Home » Case studies » The south’s innovators triumph over the ‘Beast from the East’

The south’s innovators triumph over the ‘Beast from the East’

Carswell Gould partnered with Venturefest South to bring the South’s innovators, entrepreneurs and investors together for #VFS18.

Venturefest South is a unique, privately-funded partnership of organisations, committed to supporting and growing the South’s innovation economy, which uses the Innovate UK / KTN Venturefest brand. Carswell Gould is a founding partner of Venturefest South and has supported the partnership from the very beginning; planning and organising the events and shaping it to fully support the economy.

For the last two years, Venturefest South has been supporting the South’s innovators, entrepreneurs and investors. This culminates each year in a one-day interactive conference that provides all those who are part of the innovation economy with the chance to get together, share ideas and technology, and nurture future ground-breaking innovations in the region.

Carswell Gould was tasked with the overall marketing activity for this year’s conference, #VFS18. This included event management, communication, PR, web, design, branding, social media, email campaigns, photography and videography. And, despite the UK’s biggest snowstorm in eight years, it was bigger and better than last year. Highlights included:

  • Over 500 attendees, despite the ‘Beast from the East’
  • 35 entrepreneurs battling for over £10m worth of investment
  • 20 young entrepreneurs pitching in the Young Entrepreneurs Village
  • 40 support organisations offering free advice and support
  • 17 expert speakers from across the UK hosting talks
  • 1 space incubator being launched, with the ‘potential to change the world’

To say we were nervous before the event is an understatement. The South’s biggest snowstorm in eight years was hitting Britain hard. We questioned late into the night whether we should cancel, but thankfully it was agreed that we would go ahead - the snow couldn’t, shouldn’t and wouldn’t stop the South’s innovators – and we were right!

I think it was a tribute to how Venturefest South gets bigger and better every year that so many people attended despite the weather. The quality of the businesses pitching, taking part in the Open Mic sessions, exhibiting and even in the Young Entrepreneurs Village this year was exceptionally high and represented the diversity of the south’s innovation economy.

Chris Allington, Chair of Venturefest South


#VFS18 featured seven zones, including the Collaboration Zone, Innovation Zone, Knowledge Zone, Investment Zone, Pitchfest, Open Mic Arena and Young Entrepreneurs Village.


  • Total PR reach: 462,073 (compared to 253,200 from VFS17)
  • Total PR value: £18,065
  • Total pieces of press coverage: 30
  • Average enewsletter opening rate: 39.73%
  • Twitter reach: 136,600


Highlights from the day - It started with a great keynote

A great keynote address was delivered by James Bruegger, Managing Partner of Carswell Gould’s client, Seraphim Capital. Seraphim Capital is the world’s first space investment fund. It invests in businesses from the space eco-system, which includes space data and satellite technology. It has recently launched an accelerator programme called Seraphim Space Camp to develop the next generation of innovations. James shared insight into the growth of the sector and highlighted what makes for a great investment.

I was delighted to give the keynote address. It is a testimony to the event that so many people attended given the travel conditions. I was pleased to see the diversity of innovation across the entrepreneurial eco-system in the South is alive and well.

James Bruegger


Innovators showcased their ground-breaking ideas and technology

The Smith & Williamson Innovation Zone proved to be at the heart of the action, with over 20 innovators showcasing their business ideas and ground-breaking technology. This is a key part of what Venturefest South do - find and support great ideas with events, advice and a funded place to show off what they are doing to potential investors and support organisations. Check out some of the innovators that were at the event: https://venturefestsouth.co.uk/zones/innovation-zone.



The Carswell Gould Open Mic Arena

‘Pitching for all’ has become a large part of the Venturefest South ethos. Carswell Gould created the Open Mic Arena at last year’s event to open up participation to everyone on the day. The Open Mic Arena involves turning up, signing up on a whiteboard for a time slot, and presenting a three-minute pitch to an audience and panel of judges. All of the pitches are then scored and at the end of the day and the winner takes home bragging rights and the opportunity to pitch for investment.


Venturefest South is all about bringing people together to share ideas and showcase their businesses and products, so introducing the Open Mic Arena was a no brainer. It’s great to be able to give start-ups, young entrepreneurs and individuals the opportunity to pitch their idea to a panel of judges and audience of like-minded innovators, and the feedback and exposure they receive is invaluable. This year’s Open Mic competition winner was, rather appropriately given the havoc on public transport at the time, Railbuddy. This new app that allows commuters to log when their train is delayed and then request a refund from the train company. Founder, James Zorab, impressed the judges, and myself, with his company’s growth potential, simplicity and market opportunity and I very much look forward to seeing his Winchester business grow over the coming years.”

Ed Gould, Creative Director, Carswell Gould



The south’s brightest young talent

A new addition this year was the Young Entrepreneurs Village, which was buzzing throughout the day. The village involved students from across the South’s universities coming together and showcasing their business ideas and new technology. Adrian Braine, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at SETsquared, also ran a series of workshops within the village, designed to help the students collaborate and explore ways to move their businesses forward. The young entrepreneurs brought with them a healthy dose of energy and ambition and some outstanding ideas.

A top young innovator was selected from this zone for the accolade of ‘Best Young Innovator’ which was won by Connell McLaughlin, Founder of Route Reports, a hazard detection system designed for buses and trains, to prevent vehicle damage and passenger injuries.




Pitchfest is a traditional investment showcase which, this year, had a total investment ask of £10 million from 17 businesses that were pitching. From fashion retail apps, intergrated robotic farming systems and homecare support platforms, to music artist connection apps, FinTechs and parking management platforms, there was such a huge variety of businesses pitching for investment, including Carswell Gould client, Kelda Technology, the manufacturer of the world's most efficient shower system. See the full list of Pitchfest finalists here.



Great sharing of knowledge

Another new addition to this year’s event was the Knowledge Zone, supported by Carswell Gould client, Grant Thornton. The zone consisted of three rooms full of speakers from across the UK, offering delegates a vast range of talks to listen to, with topics including robotics in the workplace, women in digital, drones, blockchain technology and more. The full list of talks and topics can be found here.



For supporting and funding the planning and delivery of #VFS18, special thanks go out to: Grant Thornton, The University of Winchester Business School, Smith & Williamson, Nexus IE, Creative Networks South, The University of Portsmouth, Southampton Solent University, The University of Southampton, Dorset Growth Hub, Hampshire Conference Bureau, Enterprise M3 LEP, Solent LEP, Oxford Innovation, Southampton City Council, Portsmouth City Council, Innovate UK, Knowledge Transfer Network, Business South, Silicon Beach, Solent Creatives.


For more information, visit: www.venturefestsouth.co.uk.


Core Team

Key Points