Virgin Media Pioneers – the online community for young entrepreneurs – has launched a nationwide search to find the best budding business leaders, offering them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win start-up investment from Sir Richard Branson.

Eight young entrepreneurs will be short-listed before a public vote to determine which four should meet Richard at his family home in Oxfordshire.

Once there, the final four will compete in front of an audience of chief executives and managing directors for a share of £5,000. They will also receive business advice and have an opportunity to network to further their prospects.

Virgin Media Pioneers was founded by Virgin Media in 2010. Today, the free peer-to-peer network supports over 2,000 young entrepreneurs, proving mentoring, advice and unique business opportunities.

Neil Berkett, chief executive of Virgin Media, said: “Given what our company is about. This particular competition is an incredible opportunity which could transform the business ideas of the lucky winners.”

Sir Richard Branson, pioneer-at-large of Virgin Media Pioneers and founder of the Virgin Group, said: “My desire to do something different and take a few risks along the way has been at the heart of the Virgin story from the very beginning. We started with only a little capital and I believe with the right idea and early backing, Britain’s young entrepreneurs can create many outstanding businesses. I look forward to meeting a few next month.”

The competition closes at midday on April 30th 2012. Entrants must be:

  • A UK resident with a UK based business
  • Founders of a business in pre-launch or in its first 2 years of trading
  • Over 18 years of age
  • A registered Virgin Media Pioneer (free to register)
  • Available May 15th, 2012
  • Agree to the Terms and Conditions of the competition