West Midlands Startup Funding: £1 Million Competition & Beyond

A groundbreaking £1 million pitch competition has launched in the West Midlands, solidifying the region’s position as a powerhouse in the tech sector. Aimed at unearthing the region’s most promising start-up business, One to Win is spearheaded by TechWM, The Rigby Group, SCC, Haatch, and the West Midlands Co-Investment Fund (delivered through Midven, part of Future Planet Capital) and boasts the largest single prize for any pitch competition in the UK.

Announced during London Tech Week at The Shard, this competition marks an exciting new opportunity for West Midlands based start-ups. Investment Director at Midven, and fund principal for WMCO, Rupert Lyle, sat down with Yiannis Maos, CEO of TechWM, to discuss why this competition is so pivotal for businesses in the region, and their aspirations for the West Midlands tech scene going into the future.


After an iconic launch event from The Shard in London, the competition to win £1 million investment shows how much the region has matured in the last 6 or 7 years. Historically considered the underdog, the West Midlands is starting to flex and make its presence on the global stage felt. Exciting tech companies have been emerging and there’s a renewed sense of confidence in the region. This has been epitomised by Midven, Haatch, and The Rigby Group partnering with TechWM for this historic competition.

Continuing the conversation, Lyle emphasises the importance of taking a long view when building a successful tech ecosystem. He uses the example of Silicon Valley, which, through sustained collaboration, transformed from a fruit-growing region to a global tech powerhouse over several decades. This highlights the need for a sustained journey, not an overnight success story.

Maos agrees and points to the West Midlands’ historical roots in the Industrial Revolution. He sees the region rediscovering its innovative spirit and building upon its legacy to create a cutting-edge tech scene. Maos acknowledges a period of “R&D innovation” but emphasises the current focus on commercialisation – turning exciting ideas into successful businesses.

Maos then highlights the maturing support ecosystem within the West Midlands. He highlights the increasing availability of accelerators, incubators, and investor networks that equip founders with the tools they need to succeed. He emphasises that the £1 million competition is just one piece of this broader puzzle.

Looking to the future, Maos expresses hope that a winning company from the competition will not only be successful itself but also inspire and lead the growth of hundreds, even thousands, of other companies in the region. His ultimate vision is for the West Midlands to become a globally recognized tech hub, alongside established powerhouses like Berlin, Shanghai, and even Silicon Valley.


Moving beyond the competition itself, both Rupert Lyle and Yiannis Maos acknowledge the wider impact this initiative can have. Maos emphasises that while there will be a single winner, all participants benefit from the increased exposure and potential connections fostered by the competition.

Lyle expands on this point, highlighting the competition’s design to support those who don’t win the top prize. Through the West Midlands Co-Investment Fund (WMCO), delivered through Midven, they aim to connect these businesses with valuable resources like investment readiness programs, accelerators, incubators, and talent networks. Lyle goes even further, stressing that Midven has additional capital available for investment, and funding opportunities will be open to businesses that don’t win the competition.

Thinking of looking for investment? Read how to determine your fundraising ask in 6 steps.

The conversation then shifts to the importance of investor readiness. Lyle emphasises that being ready for investment goes beyond a polished pitch deck. It requires careful planning, execution capabilities, and the right team in place. While capital is important, surrounding oneself with experienced advisors is equally crucial. Lyle assures entrepreneurs that Midven can not only provide funding but also connect them with valuable mentors and industry experts. This network extends beyond the West Midlands, leveraging the global reach of the tech ecosystem.

Picking up on the point of partnerships, Maos expresses his excitement about the diverse group of organisations backing the competition. He highlights that partners like Midven, Haatch, The Rigby Group, SCC, and TechWM collectively unlock a vast array of opportunities for West Midlands businesses, not just in terms of investment but also in terms of mentorship, support services, and potential collaborations.


Building on the importance of investor readiness, Maos highlights another initiative designed to connect West Midlands businesses with global players. He mentions a recently launched innovation program with Jaguar Land Rover and Plug and Play, a major early-stage investor. This program offers startups the opportunity to tackle real-world challenges faced by a major corporation, while also gaining exposure to a global investment network.

This focus on attracting external investment is seen as a key driver of ecosystem maturity. Maos emphasises that as more success stories emerge from the West Midlands, and as established national and international investors take notice, the entire ecosystem will benefit.

Lyle acknowledges the region’s economic challenges, but sees this as an opportunity. He emphasises the West Midlands’ potential to “write its own script” and carve out a unique position in the global tech scene. The competition, with its broad partner network, is seen as a catalyst for this transformation.

Shifting gears, Maos highlights several key advantages of the West Midlands. He points to the region’s young and diverse talent pool, which is rapidly developing the digital skills needed to fuel innovation. He also identifies health tech and FinTech as emerging sub-sectors with significant potential. Beyond these specific industries, Maos mentions the region’s burgeoning creative scene, exemplified by filmmaker Steven Knight establishing a new studio in the West Midlands.

Lyle echoes Maos’ optimism, reiterating his excitement about the competition’s launch. He emphasises the importance of strong storytelling alongside a compelling pitch deck. Investors need to be not only convinced by the business model, but also emotionally invested in the vision and the team behind it. “It’s about the vision.” Lyle advises founders. “It’s about the story you tell, because it needs to get me; heart and mind. We want to go on a journey with you, and unless we’ve got our hearts and minds, then it’s quite difficult to do that.”

Founders can register their interest now and applications are open on 1st July. Register your interest here. The winner will be announced at Birmingham Tech Week in October following a pitch day on 23rd October.