Virgin Media Business has launched a £800,000 business accelerator prize fund to find the UK's “most exciting and innovative businesses”.

Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson has cited “bravery” as the defining characteristic of an entrepreneur, and he has invited startups and innovators to pitch their ideas to him in Virgin Media Business’ #VOOM: Pitch to Rich 2015 campaign, in association with LinkedIn.

Winners in each of the three categories will be chosen by the Virgin founder and a team of judges in a live final on the 26 June. There will be a startup winner's prize of £150,000 in marketing support, plus mentoring and help from Virgin StartUp’s professional business advisers for a year. Two runners-up will receive £50,000 in marketing support.

In addition, the New Things prize for ideas that can “disrupt” will see the winner get £50,000 in cash towards development, plus mentoring from Virgin’s investment team. Two runners-up will receive £10,000 each towards development. And the Grow prize for existing businesses that are “ready to go big-time” offers the winner £250,000 in marketing support, with two runners-up getting £100,000 in marketing support.

All three category winners will also receive a full internet and fixed and mobile voice package from Virgin Media Business for 12 months, unlimited travel on Virgin Trains for 12 months, a place on the Accelerator Network programme, a free package of pro bono advice from the ICAEW business advice service, and a membership to the not-for-profit private members club at The House of St Barnabas.

Also, one more £50,000 marketing support prize will be awarded to the semi-finalist with the most votes at the end, as part of the People’s Choice.

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder, said: “Launching a business can be challenging and, at times, overwhelming. But entrepreneurs shouldn’t let this hold them back from achieving their full potential.

“Pitch to Rich is a brilliant opportunity for UK businesses to make their mark. If you think your business has great potential, then enter Pitch to Rich as you never know where it may lead you.”

Peter Maxmin, marketing director for LinkedIn Emea, said: “This amazing competition gives our 17 million UK members a wonderful opportunity to display there entrepreneurial spirit. We’re thrilled to be part of the journey.”