Getting involved with the International Festival for Business

Taking Tech Invest north in search of businesses hoping to grow through equity funding.

I’ve just returned from our third Tech Invest forum, and first northern adventure in partnership with the International Festival for Business in Liverpool. The aim of the forums is to bring together the brightest entrepreneurial minds in the technology sector with the investors fuelling their current, and hopefully future, growth.

We were truly honoured to be part of the International Festival for Business, a celebration of the progress being demonstrated by the UK economy and testament to the influence that small and medium-sized companies will have in this.

This week, trade and investment minister Lord Livingston made his second visit to the festival and spoke about the many exciting opportunities that are available for enterprising businesses both in the UK and across the world.

As a city, Liverpool provides a great example of the kind of enterprise growth that the UK has enjoyed during the last few years. From a city once dominated by shipbuilding and the cotton trade, Liverpool is now a hotbed of start-up activity – fuelled by a growing array of incubators, university partnerships and shared working spaces.

My first visit to the festival, back in June, saw appearances from the likes of Cobra Beer founder Lord Bilimoria, head of UK primary markets Marcus Stuttard and economist and government advisor Vicky Pryce – who gave their take on the state of play, and provided opinion on what needs to be done to give businesses the best possible chance of success.

One of the most prevalent issues is access to finance, and making SMEs aware of the different options. Tech Invest made equity finance centre stage, a mechanism that is critical for technology businesses hoping to take advantage of a gap in the market.

It has been great to track the progress of businesses that presented last year as part of our maiden event, and in June when we hosted it for a second time. So far seven have gone on to raise new funds and one has even taken the plunge to become a public company.

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When I spoke to the room at Tech Invest last year, I examined some of the exciting entrepreneurs I had come across as part of my role as editor of GrowthBusiness – and the features I thought singled them out as trailblazers.

One of the key features I’ve picked up on during the last year, and one I’m sure you’ve noticed too, is the growing presence of serial entrepreneurs – those re-entering the business landscape after previous ventures.

You only have to look at the US and see how business builders who have achieved a prolific exit are continuing to drive innovation forward to see how powerful it can be.

We in Britain are now starting to see the beginning of this ecosystem of returning entrepreneurs. They are becoming prolific investors in UK start-ups as well as providing priceless advice and support to those embarking on a first-time venture. Those who have also held executive positions at market-leading businesses are seeing the benefit of getting involved in an active way with smaller businesses, handing on transferable skills and financial support.

Getting input from those who have been there, done it, and picked up the metaphorical t-shirt, will play a large part in building a sustainable growth company landscape. And as long as we continue to support the start-up companies of today with time, advice, introductions and, most importantly in the context of today, investment, Britain can start to build the billion pound ventures that will be remembered as the game-changers.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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