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Meet the 2021 speakers

Simon Allocca

CFO, Rarecan

Simon Allocca, has 30 years’ experience in banking, spanning Capital Markets, Corporate Coverage, Risk and Investment Banking Business. Most recently, he was Managing Director, and Global Head of Industrials and Manufacturing at Lloyds Banking Group from 2011 to 2019. Simon, as well as being the CFO at RareCan, a company that has been established to accelerate research into the treatment of rare cancers, he is also a Non-Executive Director at CBM plc, a sustainable timber business and he is a Board member of Digital Identity Net, a fast growing Fintech company.

Roderick Beer

Managing Director, UK Business Angels Association

Roderick’s career spans over 15 years of managing, founding and growing angel groups and investment platforms that have collectively deployed over £100m of equity investment in more than 500 startup and scaleup businesses.

He started his career at Beer & Partners, one of the first and largest angel groups in the UK, and later helped form and grow a corporate finance firm as their COO.

He is now the Managing Director of the UK Business Angels Association, the trade body for angel and early-stage investing, representing over 200 organisations and that collectively deploy over £2bn p.a. in early-stage, UK businesses.

Carol Bell OBE

Strategic Advisor for the North of Tyne Cultural & Creative Sector Investment Programme

Carol is the Strategic Advisor for the North of Tyne Cultural and Creative Sector Investment programme supported by North of Tyne Combined Authority. It  is a £2.625M programme of investment in the form of Loans, Equity and Grant aid along-side a targeted buisiness support programme. The objective of the programme is to create strong, resilient and sustainable Cultural and Creative businesses and freelancers.

Richard Blakesley

Founder and CEO of Capital Pilot

Richard is founder and CEO of Capital Pilot, the Investability Ratings Agency. The company provides startups with an in-depth assessment and rating of their investor proposition, offering neutral feedback affordably and at scale.  The Investability Rating is fast becoming a signal of quality across the market.

Capital Pilot is now launching Boost Funds – revolutionary investment vehicles in which selection decisions are based purely upon ratings. This enables the rapid and low-cost creation of large and diversified investment portfolios, and will “level up” access to investment for all founders and business types irrespective of geography, demographics or sector.

Capital Pilot is the lucky 13th startup Richard has been involved with. He has plenty of founder experience – good and bad – to draw on.

Before moving into the early stage technology world Richard was Managing Director at JP Morgan, structuring complex financing transactions for large cap telecoms and technology companies.

Shaun Fooy

North East Senior Manager at British Business Bank

Shaun is the Senior Manager for the British Business Banks, UK Network for the North East England and has worked for the bank for over 2.5 years

The UK Network seeks to enhance business finance ecosystems across the UK so smaller businesses, wherever they are, can grow and prosper. It also helps the Bank develop a deeper understanding of small business finance markets in all parts of the UK so that, ultimately, the Bank can improve its support to smaller businesses everywhere.

Shaun has spent the majority of his 30-year career supporting smaller businesses in the North East providing funding solutions as a relationship manager and business development manager. He has worked for a number of banks in the commercial and corporate banking market, including Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and RBS and NatWest.

Dr Yvonne Gayle

Chief Executive, NEL Fund Managers

Yvonne is a Chartered Accountant who leads NEL Fund Managers in their mission to improve the economy of the North East by improving access to finance for growing local businesses. Other local positions include being an advisory board member on the North East Local Enterprise Partnership Business Growth board, Deputy President of the Northern Society of Chartered Accountants, advisory board member for the Durham University MBA. At a national level, she is a non-executive director for the Office of the Small Business Commissioner who manage the Prompt Payment Code ensuring fair treatment of small business by large corporates. Yvonne is a non-executive director and chair of the audit committee for the international ethical lender Shared Interest Society.

Yvonne also volunteers as a trustee for two locally based charities: Millfield House Foundation who funds policy work with the aim of reducing poverty and inequality in the North East; and the Shared Interest Foundation who seek to changes lives by breaking the cycle of poverty through the creation of resilient businesses.

Gary Gibson

CEO Dyman Advanced Materials

Gary has over 20 years of experience in technology. After graduating with a BEng -1st degree, he followed this by completing a PhD in Materials Engineering from the Imperial College. Gary was awarded The Ernest Edward Glorney Scholarship in Materials for his work in the field. Since then, he has headed many different research teams in both the UK and US. In 2010, Gary founded Ibex Innovations, who specialise in new X-Ray processes and is the inventor of most of the company’s patents. He currently remains a board member. In Oct 2018 Gary moved to work full time as CEO at Dyman Advanced Materials.

Jamie Hardesty

Head of Communications & Stakeholder Engagement, Sunderland Software City

Jamie Hardesty is a tech communications specialist and business journalist in North East England. Jamie currently works as Head of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement at Sunderland Software City, supporting the creation and growth of digital-tech companies in the region.

Previously Entrepreneur Engagement Manager at Tech Nation, Jamie has supported the scaling of tech-based companies in both the North East and across the UK as a whole. Formerly the Editor of business news platform bdaily, Jamie is passionate about investigative journalism, especially in channelling quantitative and qualitative research projects into stimulating socioeconomic improvements. Jamie has spent the last few years publishing data-led research on the North East tech sector specifically to help support regional growth.

Jason Hobbs

Chief Executive, North East Fund

Jason has worked in the development of the access to finance infrastructure in the North East for the past 17 years.  During this period he has helped to develop and manage over £300m of investment funds, including the £160m JEREMIE Fund that operated in the region between 2010 and 2016.  He is currently Chief Executive of The North East Fund, which provides loan and equity finance to SMEs based in the North East.

Having qualified as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young, he worked at Black & Decker’s manufacturing plant in County Durham, before joining The Health Clinic, a venture capital backed company that successfully floated on the London Stock Exchange, following a period of high growth and a nationwide store opening programme.  He currently sits on the investment panels of the North East Investment Fund, the North of Tyne Growth Fund and The Growth Fund.

David Holmes

Membership Manager for North East & Yorkshire, Bionow

Dave joined Bionow in early 2018. Based in Seaham, County Durham, Dave works with Bionow members across the North East and Yorkshire helping connect members and create opportunities for the regional life sciences community.  Access to investors is part of Dave’s role and he recently chaired a life science investment panel at The Biosphere in Newcastle, and in recent years he has helped shape Bionow’s annual BioCap Conference, which is a major conference aimed at introducing Life Science investors to companies based in northern England.

Dr Henry Kippin

Managing Director, North of Tyne Combined Authority

Dr Henry Kippin is managing director at the North of Tyne Combined Authority.  He was formerly an executive director at the West Midlands Combined Authority, responsible for its work on inclusive growth, public service reform, climate change and digital.  Previous to this he was chief executive of Collaborate CIC, and held roles in UK public policy and international development. He is a trustee of the Young Foundation, and between 2013-18 was a visiting fellow of the UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence.

Catherine Lewis La Torre

CEO, British Business Bank

Catherine was appointed CEO of the British Business Bank in September 2020, having led the Bank’s commercial arm since 2016 as CEO of British Business Investments (BBI) and, from October 2018, CEO of both BBI and British Patient Capital.

Prior to 2016, Catherine was Head of Private Equity for Cardano Risk Management, managing a global portfolio of private capital investments on behalf of UK pension funds. She was previously Managing Director of Paris-based European private equity investor Fondinvest Capital, a founding partner of Nordic fund-of-funds manager Proventure, after which she established a consultancy business advising Sovereign Wealth Funds and Institutional Investors in Asia, the Middle East and the US on their European private capital strategies.

Catherine holds a First Class Honours degree in Economics from the London School of Economics.

Gurpreet Manku

Deputy Director General & Director of Policy, BVCA

Gurpreet Manku is the BVCA’s Deputy Director General and Director of Policy, and a BVCA board member. She is responsible for leading the BVCA’s response to a wide range of policy challenges facing the private equity and venture capital industry from a legal, tax, reporting and regulatory perspective, both in the UK and Europe. Gurpreet is the executive liaison to the Private Equity Reporting Group, the body responsible for monitoring the industry’s compliance with the Walker Guidelines on Transparency and Disclosure. She is also a member of: the Productive Finance Working Group; the Rose Review Board supporting female entrepreneurship; the board of the Cost Transparency Initiative; and the coalition that developed the Wates corporate governance principles for large private companies. Before joining the BVCA, she worked at Deloitte LLP and specialised in auditing and advising private equity funds and their managers. Gurpreet studied at the London School of Economics and is a Chartered Accountant and a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales.

Ammar Mirza

Enterprise, Leadership & Business Management Consultant

Ammar Mirza CBE, MBA, FInstLM, FRSA, is a multi-award winning, sought after enterprise, leadership & business management consultant.  A self-made serial entrepreneur with investments across a number of sectors and industries.

Over a 19 year period Ammar has helped establish several hundred new businesses. Through his various roles including chairman and founder of not-for-profit Asian Business Connexions CIC, chair of the North East LEP’ Business Growth and founder of the SME Centre of Excellence, Ammar has made a significant social and economic impact across the Globe.

Ammar’s many accolades include Maserati top 100 Entrepreneur, English Asian Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 and being appointed a CBE by Her Majesty the Queen.

Janet Mui CFA

Investment Director, Brewin Dolphin

Janet Mui, CFA, is Investment Director at Brewin Dolphin and is a voting member of Brewin Dolphin’s Asset Allocation Committee. She has over 10 years of experience in macro research and was previously the global economist at Cazenove Capital. She is responsible for the commentary and communication of Brewin Dolphin’s macro / investment views to clients and the media and is a frequent guest on the BBC, Sky news, Bloomberg and CNBC. Janet won the best industry commentator award at the 2021 City of London wealth management awards. She has a first class Economics degree from the London School of Economics and an MBA in Finance at Cambridge University.

Deepali Nangia

UKBAA Angel Investor of the Year

Deepali is an advisor to female founders and an angel investor with a keen interest in digital health, femtech and sustainability. Deepali invests in female founders/mixed teams and some of her investments include LiveBetterWith, PensionBee, Polipop, Parla, Planera, Kama Labs, Sano Genetics, Shell Works, SideQuest, Juno Bio, Flown, Okko and Yhangry. Deepali is also a co-founder at Alma Angels (, set-up to democratize and demystify angel investing and create more female angel investors that invest into female founders. She is also an Atomico Angel and a Venture Partner at Speedinvest (where she focuses on female founders). Deepali is UKBAA’s Angel Investor of the Year.

Andrew Noble

Partner, Par Equity

Andrew is a former management consultant with McKinsey & Co, specialising in sales optimisation for FTSE 100 clients, before re-joining Par Equity in May 2019. Andrew has broad experience across the early-stage venture capital and private equity markets having personally invested in more than 50 innovative, high growth companies over the last 10 years as well as founding Transition Capital – a management buy-in vehicle focused on Scotland – in 2017, where he was managing director, leading the deal sourcing, due diligence, and fundraising efforts. Andrew is a former athlete, having competed for TeamGB in Alpine Skiing at the 2010 Winter Olympics, and holds an MBA from INSEAD Business School.

Alfredo Ramos

Managing Director, CPI Enterprises

Alfredo is Managing Director of CPI Enterprises, CPI’s investor engagement and ventures arm. Since its inception, CPI Enterprises (CPIE) has built a strong network of deep tech private investors, catalysing impactful investment and co-investing into high-growth early-stage companies at the forefront of science and technology innovation.  Alfredo has worked in diverse research and development, engineering and operational roles across a wide range of sectors including chemicals, pharma and energy. Alfredo brings key expertise in digital design and smart manufacturing having developed and commercialised digital applications as part of the leadership team of an Imperial College spin-out acquired by Siemens in 2019. He holds a graduate chemical engineering degree from RWTH Aachen University (Dipl.-Ing.) and an MBA, with distinction, from London Business School.

Alderman William Russel

Lord Mayor of the City of London

Alderman William Russell took office as the 692nd Lord Mayor of the City of London on 8th November 2019. He served as a Sheriff of the City of London in 2016-17 and, in that capacity, supported the then Lord Mayor, undertaking numerous visits and official functions. On 30th September 2020 William was elected to serve a further year in office, to provide continuity of civic governance during the Coronavirus emergency.

His mayoral theme for his time in office is “Global UK – The New Future”, supporting businesses through the COVID19 crisis, speeding the recovery and seizing the opportunities of the new future.

William has over thirty years’ experience in the financial and business City including holding senior positions in the national and international Banking sector. In 1987 he went to work for First Boston Corporation before joining Merrill Lynch in 1992 as an Investment Banker in Institutional Equity Sales, working in Asia, New York and London. William is currently Chair of CDAM, a London based Asset Management business and Senior Advisor to STJ Advisors.

William served on the Board of Innovate Finance, the industry body for the UK based Fintech community and is also an educational entrepreneur, as the co-Founder and Chair of Knightsbridge School and a Director of Knightsbridge School International (KSI). William is a member of the Campaign Board for Durham Inspired, a landmark philanthropic campaign focused on ensuring Durham remains at the forefront of learning, research and education for generations to come.

Evelyn Simpson

Director, Investing Women Angels

Evelyn Simpson is a highly experienced advisor, coach, mentor and non-executive director. She works extensively with early-stage companies and their founders with a particular passion for working with female founders.  She is an entrepreneur in her own right having co-founded her own coaching and training firm.

A former investment banker, Evelyn worked for JP Morgan Chase executing a range of corporate finance and M & A transactions around the world.  Later in her banking career, she was COO and board member for Chase Manhattan Asia Limited in Hong Kong.

Evelyn serves as Chair of Neatebox Limited, a tech start-up. She also chairs the Board of Trustees of Venture Scotland, a mental health charity, and is a director of the Investing Women Angels syndicate with which she is an active investor.

She has a BA in Economics and Law from Edinburgh University and an MBA from Columbia Business School, New York

Sarah Teacher

Executive Director, Impact Investing Institute

Sarah Teacher is Executive Director of the Impact Investing Institute, a non-profit organisation that seeks to accelerate the growth and improve the effectiveness of the impact investing market in the UK and internationally. Previously, Sarah worked at Lendlease Europe as Social Impact Investment Manager within its European Investment Management business and has worked in roles at the intersection of social impact, sustainability, and private capital. Sarah was a Director for Next Generation Philanthropy at the Institute for Philanthropy and currently serves as a Director of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and its European Chair.

Jenny Tooth


Jenny is CEO of the UK Business Angels Association, the trade body for angel and early-stage investing, representing over 18,000 investors around the UK. Jenny has over 25 years’ experience of facilitating SMEs’ access to investment, both in the UK and internationally. She ran her own consultancy on access to finance for SMEs, including spending nine years based in Brussels, working closely with the EC. In 2009, Jenny co-founded Angel Capital Group, incorporating London Business Angels, one of the most established and active angel networks in the UK and which was sold to Newable in April 2017.

Jenny is an angel investor and in her role at UKBAA she focuses on building the angel community around the UK and developing an effective and connected ecosystem for the angel and early stage community. She works with Government and major stakeholders and sits on a number of boards in both the public and private sector.  Jenny is also an experienced speaker on angel investing and entrepreneurship both in the UK and internationally. She has an MSc in Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Jenny was awarded an OBE in 2015 for services to small businesses.

Lee Viney

Regional Manager for Yorkshire, Humber and the North East, Innovate UK

Lee joined Innovate UK from the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority and Local Enterprise Partnership following a career in public sector economic development. Lee’s experience has mainly been in entrepreneurship, scale-up, innovation and commercialisation, with cross policy links into skills, trade and investment and business finance. Within this area Lee has led the development and managed the delivery of public funded business support programmes and contributed to local and regional economic policy.

Nigel Walker

Deputy Director, Lending & Investor Partnerships, Innovate UK

Nigel is part of the team delivering Innovate UK’s innovation loans and investor partnerships programmes. He is a director and member of the credit committee of Innovate UK Loans Ltd.  Prior to this role, he headed the organisation’s support for innovative SMEs in gaining access to private sector capital to accelerate the journey from concept to commercialisation.

Nigel has a background in the financial services industry, having qualified as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Whinney and spent over 10 years at each of Deutsche Bank and GE Capital.  At GE, he established the European ‘Access GE’ programme, advising, coaching and mentoring management teams of businesses owned by private equity firms on operational excellence, acquisition integration, strategy development and leadership.

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