Abdul Alim winning

Abdul Alim, whose business OfferMoments won last year’s Innovation Showcase at Venturefest 2014, looks back at an event that helped cement the region’s reputation for innovation.

The first thing that struck me about Venturefest was the buzz of anticipation; there was a real feeling of expectation about the whole day and an enthusiasm that was infectious!

There were over 400 delegates at the Bridgewater Hall, and I think the organisers were spot on making it free, as that meant business like mine, that are just starting out, could afford to attend.

I think we had the most to gain, too, because the day gave an opportunity for SME and start-up owners to meet with people who you’d normally struggle to get time with, simply because they’re so busy. But on the day, some of the region’s top business leaders were only too happy to talk and pass on advice - and I’m sure some of those chats have since lead to new business partnerships.

There was a great mix of speakers too, who really showed that the spirit of innovation is alive and kicking in Greater Manchester.

Dame Nancy Rothwell, vice chancellor at the University of Manchester, explained more about the huge potential of graphene, which of course was discovered at the University, while others were able to give an insight into the different kinds of finance available to new businesses, and why exploring alternative investment routes like Business Angels can often be the best way to fund innovation.

I was also there to pitch my company, OfferMoments, in the Innovation Showcase competition. Along with my business partner, Shahzad Mughal, we have developed a mobile app that tells shoppers about the latest offers as they walk past a store or restaurant. Winning the competition was a huge surprise and the prize we won, a mixture of different business support from various partners that work with the Business Growth Hub, has proved absolutely invaluable to us over the last six months.

It might not sound particularly exciting but while innovation might be the ‘glamourous’ side of business, you need the nuts and bolts of good business practice to support it too, and that’s what the prize gave us, from accountancy tips to legal advice.

At the end of the day, I was chatting with another delegate and what he said perfectly summed up Venturefest. “ I came along to find out more about cutting edge technology, to see businesses pitching their ideas for investment and to make contact with potential funders for my business. I managed to achieve all of these on the day, so a great result all round.”

Twelve months on, and I’ve no doubt this year’s event will deliver the goods, too.