List of Endorsing Bodies for Innovator and Startup Visas
In our previous posts, we broke down the general and specific requirements for Start-up and Innovator visas. We pointed out that whichever of the routes you follow, your business will need to be endorsed by a Home Office approved endorsing body. The Home Office has now published a list of Innovator visa endorsing bodies and a list of Start-up visa endorsing bodies. In this post we have fleshed out the list of endorsing bodies for Innovator visa and Start-up visa applications.
According to the Home Office Guidance the endorsing bodies can “decide whether to accept open applications or to only issue endorsements to business founders you are already working with through your existing activities.” If the bodies choose to accept open applications, it is recommended (but not required) that they set out clearly any parameters they wish to apply on the types of business they will endorse, to avoid receiving unsuitable applications.
List of Endorsing Bodies for Innovator Visas and Start-up Visas
- The Bakery – state that they endorse bona-fide entrepreneurs who qualify for their corporate innovation programmes. They have 4 programmes: the Start Programme (for pre-idea and pre-team individual entrepreneurs), the Accelerate Programme (for early stage tech companies looking to accelerate growth by working with a corporate), the Partner Programme (for start-ups looking to get revenue from their first big customer), and the Invest Programme (for start-ups looking for strategically aligned corporate investors).
- Bethnal Green Ventures – is an early stage investor in technology that has the potential to transform the world’s pressing environmental and social challenges. Their themes focus on health, sustainability, education, civic engagement, tech to support young people and WorkerTech. They will only endorse start-up entrepreneurs accepted onto their support programmes. They allow individual applications but are more likely to invest in a team, with a focus on collaboration in launching and scaling a business. BGV recruits twice a year and provides £20K investment for 6% equity stake with ongoing support offered following completion of the intensive 3-month programme. BGV state they are open to applications if investment is already secured but will want to see what has been achieved with those funds at an early stage.
- Blue Orchid – provides market-leading support programmes for business start-ups and growing SMEs, along with bespoke consultancy services across the UK. They will only endorse high growth start-ups who are working within their client base across England’s North West and West Midlands.
- Capital Enterprise – is a body of connectors, influencers, investors and policy-makers who collaborate to scale Start-ups in London. They have supported 2,150 SMEs since 2014 and provided 158 Startups with investment from their own funds. They have multiple programmes including CASTS for tech start-ups, CAP – AI for startups using Machine Learning or other computational methods, OneTech to boost access to investment and entrepreneurial support for tech startups founded by women and minority ethnicity backgrounds, CAP Talent a summer internship programme placing Masters and Undergraduate students into London’s tech startups, IDEALondon a post-accelerator centre in London’s Tech City and AI Seed for upto 20 early stage deep tech startups using AI and machine learning. They will only be endorsing founders within their community, but say to check at this may change with time.
- CyLon – finds, grows and invests in the world’s best emerging cyber businesses, through its world-leading 3-month accelerator and 1 week pre-accelerator programmes in London and Singapore. Since 2015 CyLon has accelerated close to 100 cyber companies, and is ranked as the 5th most active investor in cyber security globally. CyLon’s definition of “cyber security” is very broad. To date CyLon has supported startups in fields including Blockchain, Skills, IOT, Compliance, Insurance, Data Protection, Privacy, Risk, Identity, Cloud Security, Human Risk, Autonomous Vehicles and much more. CyLon is interested in hearing from emerging cyber security companies or entrepreneurs planning on setting up an innovative cyber start-up.
- Deep Science Ventures – identifies neglected high value markets, such as Pharma, Energy, Food & Agriculture and drivers of success and opportunities in these markets and builds science-based companies to address them. They say to apply if you are a scientist or engineer determined to start a deep science company and have listed their current opportunities here.
- DRS Business Solutions – will only consider applications for endorsement from those individuals who they are working with in their client base, and then only from September 2019.
- Emerge Education – Emerge Education invests in pre-seed and seed rounds and supports the growth of early stage startups focused on higher education, lifelong learning and the future of work. Once they have invested, founders join their networks and are connected to universities and corporates.
- Emsworth Corporate Planning (ECP) – support genuine global entrepreneurs who are looking to build dynamic, disruptive and fast growing business in the UK. They cover most sectors but are particularly interested to hear from those in the fields of medtech / edtech and fintech.
- First Corporate Finance – is a corporate firm that offers an open invitation to entrepreneurs worldwide with innovative business ideas to register in their Business Support Program, with future potential endorsement. They do not appear to have any particular geographic or sector focus. They charge an admin fee of £20 for registering.
- Fortunis Capital Ltd – works with motivated individuals and teams who have innovative and scalable proposals that aim to have a positive impact on wider society. They don’t focus on specific industries, but look for proposals that are not only scalable, but aim to create local employment and have a robust environmental policy. As a private equity firm they will look to invest alongside the applicant’s investment.
- Founders Factory – is an award-winning tech startup accelerator and incubator. They endorse entrepreneurs joining one of their programmes. They have assembled industry-leading corporates and a team of 60 operators to help founders build their companies. Named sectors of interest include Education/EdTech, media, FinTech, Beauty, AI & Big Data, Travel and Retail. As of yet they have no published information on the endorsement process or requirements. They offer both incubator and accelerator programs. On their incubator programmes they take a minority stake in each startup in exchange for IP, £150,000 seed round and 12 months of operational support. In their accelerator programmes on average they take between 4-7% equity.
- Ignite – is one of Europe’s leading accelerator programmes supporting founders from the idea stage through to raising Series A funding, refining concepts, building traction and building a scalable business. They have delivered 16 accelerator programmes since 2011 with businesses in the Ignite portfolio raising over £11m in the first half of 2018. Their current pre-accelerator and accelerator programmes are in the North East and in Northern Ireland. They state that they will only endorse applicants who are successful in applying for one of their accelerator programmes.
- Innovate Britain – Innovate Britain is a non-profit organisation that supports the world’s finest innovators to build viable and scalable businesses in the United Kingdom. Innovate Britain focus on vital enterprise sectors including, but not limited to, Education, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Consumer and Infrastructure. You will need to apply through their Innovator Endorsement Scheme (IES).
- Innovator International (powered by Geminus) – works with highly innovative and skilled individuals to realise their growth aspirations. Geminüs can provide endorsements to clients on their “Innovator International” business support programme, available across the UK. Companies must have the following attributes: innovation, growth potential, export potential, low risk and high impact, access to the knowledge base required to achieve the impact and a director/management team with the right skill set.
- International Innovation Hub Ltd – work with highly innovative and skilled individuals to realise their growth aspirations. They have particular expertise in the areas of green and renewable energy, engineering, manufacturing and digital and tech. Focus on the Manchester and Liverpool regions.
- Invest Northern Ireland – is Northern Ireland’s regional business development agency focused on growing the local economy. They are a part of the Department for Economy and support businesses by delivering the Government’s economic development strategies. They state that they will endorse entities for Start-up/Innovator Visas via participation on its accelerator program or requests from client companies only.
- Kollider – is a Sheffield-based incubator with a focus on digital and tech entrepreneurs. It offers an incubation program with active mentorships, skills workshops and opportunities to access funding (from Start-Up Equity to Seed Funding to Investor Readiness). They endorse members with innovative ideas in the creative, digital and tech sectors expected to scale in their markets within 24 months. The Startup and Innovator visa routes are operated as a closed (selective) application process, with the next intake in January 2020.
- Level39 – state that they only endorse those involved in FinTech, cyber security, smart cities, retail tech and other globally ambitious tech business. They are a community of 1,250 leaders who support fast-growth tech companies in three clear ways – giving access to world-class customers, talent and infrastructure (in Canary Wharf’s dynamic workspace).
- MDR LAB is an accelerator run by Mischon de Reya for tech start-ups in the legal space. They state that they only endorse migrants accepted onto their 10-week May-July programme. According to their website, applications for this programme closed on 17 February 2019. Applications were welcomed from companies at concept through to revenue-generating stage, as long as the product or service is applicable to the legal industry. On this programme, they offer guidance from legal and business experts and external mentors to achieve your start-up’s objectives in partnership with Mischon de Reya.
- Med City – supports collaboration, investment entrepreneurship and industry within the life sciences sector including biopharmaceuticals/therapeutics, medical devices, diagnostics, digital health and AI if applicable to products/services for human health. Relocation to London or the Greater South East of England is required. MedCity will not charge applicants to provide endorsements, they will not provide funding and will not take any equity stake. Med City will only engage with the visa applicant directly.
- NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator, Royal Bank of Scotland Entrepreneur Accelerator and Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator each have three very similar programmes available: Pre-Accelerator (fully-funded 8-week programme for early start-ups), Accelerator (fully-funded six-month programme for high growth businesses), and Fintech Accelerator (fully-funded 6-month programme commencing each April and October for businesses rooted in financial technology). The application process includes completing an application form on the website, choosing a preferred location and programme. The types of things considered are, whether you are the owner or decision maker in your business, whether you will be working full-time on the business, if there are customers for the products/services, if you employ staff, if you aim to build your team, if you are looking to grow or scale the business, if the business is already growing and if you are committed to accelerating that growth.
- Royal Society of Edinburgh – is an educational charity that contributes to social, cultural and economic wellbeing of Scotland through the advancement of learning and useful knowledge. They state that they will only provide an endorsement to awardees who have received an RSE Enterprise Fellowship, which enables science and technology researchers (including graduates, PhD students, postgraduates, staff and academic innovators) to develop into successful and world-class entrepreneurs with funding and training support estimate at £90,000 per Enterprise Fellow (including £10,000 business support funding). The Fellowships are available to support business ideas with science/technology at its core but cover a wide range of commercial sectors including aerospace, defence and marinel; chemical sciences; construction; creative industries; energy; financial services; food and drink; forest and timber technologies; life sciences; manufacturing; textiles; tourism; and enabling technologies and convergent areas. Applications are awarded twice a year with a call for applications in Spring and Autumn.
- Scottish Edge – is a bi-annual competition aimed at identifying and supporting Scotland’s entrepreneurial talent. According to their statistics, there have been 2,990 applications and 350 business supported so far. These are assessed by an independent panel against the following criteria: innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, business growth potential, customer focused, utilisation of funding and risk awareness. They state that they can endorse winners of its bi-annual funding competition for innovative, high-growth potential Scottish businesses and that approximately 6% of applicants win. They are ready to issue endorsements now.
- Seedcamp – is a European seed fund that identifies and invests in word-class founders attacking large global markets and solving real problems using technology. With their global HQ in London they invest from pre-revenue to post-revenue stage. Seed Camp only offer endorsements to companies they have invested in. Pre-revenue investments are a six stage process and applications are done via their website. Pre-revenue investment route offers an initial £100K investment in exchange for 7.5% target ownership with the option of sourcing up to £150K extra investment collaborating with leading angel investors and HNIs. Investment route offers up to £400K investment with co-investors. They have backed more than 650 founders and do not focus on any single sector.
- SeedHaus – is a pre-seed tech accelerator that invests in early-stage founders to build startups across multiple industries (e.g. Cybersecurity, Robotics, Healthtech, IoT/Wearables, Logistics, MarTech and AdTech). They specialise on founders who require a focus on building their product, acquiring users and raising their first big seed round. They invest £18K for 8% equity, with the support to secure further investment at fundraising events following the programme, and they require relocation to Seed Haus offices in Edinburgh. SeedHaus does not accept unsolicited applications for endorsements.
- SETSquared Bristol – SETsquared Bristol was launched by the University of Bristol in 2002 and currently supports over 80 innovative ventures. It states that it will only endorse technology start-ups meeting their entry. It is also said that their services are geared towards supporting companies that meet these criteria, but they understand that every business is unique and they have some flexibility in the aforementioned criteria. They will look favourably on applications featuring genuinely original ideas, capable of attracting investment. They are keen that people involved in the venture are open to outside support and advice and are looking to accelerate the company to market. More information can be found on their blog here. There are different monthly fees for business membership depending on whether it is virtual or residential. SETsquared Bristol is not currently accepting external or speculative applications for Innovator through endorsement.
- Startup Funding Club – is an award-winning leading organisation in the UK’s early stage investment that provides seed capital and support to promising startups across all sectors. It organises an exclusive early stage investor club allowing investors to invest directly or through seed funds. There is as yet no published information on the endorsement process or any requirements.
- Tech Nation – has long been an endorsing body for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent and Promise routes, and will now also be an endorsing body for both Innovators and Startups. It focuses on entrepreneurs of product-led digital technology businesses. They aim to begin endorsing applications by April 2020 or sooner if possible. Updates will be found here.
- Techstars London – runs two accelerator programs in London: Techstars London and Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars. From their website neither appears to be open as of 1 May 2019. However, they state applications typically open four times a year for 12-weeks. Upon acceptance to a Techstars Accelerator, every company is offered a $100,000 convertible note. Techstars contributes $20,000, which is commonly used as a stipend to support living expenses during the program, and in return receives 6% equity of the company. The accelerator programmes are 90-day mentor-based programmes with personal mentorship and office space. They fund technology oriented companies, typically web-based or other software companies, but state that they have funded companies that don’t fit that mold as well. They are looking for companies that can have national or worldwide reach. They specifically do not fund biotechnology companies, restaurants, consultancies, or other local service oriented companies.
- TechX – run by the Oil & Gas Technology Centre provides expertise and support as a technology accelerator and incubator for start-ups and SMEs looking to enter the oil and gas industry and transform the energy sector. They run a Pioneer Programme providing up to £100,000 funding available to start-ups with new technology ideas (with no equity or payback to TechX, and developers retaining all IP. The second cohort has already been chosen and will start in May 2019. Information on Chort 3 will be released on their website soon. TechX also runs a venture with Deep Science Ventures (mentioned above). Direct applications are another option if investment is already secured and can be done via their website.
- Wayra – connects technological innovators with Telefónica to generate joint business opportunities. Over the last 7 years, Wayra UK has supported 180 companies and invested cash and business development support. They run a series of programmes across multiple industries including Pharma, digital technology, engineering, intelligent mobility, cyber security, and AI & Blockchain.
- Zinc – has a 9-month full-time company-builder programme. Each programme has a single mission, to solve a social problem in the developed world which affects at least 100 million people. Mission 3 is currently open and will start on 30 September 2019 for 50 founders who want to build a brand new business with the mission of adding 5 more years of high-quality to everyone’s later life. It is said on their website that they anticipate they will be able to endorse applicants for an appropriate UK visa. It is expected that potential founders will include clinicians, engineers, financial services experts, creative designers, researchers, serial entrepreneurs, product managers, NGO innovators, life scientists, care managers, and others. They are looking for founders who will have ambition and drive, commitment to social impact, commercial mindset, fresh insight, creativity, comfort with uncertainty, obsession with meeting user needs, power to mobilise supporters and an ability to get things done. Zinc will provide a £12,000 stipend over 9 months, 12 months workspace in the Central London base, and will be a founding shareholder in return for an 8% stake.
Higher Education Institution Endorsing Bodies
The Home Office has also published a list of all of the authorised higher education institution endorsing bodies for Start up visas (as of 25 October 2019).
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