Silicon Valley boost for Lancashire early-stage businesses

Early-stage business founders and startups in Lancashire are being urged to apply for a new grant programme spearheaded by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sterling Road.

The newly launched initiative is the brainchild of its managing partner Ash Rust, a native Lancastrian, entrepreneur and venture capital investor.

The Sterling Road North West Grant Fund programme will provide £1,000 grants to founders with promising business ideas or companies — with the goal of jump-starting or supporting each project.

For the next three years minimum, the programme will see 25 companies a year across such sectors as technology, SaaS and FinTech.

Ash, who was born in Blackpool and went to school in Clitheroe, still has family members in the Ribble Valley and is keen to reinvest in the county.

The 38-year-old left the UK in his mid-20s to further his career in Silicon Valley where he went on to create successful businesses. Today he lives with his family in San Francisco.

Ash says he wants to give back to the North West which is full of great talent but lacks access to capital funding and to support good ideas, with the view that many of these might become longer term investments.

He says has too often crossed paths with under-estimated business founders in his native North West, who might have additional challenges when seeking loans or financing.

Ash said: “As a born and bred Northerner, I know that the North West of England has a deep pool of talent and creativity but lacks access to capital.

Our hope is that initial grant winners continue their growth where Sterling Road canvinvest multiple times long term. I want to grab this opportunity to give back.

The grant process involves a simple online application at with a short two-minute video pitching the idea or business.

A spokesperson for Sterling Road said: You do not need a pitch deck to apply; simply share how your big idea solves a meaningful problem for customers.

Shortlisted applicants will then have a Zoom interview with Ash and his team, with the first winners onboarded from next month.

The grants have no restrictions and can be used to purchase equipment, advertise, hire, or pay the bills needed to launch your idea forward.

Sterling Road is a VC fund focused on pre-seed stage B2B companies with approximately $45m AUM (Assets Under Management).

Ash co-founded tech business SendHub which was sold to Cameo Global and is now focused on supporting new startups and underestimated founders.