Venturefest Manchester 2015 brought together high profile speakers and industry experts with practical experience of developing and launching new products.

wakelet link


Mark Edwardson

Mark Edwardson, Host
Mark Edwardson has been a BBC presenter and reporter in the North West since 1990. Since then Mark has produced and presented many radio and TV shows, mainly for the BBC, and has found himself in the company of Prime Ministers, Presidents, pop stars and the people he loves most – the public!

Keynote Speakers

Howard Bernstein

Sir Howard Bernstein, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council
Sir Howard Bernstein has been Chief Executive of Manchester City Council since 1998 and was knighted for his services in 2003. He has driven Manchester’s regeneration, through strong public/private sector partnerships. Key achievements include a leading role in: renewal of the centre following the 1996 terrorist bombing; securing Manchester as Host City for the highly successful 2002 Commonwealth Games; introduction of Metrolink and its on-going expansion across the conurbation; establishment of Manchester Airport plc in the mid-1980’s and its recent expansion; public sector reform, including the establishment of GM Combined Authority.

In 2014 he led negotiations with Government to secure a historic and groundbreaking Devolution Agreement for Greater Manchester. He also led the development of a Memorandum of Understanding between GM local authorities, NHS England and the GM CCGs to secure the devolution of health and social care funding in Greater Manchester. External appointments include Deputy Chair of the HS2 Growth Task Force; Non-Executive Chair of Manchester Academic Health Science Centre.

Abdul Alim

Abdul Alim, Co-founder of OfferMoments
Abdul started his first business, offering dial-up Internet access, at the age of 18, and by 22 he was employing almost 500 people across four countries, with more than 100,000 customers.

He now has 15 years of technical expertise under his belt, having worked as part of the team that built the London congestion charge payments platform, and as chief technical officer at SLM Connect MVNO, one of the UK's largest connectors of mobile contracts.

He is a co-founder of OfferMoments, the innovative iBeacon solution for retailers, which won Venturefest 2014.

Jim Duffy

Jim Duffy, Founder and Chief Executive Optimist, Entrepreneurial Spark
Jim spent 11 years with Strathclyde Police before deciding to try his hand at business. He set up three franchises in his home town of Glasgow before taking up an opportunity to study business and entrepreneurship at Babson College near Boston, in America.

Returning to the UK with a zeal for enterprise, Jim set up Entrepreneurial Spark in 2011 to promote business start-ups and help them grow. Following on from the success of his initial three ‘hatcheries’ in Scotland, the world’s largest free business accelerator scheme now operates in Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton and Leeds, with further UK locations planned over the next 18 months.

In June 2015, Entrepreneurial Spark also announced the organisation’s first international joint venture, supporting Jim’s vision to develop an entrepreneurial revival across the world.

James Akrigg

James Akrigg, Head of Technology for Partners at Microsoft
James Akrigg is head of technology for partners at Microsoft and has over 20 years’ experience working in the IT industry, including the last 13 years at Microsoft in the UK. He is passionate about technology and what it can do to deliver real value and benefit to businesses of all sizes.

Experience in many different areas of IT, from infrastructure to software development, business process to information management, ensures James is able to explain and simplify how to use a complex mix of technologies in order to deliver solutions that meet the needs of today`s businesses.

Phil Smith

Phil Smith, UK & Ireland CEO of Cisco
Phil Smith is CEO (UK & Ireland) of Cisco - the worldwide leader in networking for the internet and Chair of Innovate UK (the new name for the technology Strategy Board). He was appointed as the Chairman of the UK Technology Strategy Board in December 2011 and hailed as one of the nation’s most influential leaders in the Computer Weekly UKTech50 Awards.

Phil has also been recognised by the Deputy Prime Minister and other influential figures at the Women of the Future Awards with the Mentor of the Year accolade for his personal commitment to supporting UK women of the future in schools and business. He has a thirty year track record within the ICT industry, advising leading global organisations in the private and public sector on how to drive transformation, productivity and sustainable growth. Phil is a passionate advocate of technology and innovation to the region’s business and political leaders, sitting on a number of boards including Young Enterprise, The Employers Forum for Disability, Chairman of The Tech Partnership and a member of the Foundation for Science and Technology, CBI, TechUK, CriticalEye and the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB ).

Vanda Murray

Vanda Murray, OBE, Co-Chairperson for the Manchester Growth Company
Vanda Murray has over 25 years’ experience at a senior level across a range of international companies and different industry sectors.

Roles have included MD at PAC International, a high tech electronics manufacturing company, where, during her tenure sales doubled and profitability quadrupled. As CEO of Blick, a FTSE quoted international support services group, she doubled the value of the business before overseeing its sale, while as MD of Ultraframe, as MD she managed the complete turnaround of the business prior to its sale.

She now holds a portfolio of non-executive directorships, including Manchester Airports Group, and is also Pro-Chancellor at Manchester Metropolitan University and a board member of the Manchester Growth Company. She was awarded an OBE for services to industry and export in 2002.

Lee Frater

Lee Frater, Digital Growth Manager, Business Growth Hub
With over a decade of experience in running and managing businesses, Lee now uses her own personal experience of working within a high growth organisation to help other companies utilise digital technology to excel and grow. As an evangelist for technological innovations Lee heads up the Digital Growth Team, Digital Co-Investment programme, Eveolution: Women and Technology programme & is passionate about the digital skills agenda for SMEs across Greater Manchester.

Three Tribes Panel

Jamil Khalil

Jamil Khalil, Founder & CEO of Wakelet
Jamil Khalil is the founder and CEO of Wakelet, a fast growing content sharing web platform, which helps people, artists, bands, sports clubs, businesses and academic institutions to organise their online information, making it easier to find and share.

Prior to Wakelet, Jamil was the Head of Sourcing and EADS co-ordination for Airbus' Value Chain Visibility (VCV) and Auto-ID programme and oversaw the company's Auto-ID Innovation Centre.

Over the past three years, in parallel to a demanding role at Airbus and with very little resources, Jamil has put together a passionate team from a LinkedIn appeal to build the Wakelet platform. He’s recently closed £1m+ investment from investors across UK and the US including backing from the original publishers of Angry Birds.

Howard Simms

Howard Simms, CEO of Apadmi Ventures
With more than 15 years’ experience working in the mobile industry, creating technology solutions, building brilliant teams, and delivering continual growth, Howard’s journey at the forefront of one of the world’s most dynamic and exciting technology booms has been exhilarating.

Apadmi is now the UK’s leading mobile software development company, working with organisations such as the NHS and the BBC, as well as a range of business including Lexus and Skyscanner. The business has also spun out technology companies in several different areas, including market research, retail and loyalty schemes within football.

Apadmi has now launched Apadmi Ventures, a formalisation of their spinout business model that is bringing their technical excellence, experience and significant investment capacity to all business sectors.

Russel Clifton

Russell Clifton, Founder & MD of Ruk-bug
Russell Clifton set up his business, Ruk-bug, five years ago following a ‘lightbulb moment’ when faced with a difficult situation with a children’s pushchair.

Now, after a five year development period - in which he gained five international patents - Russell has launched his first easy-to-carry buggy. It has already gained acclaim in the nursery market for its level of innovation and style, as well as commercial interest from 35 countries.

He now uses his experience of developing the business and raising finance to support and advise other would-be entrepreneurs through his role as Innovator in Residence at Manchester Central Library, and vice Chair of the Manchester Inventors Group.

Darren Gowling

Darren Gowling, Investment Director at Co Angel Investment Service
Darren has worked in venture capital (VC) since the mid-90s, with considerable experience creating, launching and managing VC and seed funds across the UK. As a result, he was worked alongside European structural funds, and with private investors, business angels and both regional and national public sector funding agencies.

Much of Darren’s work has focussed on early stage SMEs, syndicated investments and ERDF  funds and he has led and managed over 150 individual transactions, investing over £50 million and leveraging private sector investment in excess of a further £50 million.

Kirsty Henshaw

Kirsty Henshaw, Director, Kirsty’s
Kirsty Henshaw is one of the UK’s most successful young entrepreneurs. In July 2010 Kirsty’s perfect pitch on Dragons’ Den led to a significant joint investment in her frozen dessert business from Duncan Bannatyne and Peter Jones.

In 2012 Kirsty took her business in a new direction developing a range of healthy gluten, dairy and wheat free ready meals branded Kirsty’s. Listings in many of the UK’s largest supermarkets including Asda, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Ocado were quick to follow and Kirsty’s is now the fastest growing brand in its category, currently worth £4m.

Farid Khan

Dr. Farid Khan, Chairman, Protein Technologies
Dr. Farid Khan is a exceptional science-based entrepreneur and innovator. He previously worked in drug discovery for Glaxosmithkline and obtained his PhD from the University of Cambridge. Over the last four years, he has founded a number of innovative businesses and has raised angel investment. He has developed technologies and therapies for diseases in the developed and the developing world. Dr. Khan has discovered 'repositioned' drugs for Alzheimer's Disease, malaria and developed novel treatments for rare diseases.

Recently he has produced novel medication adherence devices, biosensers and imaging agents for cancer diagnosis and treatment. He has secured £multi-million funds from private and public sources, formed key interdisciplinary collaborations with industry, academic institutions and charities including stakeholders in the UK's healthcare agenda. These include the biopharma industry, Wellcome Trust, Bill & Belinda Gates Foundation and Innovate UK. A visionary leader and respected scientist, with deep knowledge in the engineering & Life Sciences sector gained through business and strong links with the bio-pharmaceutical, agri-technology and clean-technology industry, both internationally and in the UK. He has been independently acknowledged as a leader in the UK's healthcare business community and has a proven track record of innovation.

Hans von Celsing

Hans von Celsing, Executive Director, Gelexir
Hans von Celsing has over 25 years of experience from the Life Science Industry, primarily in the medical technology sector where he has co-founded and managed the growth and development of several (12) companies including fundraising and venture capital.

He co-founded Elekta AB Sweden in 1985, a leading medical technology group in radiation oncology and neurosciences and served as its Executive Vice President and COO responsible for world wide operations and business. . Elekta is today world leader in its field with a market cap over £ 3bn. In addition he co-founded Neuroventures Capital, a USA based venture capital firm dedicated to investing in emerging companies targeting the CNS, Spinal and Musculosketal diseases.

He is currently board member and advisor to a group of emerging as well as mature companies: Mevion Medical Systems Inc (USA), proton therapy for cancer treatment, Chairman of CLS AB (Sweden) a public company using laser immunotherapy for cancer treatment, Sonowand A/S (Norway) Gelexir Healthcare UK and Partner Fondkommission AB, (Sweden) an investment firm with focus on SME’s. He was Chairman of Bioxydyn Ltd in 2010/11 another University of Manchester spin out company and Chairman of Mirada Medical, Oxford.

Hans is Swedish and is currently based in the UK. He has a MA Economics from Stockholm School of Economics and an MBA from Harvard Business School.