The streets of Winchester were reminiscent of a scene from a Christmas card as I made my way to the Guildhall for Venturefest South, dubbed #VFS18. With the biggest snow storm for years forecast and snow already on the ground, I was apprehensive about the turnout. I needn’t have worried. Over 500 innovators, entrepreneurs and investors attended the event including four of our SETsquared companies from Basingstoke, who were pitching at the event

Walking the halls the hustle and bustle of business was everywhere and in particular the Young Entrepreneurs Zone had a real buzz about it. Twenty fledging businesses from Universities around the region were taking part and judging from the innovation and enthusiasm on show the future of tech in the region is bright. The ‘Best Young Innovator’ award was given to Connell McLaughlin, Founder of Route Reports a cutting-edge hazard detection system for buses and trains that is able to detect overhanging branches and potholes before they cause a potential problem

The main Innovation Zone was where Basingstoke and Deane Council showcased an impressive array of support available for tech start-ups in the town including: the University of Surrey’s 5G test-bed, SETsquared business support and Desk Lodge co-working space. It represents a complete wrap around package for companies just starting on their start-up journey

SETsquared, too, was well represented in the Investment Zone – Pitchfest. Four great companies from Basingstoke HOLM, MueBox, Satchel Messaging and Transparently were among 17 asking to raise over £9M in total. While the Open Mic session was a fantastic opportunity for those not so far along with their business to pitch and test their ideas

If help and guidance is what you needed then the Knowledge Zone was the place to go. It provided an array of workshops covering diverse topics from payroll to robots in the workplace and expanding overseas. If you couldn’t find what you wanted there it probably doesn’t exist

Good to see Space technology was high on the agenda at #VFS18 with the keynote address from Seraphim Capital launching the world’s first investment fund and accelerator specifically targeted at Space tech companies. Innovate UK and the UK Space Agency backed this up with some intriguing talks on space data and what you can use it for in the Business Support Zone

Despite the weather’s best efforts to ruin the day #VFS18 was a resounding success. Bringing together as it did innovators, entrepreneurs and investors from all over the South and to show the strength of technical and business expertise the region has to offer the UK economy. Long may it continue!

#VFS18 IN NUMBERS

Over 500 came despite the UK’s biggest snowstorm for years with 20cms of snow