Startup weekly: Virgin launches Platform-X, Bethnal Green Ventures’ new accelerator and much more

startup weekly

Here’s your weekly roundup of news about startup competitions, awards, co-working spaces, accelerators, and any other exciting things happening in the UK tech sector.

Virgin launches Platform-X

British rail company Virgin Trains is looking for innovative startups to join an intensive five-week accelerator programme – Platform-X – which aims to “solve key rail challenges” through novel ideas.

Successful startups could win access to Virgin’s £25m innovation fund, the company said, and will work closely with “first-class mentors” during the five-week programme, including senior Virgin executives.

Virgin is looking for ideas which will improve traveller experience, bring more passengers onto the digital grid, and facilitate internal company decision-making processes. The rail company also wants “wildcard” entries: “novel innovations that could be applied to the rail industry”.

Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, described the Platform-X programme as “a special startup accelerator on a mission to improve train travel”.

He added: “At Virgin, we know that the best way to stay relevant is to embrace new ideas and technology.”

KPMG looking to invest

UK tech startups will soon be able to seek funding from global auditing firm PGMB, which announced this week the launch of a new service offering investment to small and medium-sized enterprises looking to raise debt finance up to £10m.

KPMG’s Steve Elsigood said the firm’s new Enterprise Financing initiative “provides independent advice for a borrower, ensuring they are partnered with the most appropriate lender for their requirements, and secure market terms”.

He added: “For any SME looking to raise debt, now is a great time to be in the market. Lenders have funds to put to work, pricing is attractive and the range and variety of funding options available to SMEs continues to increase.”

Bethnal Green announces new accelerator programme

Bethnal Green Ventures – a London-based early stage investor – opened applications this week a new ‘accelerator programme’ beginning in September 2017.

The firm is looking to assist teams with “great ideas for new technology to tackle big social and environmental problems”.

Applications for the accelerator programme are open until June 19th, and the firm is holding an information evening on Monday 15th May at its office near Bethnal Green.

OLIO up for global award

British food-sharing app OLIO was shortlisted as a finalist in the Chivas Venture competition this week, in which US whisky producer Chivas awards up to $1m to startups from across the world.

Founded in London in 2015, OLIO aims to reduce food waste with a free app that connects users with local shops, so uneaten food can be shared rather than thrown away.

A TravelTech hackathon

Destination – an in-flight mobile retail service that allows passengers to book activities for their destination while still in the air – was crowned the winner at TravelTech hackathon held in London.

The hackathon saw 32 developers and designers produce TravelTech solutions while flying on board a British Airways flight from Hong Kong to London Heathrow.

The three-day event culminated in a pitch meeting at London’s Transport Museum.

The project was supported by tech companies including Skyscanner and Travelport.

Ex-CEO of Just Eat now a VC

David Buttress, ex-CEO of the UK’s leading food-delivery app Just Eat, will join European venture capital firm 83North as a General Partner, it was announced this week.

Buttress, who led Just Eat’s IPO in 2004, stepped down from his role in February. 83North, his new company, was an early investor in the food app.

“I worked closely with the the 83North team to build Just Eat into its world-leading positions,” Buttress said on Monday. “Our approach and values are aligned and we have extensive experience on how to build successful global technology companies.”

Originally founded in Denmark, Just Eat launched in Britain in 2006, and is now headquartered here.

Fearless women entrepreneurs

Alice Bentinck, co-founder of London-based startup accelerator Entrepreneur First, was this week awarded the ‘New Generation Award’ by French champagne label Veuve Clicquot. The award champions women entrepreneurs.

Bentinck founded the accelerator with Matthew Clifford in 2011. The firm assists British and central European tech graduates to design and manage their own startups.

Stratajet wins aviation award

London-based private jet hire firm Stratajet this week won a ‘Sapphire Pegasus Award’ for outstanding performance in the aviation sector.

At a Gala dinner in Prague, Stratajet triumphed in the ‘Broker’ category, winning 30% of the online vote and beating British competitor Fly Victor and US firm Jet Smarter.

Oxford calls for ‘shared city’ submissions

Oxford City Council launched a new competition this week, inviting creatives from across the globe to submit project ideas around the theme of ‘shared city’

Tech developers – along with artists, designers, and architects – are encouraged to propose a technology that will make Oxford “more connected and collaborative”.

Submissions are open until June 20th, and will be judged by former Deputy Prime Minister and chair of the Haymarket Group, Lord Heseltine.