‘Tis the Season of Effective Altruism
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The season of adoration, peace and earnestness is upon us! The air is filled with the heady scents of the festive season – pumpkin spice, eggnog, and baked cookies. The whimsical feel leaves us effervescent, as we have strands of lights strung up everywhere in the city. Perhaps, the most favorite part is the spirit of love, generosity, and of goodness. And, one of the best ways to start giving, as we celebrate the Christmas spirit, is by being someone’s miracle in one of the toughest years of the decade!

Two big electoral events of 2016 – Brexit and election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, have become the biggest determinant of the now-plagued early-stage investment market today. The untenable conditions have left startups writhing to learn to survive, operate and thrive during uncertainty. So, what’s happening?

The EU Referendum result has left a profound influence on investment in seed-stage to early-stage companies. In the past few weeks, stories have been rife of investment being put on hold, or worse, being taken off altogether. In a report published in November by Beauhurst, the overall deal numbers in investments via crowdfunding platforms fell by more than 20% between July and September, reflecting greater wariness among private investors in seed, early-stage startups.

Effective altruism

For an entrepreneur, there’s no greater thrill than seeing their product into the shelves of supermarket chains for the first time. But, it’s tough enough to secure a meeting with an investors in first place during such unpredictable times, let alone impressing a buyer with a pitch and product to win a contract.

Virgin Tycoon, Richard Branson loves Christmas, and more than that, he believes in the magic of Christmas. One of his most recent initiatives, Virgin StartUp, wants to culminate the side-effects of the two big events.

Virgin StartUp, established back in 2011, is a non-profit company, which offers financial support young entrepreneurs across the UK. It has the support of Virgin Group’s companies including: Virgin Trains, Virgin Media, Virgin Money, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Active, Virgin Care as well as its non-profit foundation Virgin Unite. Along with financial support, these companies also provide business advice, staff mentors, marketing and media support, and a space to host networking and promotional events. The non-profit has funded over 800 business now, giving away almost $9 million in startup loans.

Every year around the holiday time, the non-profit organizes the Virgin StartUp Christmas fair, which features VSU-funded businesses. At the startup Christmas fair, people can show their support for startup products by buying from them. Last year, the Virgin StartUp Christmas fair brought together some of the most amazing startups, and gave them a unique opportunity to trade at Virgin headquarters in London.

Sir Richard Branson commented: "I started my first business with a handful of coins out of a phone-box at school, but it was the £300 from my mum that really kick-started our Student magazine and sparked the Virgin adventure 40 years ago. Today, young people need that same help and I believe Virgin StartUp will provide it - with access to early capital, strong mentorship, advice and promotion. We look forward to helping launch thousands of new businesses as a delivery partner of The Start-Up Loan Company across the UK in years to come."

The UK is full of entrepreneurial talent, willing and able to build business of the future. The only thing they’re short of, is the cash and mentoring so they can do their thing. Initiatives like the Virgin StartUp Christmas fair help people support aspiring entrepreneurs, while they get rewarded for that support. In recent years, more and more businesses are now turning to VSU Christmas fair for funding and exposure.

VSU gives seed – early-stage startups the chance get the sweet taste of success through – Doing Business with Big Business event, Hive by Virgin StartUp - and more such events.

At the Doing Business with Big Business event, startups can learn what type of crowdfunding is most suited to their business idea, and how they could galvanize a following to get the campaign on track.

Meanwhile, the Virgin StartUp Christmas Fair, which was first help in 2014, has helped a number of potential business ideas. Some of which include –

Rose Rankin, which creates playful, luxurious, and creative handmade sneakers. Founder Rose says, the products are already creating a buzz in the blogosphere across the globe.

Smith & Sinclair create the world’s first edible alcoholic pastilles. Seen as pioneers in the field of edible alcohol, they’ve recently opened a pop-up shop on Carnaby Street to sell their products.

The Glamorous Jam Co. produce delicious, small batch, handmade jams in distinct flavors such as Blackberry & Amaretto and Raspberry & Basil. It founder Kimberley Wilson is the winner of the Great British bake-off 2014.

Hive by Virgin StartUp, is a platform where aspiring entrepreneurs who are interested in starting and growing a business.

Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of the world economies. Events held by bodies like the Virgin StartUp provide a playing field to aspiring entrepreneurs who’ve only seen first-hand obstacles to make their dreams come true.

Through the Virgin StartUp, aspiring entrepreneurs have been able to gauge their success at international events. For example, at the Foodpreneur Festival, the winners can pitch to retail giants like Target in the U.S. Some startups are able to celebrate their thriving success by getting a direct entry into global conferences.

Similar to the Virgin StartUp Christmas fair are numerous events held in the U.S. One of which is a Startup Guernsey Christmas Fair, where artists, printmakers, designers, jewelers, illustrators, interior designers as well as food and drink companies can showcase and celebrate their creative talent. The event generates wider public awareness of local startups and help connect with other aspiring entrepreneurs with a view to promote future business opportunities.

The financial markets are in for a tough time. It might possibly take a prolonged time for startups to thrive as venture capitalists loosen the purse strings. However, investors who understand that there’s little correlation between startup success and financial markets, will be rewarded over the long run.

This Christmas, let’s create stories to show how we can make things happen. Instead of donating on last-minute splurges, why not take the alternative approach and be a part of an entrepreneur’s journey to startup success!

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