A Russian startup won $1 million in a European competition, but then the organizers abruptly changed their mind and did not give him the money

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The Immigram platform, created to relocate IT professionals abroad, won the Slush 100 competition. However, after the results were announced, something went wrong and the project never received the award, according to MC.today.

A Russian startup won $1 million in a European competition, but then the organizers changed their minds and didn’t give it money

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Slush is a non-profit student movement dedicated to helping a new generation of innovative entrepreneurs. A movement started in Finland to change attitudes towards entrepreneurship. In 2022, a conference was held in Helsinki on November 17-18.

A startup founded not earlier than 2019, which has already managed to attract at least 500,000 investments, can apply to participate in the competition.

On the eve of the conference, the Slush jury selects twenty of the best startups from the applications submitted by those who wish, and the winner is announced on the day of the event. The main prize is a $1 million investment from Accel, General Catalyst, Lightspeed Venture Partners, NEA and Northzone.

What happened

On November 18, the organizers announced that the UK-based project won the competition , however, its founders – Anastasia Mirolyubova and Mikhail Sharonov – come from Russia.

The company is helping IT specialists to obtain a British visa for citizens of different countries, but mainly the company's clients are Russians.

After the victory, Mirolyubova announced that the startup would donate $100,000 to Ukrainian public organizations.
But this is not saved Immigram.

Note that the Ukrainian startup Zeely also made it to the top three. Zeely is a platform for starting online sales for small businesses. This application allows users to launch web stores and send promos to Facebook, Instagram, Google and TikTok in just a few minutes using artificial intelligence.

Criticism in Ukraine and beyond

After the announcement Immigram winners, the international community greeted this news with amazement.

For example, PR and Media Manager at MacPaw Yulia Petrik wrote: “The startup that won the top prize (€1 million) in the startup competition helps Russians escape from their country from responsibility and sanctions. This literally happens when the Ukrainian founders are left without electricity in the country because Russia attacked critical infrastructure, working from bomb shelters because only a few days ago Russia dropped 100 rockets and bury close friends and relatives who voluntarily joined the army to protect their homeland. from the aggressor.”

But not only Ukrainians were dissatisfied. In particular, Finnish MP Mikko Karna also severely criticized the startup's victory.

“What the hell, Slush? It makes more sense than sticking your hand into a wood chipper. So you went and gave a million euros to a Russian company that helps Russians escape sanctions! Aren't you ashamed, Erika Savolainen (SEO Slush)?”, – he wrote.

After the victory and the wave of criticism that began in social networks, Myrolyubova wrote that she fully supported Ukraine. Moreover, according to her, the family of the co-founder of the startup, Mikhail Sharonov, is from Odessa by origin. But they have “red passports”.

“Yesterday they began to threaten me and wish me death because I won a startup competition with the wrong color of my passport. This is very wrong”, – she said.

However, before Mirolyubova hired specialists in Russia and in the job description noted that she lives “between London, Moscow and the rest of the world.”

“I was born and raised in Moscow , graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy of Moscow State University. Lomonosov, worked both at The World Bank and law firms. I am 27 years old and live between London, Moscow and the rest of the world. For the last 2 years I have been developing with partner Immigram – we help entrepreneurs, IT specialists and startups to move and transport business to the UK”, – was written in the description.

On November 21, Mirolyubova announced on LinkedIn that the startup was withdrawing its candidacy from participation in the competition.

Almost simultaneously, Slush published a statement on Twitter announcing the victory of Immigram.

The organizers asked the participating funds to withdraw their investments, and also noted that they regret that they did not conduct a more thorough check of the participants before admitting them to the competition.