Reflections on Venturefest

Once upon a time school decided that a quick ramble through the Derbyshire Peaks would make men of us – Bakewell to Buxton and back: just the 25 mile trek, albeit with some of the most stunning views you’ll see anywhere in England. 

We prepared carefully, made sure we’d everything that we needed, and set off – like all 17 year old boys – full of confidence & optimism. And we finished it…knackered. There’s no other word. We were exhausted – but did we have a sense of achievement? Absolutely…

So there you are. A massively long day. Completely exhausting. But ultimately inspiring. In fact, exactly like Venturefest.

Breakfast at 7/00. Presentation at 9/30. Dinner at 7/30. Finally got home at midnight. And in between times I talked. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that meeting people and talking isn’t hard work.

It’s not like the conversation you have with your wife when (unless one of the kids is in trouble) you may only be giving 50% of your attention… Talking to clients, potential clients, people-who-might-introduce-you-to-potential-clients – and just interesting people doing fascinating things – is hard work. They’re conversations that require 100% of your attention and after 15 hours of meeting, chatting and handing out business cards Bakewell to Buxton and back seems like an afternoon stroll.

What impressed me most about Venturefest? Very easy answer – the atmosphere. There wasn’t so much a sense of optimism as a tangible sense of purpose. The feeling wasn’t “can do” – it was “will do.” Even if you didn’t understand what the twenty-something geniuses were doing on their Apple Macs you couldn’t mistake the sense that they knew exactly where they were going.

And I know that York can’t claim all the credit because there were businesses at Venturefest from all over Yorkshire & the North – and I also know I’m slightly biased – but if there’s currently a better place to live and work in the UK I would be seriously surprised.

The theme of the day was innovation – and the message was that innovation doesn’t have to simply mean products. It can mean funding as well – if the number of business angels willing to invest is anything to go by, business in Yorkshire is in rude health. Innovation in knowledge is just as important. As one speaker put it, “Our business is applying knowledge to knowledge.”

And innovation means thinking differently. No-one listening to your message? Think that it’s been said a thousand times before? Here’s a great example from the airline Cebu Pacific – even a message we all want to ignore can be made so fresh and interesting that suddenly it’s viewed 9m times.  

So surround yourself with great people and don’t be afraid to think the unthinkable – and to make mistakes. I’ve always liked the quote from Robert F. Kennedy and it seems to sum up the mood at Venturefest: Dream of things that never were, and ask ‘why not?’

Will I be back at Venturefest 2012 – both as a sponsor and a supporter? At the risk of weakening my bargaining position with Chris Wilson, absolutely. Yes, it’ll be another epic day – and yes, I’ll be exhausted. But I know that I’ll also be inspired…



  1. J. Boothferry · February 18, 2011

    Personally, Venturefest left me a bit flat this year! The attendance was certainly down on last year but the overall quality was still there. The only glimpse of true innovation was the cheeky “Tart Card” guerrilla marketing campaign by Inchpunch Design. The toilets were a work of art and I hope that poor bloke in the super tight fitting hot pink t-shirt was paid well. Hats off to them for trying something original and thanks for making me smile!

  2. the wife · February 18, 2011

    well 50% is more than I expected………… can start doing more than half the things I ask you to do from now on then….

  3. Rory Ryan · February 18, 2011

    “Our business is applying knowledge to knowledge.” – Now that sounds like horse manure Ed but given that I trust your judgement I’ll allow it. If I had read this next Monday well . . . 🙂

    • edreidyork · February 18, 2011

      Controversial I know – but I also trust the guys who said it – they’re technical genius!

      • Rory Ryan · February 18, 2011

        As I said I trust you! If it really was horse manure I’m sure you would have lt the guy know it!

  4. Rich Cadden · February 18, 2011

    Thanks for the heads up on this Ed. I turned up not really knowing what I would get out of it….and as I stared wandering round I bumped in to a few old faces that I have seen at networking events and things just seemed to flow from there. I have a couple of cards and potential meetings
    Maybe theres some science behind those tree-hugging hippys “Law of Attraction” 🙂

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