Would-be entrepreneurs need to act fast

ENTREPRENEURS in the East of England need to move fast if they want the chance to win a share of £1 million of investment funding in the Running the Gauntlet 2006 competition.

ENTREPRENEURS in the East of England need to move fast if they want the chance to win a share of £1 million of investment funding in the Running the Gauntlet 2006 competition.

Entries for this year's Running the Gauntlet, the UK's biggest business competition, must be received before midnight on September 10.

Led by the East of England Development Agency in partnership with Create, a leading investor in East of England businesses, and Library House, the authority on privately held high growth companies in the UK, the competition also offers access to invaluable experience and learning.

Running the Gauntlet is an EEDA initiative aimed at improving the success rate of entrepreneurs in the region when approaching investors. Currently, only around 2% manage to secure equity investment. EEDA also hopes the competition will highlight alternative ways to start or grow a business and source funding.

In addition to the £1 million funding put forward by Create, other sponsors Bailey Fisher, Grant Thornton, HSBC, Mudhut Communication, Scientific Generics, Taylor Vinters and The Commercialisation Company are offering £250,000 worth of in-kind services. These will be available through a combination of master classes, workshops and one-to-one clinics between September and November this year.

A comprehensive learning programme is available to all entrants starting with free access to The Gauntlet, the web based virtual investor developed by Library House and the London School of Economics that usually costs £299.

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All entrants can also make use of the competition's dedicated helpdesk staffed by Business Link and

100 companies will benefit from a one day intensive 'bootcamp' at the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning where they will meet and learn from some of the region's most successful entrepreneurs and investors. Details of the programme and how to register will be posted soon on the website www.runningthegauntlet.com.

David Marlow, chief executive of EEDA, said: “This year's Running the Gauntlet offers companies a huge range of opportunities to learn and grow. The support from sponsors combined with The Gauntlet and our helpdesk means there is something for every company at every stage.

“There are no strings attached and everything to gain from advice to networking, not to mention the opportunity to secure funding for those who are investment ready. Whether it's for the learning opportunity or with a view to secure funding, there's nothing to lose - I urge the region's entrepreneurs to enter.”

Following the September 10 deadline, 50 companies will be shortlisted to pitch to the panel of investors, chaired jointly by Doug Richard of Library House and BBC2's Dragons' Den, and Boyd Mulvey, chief executive of Create. From this 10 finalists will be chosen to pursue discussions with Create and other investors. The winners will be announced at EEDA's annual Destination Growth event in November.

n Organisations in Suffolk that have benefited from European funding over the year have just two weeks to enter the Celebrate Awards 2006 ahead of the August 29 closing date.

The awards recognise the projects, people, businesses, places and communities that have received assistance from the European Social Fund, the European Regional Development Fund and the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund.

Michael Large, regional chairman of the Institute of Directors, and one of the judges, said: “European funding has made such a difference to our region in an astounding variety of programmes - from training schemes to new community centres, parenting classes to business grants.

“We would love to hear from all the communities, businesses and individuals in the East of England that have benefited from this funding.”