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 afterwards a wave of criticism about the award, with many arguing that Europe’s tech scene should not support companies with any Russian ties.
“In light of new information about 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 said Monday in a statement.
“Slush requested the participating funds, which are currently going through their individual assessment, to withdraw their investment in Immigram.”
As the competition’s winner, Immigram, which helps tech talent (including Russians) relocate to the UK, was in line to get €1 million in investment from five leading international VCs: Accel, General Catalyst, Lightspeed Venture Partners, NEA and Northzone.
Neither firm responded to Sifted’s request for comment on the investment by the time of publication.
The Slush statement added: “Slush is sorry for the oversight. We should have scrutinized all the participants’ activities more carefully before admitting them to the competition.
Immigram is also branching out
In a statement posted on LinkedIn On Monday, shortly before Slush tweeted its decision, Immigram said it had “opted out” of the competition.
Immigram is a UK company founded in 2019 by two Russian citizens, Anastasia Mirolyubova and Mikhail Sharonov, who both moved 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.
Shortly after Immigram won the pitch competition, images emerged of a Russian job board that appeared to show it hiring for roles in Moscow. The company says it does not have an entity in Russia or any employees based there, and has not taken any money from Russian investors. It says it is hiring people in Russia but only on the condition that they move to another country immediately. Mirolyubova said that she is against any Russian warfare in Ukraine.
“We will continue to support Ukraine and build 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