Business to star in funding pageant

August 24, 2001

A Popstars -style talent show is to give ambitious Midlands technology companies the chance to compete for funding.

The competition is being run by Connect Midlands, a spin-off from Warwick Ventures, the department the University of Warwick created last year to develop the commercial potential of research.

Connect is a global network started at the University of California in 1985.

There are now eight national networks licensed to replicate the concept, most run by universities aiming to develop their regional economy.

After a screening process to weed out weaker candidates, 20 small and medium-sized enterprises will be able to make a business pitch to an audience of 100 venture capitalists.

Investors from the United States, Japan and Europe - each with between £50,000 and £3 million to give - will meet the winning companies at a two-day conference near Coventry in November.

Connect Midlands manager Isabell Majewsky said technology start-ups often found it difficult to secure funding because it was so time-consuming to approach a series of investors while running the business.

"There does tend to be an equity gap and this event will be a platform to enable deal-making activity to take place. It will also help to simplify the process for SMEs that are trying to grow, as the plethora of support initiatives can be confusing," she said.

"It is absolutely critical that investors are confident that the quality of companies selected is high. There will be a process of weeding-out and those who are not yet investor-ready we can still support through enterprise workshops."

The evenet is modelled on similar Connect events in Sweden, Norway and the United States. Connect Scotland, set up by Edinburgh University five years ago, had a 75 per cent success rate for companies securing funding at this year's event.

Up to 80 applicants are expected for Connect Midlands. After telephone screening, each will be asked to submit a business plan.

The most promising will then be vetted during visits by a committee of volunteers.

The winners' conference will include a formal ten-minute pitch by each company to the audience of investors, together with networking opportunities and a social event at Warwick Castle.

Details: www.bigcarrot.org

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