Andy Fishburn, Managing Director, Virgin StartUp

Virgin StartUp's Andy Fishburn considers how the cost-of-living crisis is changing how new founders approach finance, highlights the need to address the lack of diversity in the start-up sector and explains why a disproportionate focus on 'unicorns' is misleading.
Andy Fishburn, Managing Director, Virgin StartUp

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What are your main areas of expertise?

  • Understanding the UK start-up landscape.
  • The pressures and barriers facing early-stage and SME business founders.
  • How to start and scale a business in today’s economic climate.
  • Purpose-led business, and how to scale a sustainable business.
  • The Start Up Loan scheme and Government support for UK business founders and SMEs.
  • The Better Business Act – why companies should align the interests of shareholders with those of wider society and the environment.
  • Support and funding for underrepresented founders – particularly women founders

Why should journalists cover your area of expertise?

Britain’s start-up scene continues to grow and we don’t expect entrepreneurial appetite to dampen any time soon. We conducted research at the beginning of the year that showed that a quarter of adults were interested in setting up a business this year and this almost doubled for adults aged 18-24. Yet the cost-of-living crisis is changing how new founders approach finance. We expect to see Start Up Loans becoming a more popular route for new founders. 

At Virgin StartUp we continue to be connected to thousands of founders we have helped to start-up, scale and succeed, so we can be used as a ‘founder barometer’ to reliably provide small business insights and commentary. 

Tell us about your career experience

As one of the founding members, I’ve been at Virgin StartUp since it launched in 2013, initially as Head of Investment and then taking over as Managing Director.

Prior to this I worked at Deloitte (qualified Chartered Accountant), specialising in private equity and venture capital. I’ve also got first-hand experience of starting my own company. 

How are you able to help with press comment? 

I’m happy to do face-to-face, broadcast, phone or written comment. We can also potentially push out questions to our founder community (i.e. case studies!) if we are given enough time. 

How can journalists contact you?

It’s best to contact me through our press office in the first instance: or 

Aside from soundbites are you happy to write comment pieces or similar?

Yes, very happy to do this.

Currently, what are the most newsworthy issues in your sector and why are they important?

As I mentioned above, the cost-of-living crisis and general economic climate is having an impact on early-stage founders and people wanting to start a business. Founders that might previously have sought a traditional bank loan or had savings they could fall back on are now looking at alternative options. 

We expect the Start Up Loan scheme to become more popular and at Virgin StartUp we’re trebling our delivering of Start Up Loans and expect to distribute £36 million in the next two years which should support 3,000 founders. 

Tell us about one subject within your area of expertise that is currently under-reported?

We don’t talk enough about underrepresented business founders and the bias they face at every stage of their start-up journey. This includes female founders, Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority founders and disabled founders. 

At Virgin StartUp we have our 50/50 pledge to equally fund male and female founders with Start Up Loans. We’ve also just launched our new Empower100 Accelerator programme to support underrepresented founders. But it’s an issue that needs more airtime and there’s a lot more work to be done to address the lack of diversity and the barriers in place in the start-up sector.

What are the big stories for your organisation this week?

We’ve not long launched Empower 100, a new programme across Greater London to support 100 underrepresented founders on their start-up journey. The programme starts on 3 August 2023 and will run until the end of 2024.

We’ve also recently announced that we are extending our role as a National Partner for the Start Up Loan programme and hope to support up to 3,000 new founders before March 2025 with £36 million in Start Up Loans.

If you could correct one fact about your sector that the financial press gets wrong it would be:

That it's all about 'unicorns' - there's a disproportionate amount of focus on high growth venture businesses that suggests growth, fund raising and funding rounds is what being an entrepreneur is all about.

The financial titles I always read are:

FT, Sifted, This is Money, Tech Crunch, UKTN, Courier (more an entrepreneurial publication than purely a financial title, but a frequent read).

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