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Slush’s startup pitch contest turned into a political nightmare

Usually, the winners of a pitching contest are showered with accolades, media attention, and applause. After it’s done and dusted off, all they have to think about is what to spend that sweet, sweet prize money on.

But this year things haven’t gone according to plan for one startup. Immigration – the winner of the Slush 100 startup competition – is controversial for its ties to the Russian tech scene. Not only are its founders Russian passport holders, but it is also recruiting technical workers to move to Moscow.

This left many wondering why the jury decided to invest in a company with such strong ties to Russian business life. In response to pressure, Slush withdrew the award.

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A statement from Slush

Slush released a statement retracting Immigram’s win and requesting the funds withdraw their potential investment from the startup. But yes, VCs can still decide to invest in Immigram. At the time of writing, investors in the jury were silent.

Immigram also confirmed on LinkedIn that it is sign out of the Slush Contest.“We will continue to support Ukraine and build a business for millions of talented people who want to move internationally,” the Russian-born company wrote in the post.

But let’s take a step back.

Who is Immigration?

Immigram is a B2B SaaS platform that enables employers to attract and retain international talent by guiding them through the myriad paperwork to enter the various job markets. 10% of their customers were Russians. You can watch their winning pitch here.

The jury awarded them a €1 million investment from five top VCs: Accel, General Catalyst, Lightspeed Venture Partners, NEA and Northzone.

What has been the reaction to the win?

Unsurprisingly, there has been a lot of protest against the win in recent days, with many questioning the decision. Investigate the company AIN.Capital found it is booting hiring for positions in MoscowTo: “The same positions can be found on the startup’s career page, and they’re marked as external.”