How a start-up can make a million overnight (almost)

How a start-up can make a million overnight (almost)

London comes up with a contest designed to lure young Israeli tech companies

Where some of the applicants in the Million Pound Start-up contest are located (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Where some of the applicants in the Million Pound Start-up contest are located (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Most start-ups operate on a shoestring budget, but next month one lucky company will find itself a cool million British pounds richer — after winning the Million Pound Start-up contest. Fifteen Israeli start-ups (so far) are in the running, competing against over 700 start-ups from 62 other countries.

There’s just one condition: The winner must relocate to London, where, according to sponsors, the company will get the help it needs to turn itself into a £100 million company within a decade.

London is serious about turning its Tech City cluster into the next Silicon Valley (or at least Silicon Alley, the name New York has adopted to promote itself as a start-up destination). The contest was the brainchild of Digital Shoreditch, a community group that promotes East End culture and technology events, and over two dozen marketing, investment, finance, technology, and government organizations joined together to turn the idea into reality.

The contest is meant for start-ups with a great idea and a good business plan. Companies need to be less than 10 years old, operate with less than £1,000,000 of business annually, and be willing to give up 10% to 40% of its equity in return for the million. In return, they get the money (not all at once, though), as well as free marketing, legal and mentor services from the contest’s sponsors.

The contest is open to tech start-ups, with “tech” very widely defined; companies in the contest have developed applications and technologies in the arts, construction, media, services, transportation, medical issues, community organization, and more. Applications close at the end of August, and companies accepted in the contest have until September 20 to finalize their presentations, after which judging will commence.

The UK has the largest number of candidates (55), as would be expected from a local contest, and there are 30 candidates from the US. So far, there are 15 Israeli start-ups in the contest, with most of them applying only since Monday, when the local PR firm began publicizing the event. Among the Israeli applicants are companies that provide social media platforms (12Mass, Student Hive), services for mobile (TiviClick, Verdata), Big Data (GreenHouse, iTAnalyzer), and even outer space communications (NSL Satellites).

The more Israel companies that apply, the merrier, said Barry Grossman, the head of the Israel branch of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). “London is a global financial center and is the best place for businesses from all around the world to grow. London is a bridge to all of Europe, with business-friendly conditions and regulations, and a government that strongly supports foreign investment.”

UTKI operates out of the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, alongside the UK-Israel Tech Hub, the only foreign government-sponsored mission in Israel to deal specifically with programs that will facilitate cooperation between Israeli and UK companies, universities, and institutions to develop leading-edge technology in computers, networks, medical devices and technology, and other high-tech areas.

That program has been so successful that Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced the appointment of British businessman Saul Klein to the post of tech envoy to Israel, an appointment Cameron said he hoped would even further enhance tech relations between the two countries.

At an event welcoming Klein in December, Matthew Gould, the UK’s ambassador to Israel, said that “promoting tech relations between Israel and Britain is one of the things I, and the government, care most about.”

Israeli companies — even the ones that don’t get the million pounds — are assured a warm welcome in London, added Grossman. “I would encourage all Israeli companies that want to develop in the international market to settle in London. We will assist them whenever needed to provide a simple and easy transition for them.”

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