Slush revokes Immigram’s controversial win at pitch competition

Slush revokes Immigram's controversial win at pitch competition

Startup conference Slush has decided to reverse its controversial decision to award Immigram, a startup founded by two Russian citizens, the top prize in its pitching competition. The decision comes after a flurry of criticism over the award, with many arguing that Europe’s tech scene shouldn’t back companies with any Russian ties.

“In light of new information on the extent of the Slush 100 Pitching Competition winner’s operations in Russia, Slush has decided to revoke their win,” the competition’s organizers said in a statement on Monday.

“Slush has requested the participating funds, who are currently going through their individual assessment, to pull their investment into Immigram.”

As the pitch competition’s winner, Immigram, which helps tech talent (including Russians) relocate to the UK, was in line to get €1m in investment from five leading international VCs: Accel, General Catalyst, Lightspeed Venture Partners, NEA and Northzone.

None of the firms replied to Sifted’s request for comment about the investment by the time of the publication.

The Slush statement added: “Slush is sorry for the oversight. We should have reviewed all participants’ operations more closely before letting them enter the competition.

Immigram also bows out

In a statement posted on LinkedIn on Monday shortly before Slush tweeted out its decision, Immigram said that it had “opted out” of the competition.

Immigram is a British company, founded in 2019 by two Russian citizens, Anastasia Mirolyubova and Mikhail Sharonov, who both relocated to the UK in 2016. The startup helps tech talent from more than 10 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, India and the US, apply for the UK’s global talent visa.

Soon after Immigram won the pitch competition, images emerged of a Russian jobs board that seemed to show it hiring for roles in Moscow. The company says it doesn’t have an entity in Russia or any employees based there, and has not taken any money from Russian investors. It says it hires people in Russia but only under the condition that they immediately relocate to another country. Mirolyubova has said that she’s against any Russian warfare in Ukraine.

“We will continue supporting Ukraine and building a company for millions of talented people who want to move internationally,” the company said in a statement.

Zosia Wanat is Sifted’s central and eastern Europe reporter, based in Warsaw. She tweets from @zosiawanat

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