After announcing the apparently UK-based company Immigram had won the prestigious Slush 100 pitching competition in Helsinki, the organisers revoked the win as the extent of the company’s Russian operations came to light.
Slush announced today that it would revoke Immigram’s Slush 100 award win after receiving major backlash.
In a blow to the prestigious new award, the European start-up event has asked the five participating funds to pull their investment into the winning start-up.
This year, the contest awarded €1m to Immigram, with the SAFE investment coming from Accel, General Catalyst, Lightspeed, NEA and Northzone.
Immigram, an immigration platform for IT specialists and tech entrepreneurs, beat Sociability and Zeely to the prize. The award was accepted on Friday (18 November) by Immigram’s co-founder Anastasia Mirolyubova, a Russian national who moved to the UK six years ago.
“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 organisers said in a statement today.
“Slush is sorry for this oversight. We should have reviewed all participants’ operations more closely before letting them enter the competition.”
In the competition, Immigram had been pitched very much as a UK-based company, set up by two Russian immigrants. It would now appear that the company in fact has operations in Russia itself.
The outrage from the European start-up community began in earnest after Ain.capital, a tech news site focused on central and eastern Europe, reported that Immigram is actively hiring for roles in Russia.
In a Twitter post on Friday night, after many complaints, the Slush organisers said: “Slush stands with Ukraine and condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We do not partner with Russian companies or funds, or accept start-up or investor applications from companies based in Russia. The Slush 100 jury will thoroughly review the background of the winner.”
After further review over the weekend, the organisers today asked the participating funds to pull any investment, and revoked the award publicly.
Mirolyubova, who said she left Russia in 2016 “partially for political reasons”, claimed on LinkedIn that she has been receiving death threats “for rightfully winning a start-up competition with a wrong colour of the passport”.
10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.