The UK is an attractive place to start a business: corporation tax is low, you can register a company online in a matter of minutes, and there is venture capital available to entrepreneurs provided their product or service is cutting-edge. To attract foreign entrepreneurial talent, the Department for International Trade has recently endorsed several major seed competitions enabling them to award funding (to companies) which is recognised by the Home Office as “available” for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrant applications.

What this means is awards from these competitions are deemed as “available” funds and can be counted towards the £50,000 required for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa application. Winning such a competition may also increase your chances in satisfying the “genuine entrepreneur” requirement, as competitions of this sort apply strict criteria to the selection of winners.

Apart from providing funding, seed funding competitions offer valuable entrepreneur training, which facilitates start-up growth. Below is a list of a few available seed funding competitions along with brief profiles and links to their websites:

  1. Seedcamp offers two types of funding: pre-seed (worth €75K in exchange for 7% equity) and a much higher investment (between €200K and €2M) for companies at a more advanced stage. For a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, it is important to note that once chosen, the Seedcamp remains a partner for much longer than three months of initial training. This can be an advantage in terms of exposure to advisors and other investors. In addition, there are other interesting options offered, such as the Warrant for those who already have some funding and are looking for an additional capital injection. For more information see: http://seedcamp.com.
  2. Entrepreneur First is a tech-startup bootcamp for those at the pre-seed stage. This means that to be eligible to apply you do not have to have a team and your business idea does not have to be well-defined. This programme runs in both London and Singapore and is directed, in particular, at postdoctoral researchers and engineers from top-notch universities. If you have missed this year’s deadline but still wish to be considered, email apply@joinef.com or visit https://www.joinef.com.
  3. Founders Factory Accelerator currently accepts applications from early-stage start-ups but only those that have a team available for full-time training and a well-defined product ready to be launched. Founders Factory focuses on the following sectors: EdTech, Media, FinTech, Beauty, AI and Travel. https://foundersfactory.com.
  4. Tech Stars is the most competitive, world-famous mentor programme. This year, Tech Stars is focusing on digital health and sensor technology. The success of your application depends on the relevancy of the business idea to these annually declared spheres of focus and also on the stage of the product development – the more progressive the better. You can see for yourself by applying at http://www.techstars.com.
  5. There is a 13-week intensive mentorship programme Pi Lab for start-ups in the property and technology industries. The funding is up to £100K per team, with additional funding available to them in the future if the project is successful. While the Immigration Rules do not allow Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrants to invest in property management and development, the Home Office accepts applications from the industry game-changers chosen by this First Property Tech Venture Capital firm. The Property Innovation lab is the future of the sector, endorsed by DIT. http://pilabs.co.uk.
  6. For start-ups aiming to improve education worldwide there is a special 3-month bootcamp called Emerge Education which offers a generous funding of £40K+. Businesses can apply at any stage of development and founders need to be available for a three-month training between September and December. For more details see: http://emerge.education.
  7. Oxygen Accelerator is a 13-week intensive mentor-led bootcamp which accepts applications from all over the world. They are looking to attract the most innovative and world-changing ideas. They offer funding of €21,000 per team in exchange for 8% equity – a sum insufficient on its own for the purpose of submitting a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) application but it could be combined with other funding. http://www.oxygenaccelerator.com.
  8. Wayra UK Bootcamp (originally available only for Spanish speakers) now invites up to 50 UK startups per year offering a minimum of £34,000 per one innovative company: https://wayra.co.uk/about-us/.

There are many venture capital firms that might be willing to offer you similar funding in exchange for some equity. Two things to bear in mind:

  • There is an FSA warning pertaining to many venture capital firms of this kind deeming them unregulated and hence invalid for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) application purposes. So first and foremost, a future UK entrepreneur should check to ensure that a selected venture capital firm is authorised in the UK. To do so, you may run a search for a particular firm on the FCA Register website: https://register.fca.org.uk/
  • Funds from a venture capital firm cannot be included if you are applying to switch from Tier 4 (General), or Tier 1 (Post-Study Work), or Tier 1 (General), and if you are unable to demonstrate your previous involvement in this business.