Graduate special guest speaker at Venturefest

Employ a student or graduate

1 June 2015

The first ever Venturefest West Midlands event has announced its full line-up of expert seminar and workshop speakers – including an entrepreneurial Aston graduate.

Technology and Enterprise Management graduate, Leigh Purnell, will deliver a special presentation on the challenges of founding a company at the one-day exhibition, which is aimed at the region’s small business owners and start-up companies.

Other speakers joining Leigh, who founded Birmingham-based technology start-up Petalite, will include business luminaries such as Jenny Tooth OBE, CEO of national trade organisation UK British Angels Association, Tony Davis, Commercial Director of West Midlands Academic Health Sciences Network, Raj Mack, Head of Digital Birmingham, and Gaynor Dykes, Regional Director of Business Growth Service.

As well as bringing together investors, the business community and innovators to meet, engage and discuss ideas, Venturefest WM also represents a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs and small businesses to raise their profile and pitch for financing.

The finals of Pitchfest, a business competition organised by Aston Business School, the University of Birmingham and the University of Warwick, will take place at Venturefest in front of an audience of investors. All participating SMEs and entrepreneurs will pitch their ideas and look for financial support. A panel of judges will vote to decide the best pitches in the Idea Stage, Early Stage and Growth Business award categories. The winners of each category will go on to compete for the overall Venturefest 2015 Best Pitch Trophy.

Paula Whitehouse, Director of Aston Centre for Growth, said: “Access to finance for small businesses and entrepreneurs is vital for growth, which is why Pitchfest is a key element of Venturefest WM 2015. A fully developed finance pitch isn’t necessary, just a viable business idea or growth opportunity and the will and ambition to succeed.”

Also participating in this year’s Venturefest WM, to be held at the NEC on 30 June, is leading UK entrepreneur, Sir Peter Rigby, Chairman and Chief Executive of Rigby Group plc, and Dr Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive of Innovate UK, who will open and close the event respectively.

Venturefest WM is free to attend. To view the exhibition, please click here or visit where you will also be able to register for the event.


For further media information, please contact Jonathan Garbett, Aston University Communications on 0121 204 4552 or

Notes to Editors:

Venturefest West Midlands

Venturefest WM will be held at the NEC on 30 June 2015. It is funded by Innovate UK, and backed by universities, science parks and business support organisations from across the region. For more information and to register for a place, go to the Venturefest WM website.

Aston Centre for Growth at Aston Business School

Aston Centre for Growth offers leading growth programmes and other opportunities for SME owners looking to grow their business.  Aston is one of only three business schools nationally to hold Small Business Charter Gold status, and we have experience of working with hundreds of SMEs to support their business growth on high profile programmes such as Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses.