What a total contrast at Venturefest South this year. Last year we braved “the beast from the east” and this year glorious sunshine. As I looked down from the Shane Warne stand of the Ageas Bowl I saw a Venturefest South that was bathed in the sunlight of an early spring day and with more than a 1000 attendees on the day was even bigger and better than before.

This year featured the Basingstoke Get Launched Collective aimed at supporting entrepreneurs in Basingstoke. It brings together the SETsquared partnership, IncuHive, Desklodge, Tech Juice and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to create the buzzing eco-system that new businesses need to thrive. With “Get Launched” T-Shirts worn by all the partners Basingstoke really stood out in the crowd as having a truly unique identity. A great start for the collective that will see us build Basingstoke as the place to start a business.

Venturefest South once again featured a pitching contest for start-ups looking to raise investment. The Wave 105 Investment Zone featured 16 start-ups and Basingstoke was well represented again with five of our businesses pitching. We saw great pitches from Patcher, Kuldea, Mysokoni, HOLM and Wisetree, all of which were commended for their high standard by the judges. It was great to see all the hard work from our the start ups pay off and hopefully result in some investment.

The KTN Innovation Zone spread over three areas including the atrium and the courtyard featured exhibits from over 40 start ups, new businesses and digital disruptors including three from Basingstoke: HOLM, Kuldea and Wisetree. This zone also featured talks and master classes from Innovate UK, the KTN and EEN covering strategy, design thinking, funding and finance. Providing a complete toolkit for start up businesses.

The BDO Knowledge Zone was the place to go for help and guidance and featured a number of round table discussions. Myself, George Scott and Emma Mears from the Get Launched Collective, hosted one of these, Co-working, Start-up and Incubation. As well as these sessions delegates heard from expert speakers about grant funding and the impact of digital, marine and drone technologies for businesses.

Delegates had the chance to meet, one-to-one, with Venturefest partners and sponsors in the Lenovo Collaboration Zone. It represented a great opportunity to collaborate with major enterprises and organisations in the region. Included amongst those present were: Dstl, Lenovo, KTN, BDO, NatWest, Silicon South, Carswell Gould, Basingstoke GetLaunched, University of Southampton, University of Portsmouth, Southampton City Council, Portsmouth City Council, Solent University, Solent LEP.

Dedicated for new entrepreneurs was the Natwest New Entrepreneurs Zone. Here new entrepreneurs had two minutes to pitch what they are doing through two Open Mic sessions. This zone also featured an exhibit space where 16 new entrepreneurs could show what they were doing. The businesses were assessed by a panel of six judges and included ideas for drone displays, anti-theft devices for retail and innovative eye treatments. The winner selected by the judges was Boon. Boon is a software platform for people that find it difficult to come up with gift ideas. Based on the characteristics entered for the gift recipient it suggests gift recommendations from major retailers such as John Lewis. The judges were impressed with the company’s presentation of their product and their drive to get funding and make it succeed.

This was my second Venturefest South and it really is a great showcase for the business and technical expertise in the region. Judging by the progress I saw this year the region is in a strong position and I can’t wait to see where we get to next year.