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What does Virgin offer start-ups?

Demonstrating strong leadership and commitment to supporting entrepreneurs

A good example of…

Entrepreneurial culture

European Headquarters: London

Geographical reach: UK and France and Italy

Sector/s of interest: All sectors

Works with start-ups through:

  • Loan funding
  • In-depth mentoring
  • Startup advice, masterclasses and workshops
  • Networking events
  • Learning and inspirational content
  • Competitions and awards
  • Procuring products and services
  • Promotional opportunities

Why does Virgin work with start-ups?

Virgin recognises that start-ups are a key driver for growth and productivity, and help the UK remain key players on the global stage. As such, the group does all it can to leverage its opportunities and experience to nurture the businesses of tomorrow.

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How does Virgin work with start-ups?

Sir Richard Branson understands the potential for entrepreneurship to drive real change, and has embraced this by establishing many initiatives to support start-ups.

Within the UK, the not-for-profit company Virgin StartUp (VSU) is dedicated to nurturing new businesses and offering comprehensive support in the form of funding, mentoring, tools, resources, workshops and more. Meanwhile, Virgin’s charitable foundation Virgin Unite takes a more global approach through initiatives such as the Branson Centres for Entrepreneurship, based in South Africa and the Caribbean.

While procurement isn’t guaranteed, many start-ups have gone on to supply Virgin companies – for example, Nudge Global provides ‘financial wellness’ software to Virgin Management employees. Virgin Trains, Media, Red, Atlantic, Sport and Money are all supportive of start-ups in the UK and run various initiatives, from pop-up stalls at train stations to ‘Entrepreneur Zones’ at sporting events.

What has Virgin done to facilitate collaboration with start-ups?

Since 2014 VSU has provided finance, through the UK Government’s Start Up Loans scheme, to over 1,200 UK entrepreneurs to start their businesses.

Thousands of other entrepreneurs have benefited from accessible and affordable workshops, masterclasses and events, as well as free resources and content. Events unique to VSU include Doing Business with Big Business, an unparalleled opportunity for start-ups to learn from some of the UK’s biggest brands. Past events have seen representatives from John Lewis, Tesco, Virgin Atlantic, and Marks & Spencer take part.

Virgin Media run VOOM (formerly Pitch to Rich) an annual nationwide search to find the best high-growth and impactful businesses, including start-ups, to pitch to Sir Richard Branson for a share of £1m in prizes and support. In 2016 Virgin Media also launched its London-based technology accelerator.

As well as being a globally recognised brand with 60 established businesses, the Virgin Group has an active investment arm, providing both venture and growth funding. The Group also has a dedicated venture portfolio of over 35 early-stage companies spanning the consumer internet, Fintech and sharing economy sectors.

Success story: Nudge Global

Nudge creates award-winning ‘financial wellness’ software for company employees, using a mix of technology and data to help educate people about their personal finance. Its two founders have each received £25,000 from Virgin StartUp to further develop the business.

Virgin was so impressed by the business that Nudge now provides its services to Virgin employees as part of the employee benefit system. Already Nudge is a market leader and working with businesses such as British Gas and Getty.


“Virgin is one of the best examples around of what a company can do if it embraces entrepreneurship. The start-up mindset is [in its] DNA.”

Dolf Wittkamper, Corporate Startup Stars judge

What can other corporates learn from Virgin about working with start-ups?

  • A commitment to entrepreneurship from senior management enables a culture of innovation, both in-house and from external suppliers and freelancers.
  • Being clear about the likelihood of procurement from the start of relationships with start-ups helps manage expectations. How to approach procurement is also one of the main topics at Virgin’s Doing Business with Big Business events.


What is Virgin looking for from the start-ups it works with?

Virgin is looking for viable business ideas underpinned by demonstrable demand and realistic sales projections, as well as committed and passionate entrepreneurs who have the ability and dedication to execute their plans and make them a success.

How can start-ups get involved with Virgin?

UK entrepreneurs can contact Virgin StartUp through its website.

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Image courtesy of SVC2UK CEO Summit 2015.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 644104.


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