Aston champions pitch-perfect small businesses

Aston Business School

11 July 2016

An innovative engineering business developing disruptive technology to produce corrugated cardboard came out on top with the Best Pitch award at a major pitching competition run by universities in the West Midlands. 

Over 70 small businesses applied to win an enviable opportunity to put their business ideas in front of eligible investors in Pitchfest, part of Venturefest West Midlands at the NEC Birmingham.

Aston University, in partnership with the University of Birmingham and the University of Warwick, gave entrepreneurs from across the West Midlands an opportunity to present to a select group of Venture Capitalist, Bank, and Business Angel investors looking for businesses to invest in and help to grow.

Applicants took part in an early series of short-listing rounds when they pitched to expert panels of investors – putting to the test both the viability of their business plans and their own ability to pitch effectively. Workshops were held at the universities to help entrepreneurs develop their pitching technique.

Nearly 30 entrepreneurs pitched in the heats, and the investor panels whittled these down to just 12 finalists who presented at the Pitchfest finals to an audience of investors, entrepreneurs and innovators at Venturefest West Midlands.  Venturefest is a major event put on by Birmingham Science City together with the universities in the region and supported by Innovate UK.  It was the second Venturefest to be held in the West Midlands and attracted hundreds of delegates to the NEC.

Pitchfest finalists had just 7 minutes to present their best case for investment, followed by intense questioning from an expert panel of investors.  Panel members on the day included senior representatives from the UK Business Angels Association, Seven Investment Management, Midven, Mercia Technologies, Ascension Ventures, Minerva, and Blue Sky Corporate Finance. 

Chosen by the Pitchfest Judges, the top three finalists each received an Investor award.  The winners, in no particular order, were: 


  • Alexander Baker, CleanCar
  • Charles Smaith, Interpac
  • Ben Simpson and Lisa Simpson, Fixers



Each of the top three were invited to pitch for an opportunity to win the coveted Best Pitch Award – the most investable pitch, as voted for by the audience.

It was Charles Smith of Interpac who won Best Pitch with a humorous and comprehensive pitch of his highly scalable, corrugated cardboard enterprise. Charles said: “We took part in Pitchfest to reach out to new investors, for help to improve our rusty presentation skills and generally sharpen up our business plan. 

"It was a really worthwhile competition to be part of, it confirmed we are on the right track and we also met with two Minerva investors and one private investor who are interested in talking further.

"You can get very isolated as small business and this sort of exposure takes you out of your comfort zone.  It’s a healthy process to go through every now and then  – especially when you make a clean sweep !”

Short-listed applicants who didn’t make the final still had their moment at the conference with a series of speed 60-second pop-up pitches, and an opportunity to showcase their business in the Marketplace – a networking and showcase opportunity for all Venturefest delegates.

This successful event attracted potential investors from across the West Midlands and London, giving business owners a rare opportunity to put themselves forward to a broad range of potential investment in their growth. 

Short Business Bios

Charles Smith, Interpac Investor Award and Best Pitch Winner 2016

Interpac, was co-founded in 2012 by Charles Smith to develop and bring to market a “cold” corrugator that does not use steam in the production process and therefore usues 90% less energy.  A working prototype has already been built.

Interpac is backed by Midven and Minerva Investment Group to build a pre-production unit.

In December 14 Interpac formed a partnership with M&K Engineering to complete the project in exchange for an equity stake.

The project is on track to complete the pre-production unit in November 16, and to produce the first production unit in April 17.

Alexander Baker, CleanCar Investor Award Winner

CleanCar informs the switchover decision-making process from petrol/diesel to electric or hybrid vehicles for the B2B Fleet/company car driver (and also the private motorist). It does this via a simple plug-in device that collects GPS data that is processed and analysed by the CleanCar platform which outputs a business case/ROI report with a suitability ranking (EV/PHEV or stay with petrol/diesel) plus recommends the ideal vehicle specification. It also accurately measures environmental impact and promotes CO2 reductions.

Lisa and Ben Simpson, Fixers

Fixers is an online marketpace to discover and book extraordinary h9olidays. They take the pain away from booking the perfect Holiday.

They are a marketplace for activity providers, tour operators, hoteliers and accommodation providers.