List of Endorsing Bodies for Innovator and Startup Visas
Today, the Start Up and Innovator visa routes open. 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 endorsing bodies for both Start up and Innovator visas. In this post we have fleshed out the list of business endorsing bodies for both Start-ups and Innovators.
UPDATE: For an outline of some of the issues that you may encounter when seeking endorsement, see our post ‘The Problem With Endorsing Bodies’. For information on alternatives to the Start-up and Innovator visas, see our posts ‘Alternatives to the Start-up and Innovator visas’ and ‘Sole Representative Visa: An Alternative to the Innovator Visa’.
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 and Startup Visas
The list of endorsing bodies for Innovator and Startup visa applications is currently (updated as of 1 May 2019) as follows:
- 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.
- 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.
- CodeBase – self-describes as a “tech cluster”. It is the largest technology incubator in the UK, based in Edinburgh with other sites in Stirling and Aberdeen. They offer mentorship in 21 other cities across the UK. They are currently supporting over 400 businesses and have worked with a range of other investors. They provide custom-built offices, from 2 to 100 person spaces, designed with tech companies in mind. The endorsement process will commence on 1 June 2019.
- 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. Applications are welcomed from any company which ultimately helps to secure the digital economy. Applications for the accelerator programme are live on their website with deadlines in early July.
- 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.
- 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. They have launched applications for a North East Pre-Accelerator starting in September 2019 with a deadline of 28 June 2019.
- 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.
- 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 are 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 – will supports 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, will provide no 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.
- Scottish Edge – is a 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. Round 15 of Scottish Edge opens in July 2019 and is in the form of an online application and 3-minute video presentation. 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.
- Seed Camp – 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.
- Seed Haus – 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. Applications are open now and done via their online portal.
- 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 criteria to their incubator and looking to establish an office in Bristol. Its incubation programme is only open to technology startups, where the idea is knowledge-based (seeking to exploit intellectual property or novel information) and has very high commercial growth potential. 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.
- 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. On their website Tech Nation explain it is currently developing its own operating procedures for these routes and will not begin accepting or processing applications for digital technology entrepreneurs until September 2019. Updates will be found here.
- Techstars – 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.
- The Royal Society 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.
- 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 1 May 2019).
Contact our Immigration Barristers
For expert advice and assistance regarding the list of endorsing bodies for Start-up and Innovator visas, an application for endorsement for a Start-up or Innovator visa application, or for professional assistance with preparing a Start-up or Innovator visa application, contact our business immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via our enquiry form below.