public.

Shortlisted product businesses are recommended to send samples for the judging day so that the judges can see, taste, and get a better feel for the business concept and USP.

Judges for the Startups Awards 2017 are yet to be announced, but you can expect a similar calibre to past years, so watch this space!

Deciding the overall Startups Awards winner

Once all 14 winners and runners-up have been decided, the Startups Awards judges then cast their votes to decide on the overall winner to be crowned The Start Up Loans Start-up of the Year. Only businesses that have been successful in a category are considered for the overall reward.

2016’s overall winner was online background checking platform Onfido, who also won Tech Business of the Year and Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Impressing the judges with its disruptive business model and exceptional growth, Onfido was backed by $30m worth of funding and employed 145 members of staff at time of submission.

To read more about last year’s winners, and to get a gauge of the type of businesses we look to celebrate, click here.

The Startups Awards ceremony

All 60 shortlisted businesses are invited to an exclusive awards ceremony, attended by industry and judges, where the winners are revealed alongside the runners up that have taken the coveted bronze and silver positions.

The Startups Awards 2017 ceremony will take place at the iconic Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London on 30 November.

Last year’s glittering awards ceremony was hosted by Oli Barrett MBE and included an audience of high-profile names including Julien Callede of, Jon Wright of Innocent Drinks and JamJar Investments, and Secret Escapes’ Sebastian Fallert. View the 2016 awards ceremony video here.

Now that you’re familiar with the Startups Awards application and judging process, submit your entry for the Startups Awards 2017 today!

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