Product, Service & Design Innovation
Unilever, ad:tech London Offering $50K to Tech Startups That Might Be 'The Next Big Thing'

Unilever has partnered with the ad:tech London initiative and the trade show’s Future Media and Technology Summit. With this new partnership, a range of marketing and media tech startup hopefuls will pitch their ideas to brand, agency and venture capital judges to win the prestigious honor of being named "The Next Big Thing."

The award, which was founded as a partnership with Collider, celebrates its 10th birthday this year with a "Digital Decade: Past, Present, Future" theme. Some of the UK’s up-and-coming innovators will pitch their ideas to a panel of tech industry leaders next month, in the hope of being crowned ‘The Next Big Thing.’

Winners may be invited to participate in a paid pilot with Unilever, with US$50,000 made available to help develop and test their idea. One winner will also walk away from the event with £5,000 ($8,000) in prize money. As well as the overall winner, shortlisted startups will also get the opportunity to showcase their ideas for free at Unilever’s ad:tech exhibition. The award was won last year by mobile native advertising network Avocarrot.

This partnership is the latest step Unilever has taken to facilitate its work with innovative startups. In May, the company launched its Foundry platform, which has three key aims: to allow innovators to pilot their technologies; to discover and develop technological expertise through their mentoring programme; and to support companies financially through Unilever Ventures.

Unilever will take the leading sponsorship role at the ad:tech London’s Future Media and Technology Summit. The Summit will also host fifty of Unilever’s marketers who will take guided tours and try to initiative network connections between startups and potential funders.

Marc Mathieu, Unilever’s SVP of Marketing will also reveal Unilever’s strategic marketing and media investment plans as part of the summit. He explains: “Startups are pioneering the future of marketing. Our partnership with ad:tech enables us to showcase these technologies to the wider marketing community and challenge our existing partners to collaborate with these innovators.”

ad:tech were equally enthusiastic about the role Unilever had to play in the summit.

“As event organisers our job is to connect people and this partnership is a great example of how we can do that in a more effective and efficient way. Unilever’s enthusiasm and drive to make this happen shows their commitment to forging the way when it comes to embracing digital, technology and new forms of community engagement,” says James Drake-Brockman, Head of ad:tech in EMEA & India.

This latest partnership by Unilever follows on from a similar collaboration with John Lewis and EE (the UK’s largest mobile and internet provider) earlier in the year, where the companies collectively launched a £1M competition to find industry-driving innovations in Internet of Things-related technologies from UK startups. The competition was launched with the intention of finding ideas or prototypes that might be considered risky for companies to invest in or push without significant financial backing — but could have the potential to grow into industry-shifting projects. The £1M fund is to be shared by a variety of startups, with companies applying for funding between £50-150K.

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