Virgin StartUp announces Empower100 accelerator for underrepresented founders

Virgin StartUp
Virgin StartUp
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
10 July 2023

Virgin StartUp, the not-for-profit incubator for UK business founders, has launched a new fully-funded accelerator programme for underrepresented business owners based in Greater London. 

Thanks to funding from the Great London Authority via the UK’s Shared Prosperity Fund, Empower100 will support 100 founders from underrepresented groups – including women, people from an ethnic minority background, and people with disabilities – in the capital, maximising their chances of scaling and financing their businesses successfully. The two-month programme will run until the end of 2024. 

Applications are open now for the first programme, which will start on Thursday 3 August 2023. To be eligible to apply, founders must be turning over at least £50,000 per year, have at least two employees and have been operating for more than 18 months. 

Linda Grant, Chair at Virgin StartUp, said: “Systemic inequalities and biases continue to be a barrier for under-represented founders of early-stage businesses. Empower100 is about taking a step towards addressing some of these issues and encouraging a vibrant and diverse start-up community. We want all founders to have the knowledge, connections and confidence to reach their full growth potential. 

A group of Virgin StartUp founders in a meeting around a long table
Virgin StartUp

“We are proud to be running Empower100 alongside Virgin StartUp’s existing 50/50 pledge to equally fund women and men business founders. Our long-term ambition is to extend Empower100 to other regions across the UK.” 

Successful applicants for the Empower100 programme will receive 42-hours of expert support through group workshops and one-to-one sessions, equipping founders with the key skills and advice they will need to succeed across three core areas: growth strategy, leadership skills and investment readiness. Each founder will also have a weekly meeting with a different expert to help them work through specific problem areas in their business, such as sustainability and purpose, brand building, sales and marketing, leadership, finance and investment. 

After the programme, founders will continue to be part of a facilitated peer-to-peer support group for six months where they can share what they’ve learnt on their fundraising and business growth journey. During this time, all 100 founders will be given free access to Virgin StartUp’s community support platform so they can access additional support and resources, live webinars and a business advice helpline. 

Every six months, Virgin StartUp will select businesses from Empower100 to join a pitch demo day, where they will be given the opportunity to practice their pitch in front of investors and receive feedback. They’ll also get the chance to watch other founders present their pitches – something few founders get the opportunity to do.  

Virgin StartUp recently announced more funding for UK business founders, tripling the number of founders it supports over the next two years. 

Visit Virgin StartUp to find out more.