VentureFest North East is all about creating a space for businesses from all sectors, of all sizes to network, collaborate and learn from one another.

That’s why we handpick a diverse range of inspirational speakers from regional, national and international platforms who have a story to tell, who have transformed their sector and have business advice to give.

Our speakers are at the forefront of innovation and draw on their experience to offer delegates advice on how to use innovation to take their business to the next level, whether it’s growing, getting investment or gaining new connections.

Take a look at the 2019 VentureFest North East speakers below and sign up to our newsletter for more information on speaker announcements for the next VentureFest, happening on Wednesday 17th March 2021. 

Felicity Burch

Director of Innovation and Digital at CBI

Felicity leads CBI’s policy work to create the conditions that enable businesses to come up with new ideas, invest in research and development (R&D) and adopt new technologies. She also manages the CBI’s partnership with the trade association, Sharing Economy UK, which represents businesses that use the internet to share skills, space and stuff.

Prior to her current role, she was the Head of Innovation and Digital, where she led the CBI’s successful campaign for the government to commit to a target for R&D expenditure, as well as agenda-setting work on technology adoption. Felicity’s first role at the CBI was as the Principal Policy Adviser on labour markets, where she was responsible for the CBI’s agenda on pay and the future of work.

Felicity’s background is in Economic Policy, focused on business growth. Before the CBI, she was Senior Economist at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation. In this role she led the development of their innovation policy and industrial strategy work and delivered a breadth of economic and industrial trends research. She has also worked on Experian’s Economic Policy team, with a focus on regional growth.

Dean Benson

Founder and CEO of Visualsoft

Dean Benson is the founder and CEO of Visualsoft, a full-service eCommerce and digital marketing agency headquartered in Stockton-on-Tees. The award-winning company set up shop back in 1998 and now employs a team of over 280, across three UK offices in Teesside, Newcastle, and Manchester.

As a North East business leader, Dean is heavily involved in investing in the tech sector with a keen eye for future growth opportunities. Dean is eager to work towards changing the future for young people across the Tees Valley, which is why he’s currently involved in a number of exciting projects aiming to overcome skill shortages within the tech industry. He has also recently joined the Board of Governors at Teesside University.

Ron Ashtiani

Creative Business Leader

Ron Ashtiani has provided creative leadership on 3 block buster Marvel movies, over 30 games, and has worked with huge brands like J.K Rowling, Warner Bros, Sony and Microsoft.

He has led several businesses over the years and in 2009 formed visual design company, Atomhawk, which he built from a team of 4 into an international brand with studios in the UK and Canada.

Ron has been listed in both the UK top 100 people in video games and the UK top 100 in digital media.

Helen Cadzow

CEO of Cadzow Estates

After a career in sales and marketing management Helen started her first company using her global network to advise companies at board level on sector strategies and breaking into new markets such as Russia. She formed her first property development company five years ago and is passionate about bringing investment into the region.

Patrick Ferran

Co-President and Chief Sales Officer of NineSigma

Patrick started his career in R&D at General Electric in the USA. He then joined Thalès Avionics in France to work in product development and global customer support services for the airline business. He pursued his career in management consulting at Andersen Consulting. From 2000 onwards, Patrick was involved as a founder and executive in high-tech start-ups, active in IT & Database infrastructure and internet applications.

Patrick got a Master of Science in engineering from Ecole Polytechnique of the Free University of Brussels in 1987 and an MBA from Sciences Po Paris in 1996.

Vijay Tailor

Lead Application Engineer at Notpla

Vijay Tailor is the Lead Application Engineer at Notpla, a start-up trying to make plastic packaging disappear.

Starting his career in the fast-paced electronics manufacturing industry part of the Research & Development team at M-solv Ltd. Moving on to the electronics engineering group to help customers in the smart phone and renewables sectors to industrialise new and novel process.

He became specialised in the flexible and printed electronics field, bring scale and profitability to customers.

He is constantly tinkering with personal and external projects. Building and programming Food printers, Drones, electric skateboards and autonomous robots. Like most scientists and engineers, he is motivated to leave the planet in a better state than when he came into it.

Kresse Wesling MBE

Co-Founder at Elvis and Kresse

Kresse Wesling, MBE, is a multi-award winning environmental entrepreneur and Young Global Leader with a background in venture capital and significant start-up experience.

After first meeting with the London Fire Brigade in 2005, Kresse launched Elvis & Kresse, which turns industrial waste into innovative lifestyle products and returns 50% of profits to charities related to the waste. Elvis & Kresse’s first line is made from decommissioned fire hose, 50% of the profits from this line are donated to the Fire Fighters Charity.

The company now collects 12 different waste streams, has several charitable partnerships and is involved with collaborations across industries, from FTSE 100 companies to fashion houses, including a current, 5 year partnership with the Burberry Foundation.