Our judges comprise of business professionals, with experience of working the entrepreneurial startup business, as well as startup entrepreneurs themselves.

  • David Bell

    • Co-founder & Managing Director
    • Simboc Limited

    Judge Round 1 and 3

    David is a highly accomplished, award winning, company director, entrepreneur, business coach and motivational speaker. David is passionate about helping others succeed and driving businesses forward to achieve their full potential. David Co-founded APC Solutions Group when he was just 17, it is now a leading global specialist in Wireless Communications and Network Infrastructure. David’s most recent enterprise was founded in early 2013: Simboc Limited, a business consultancy and management company providing bespoke services to other businesses.

    David frequently receives public speaking requests and has vast experience presenting at awards ceremonies, universities and corporate events. David Founded The Speaker Expert in early 2015 to help coach and train individuals who want to learn how to speak and present like an expert. The Speaker Expert is now the go to speaking organisation for many business owners and their teams.

  • Walter Herriot OBE

    • Honorary Doctor of Business Administration, 2008

    Judge Round 2 and 3

    Walter is one of the most important social entrepreneurs in the UK and a key contributor to the Cambridge technology base. He started his career within the world of banking before making his name as the man who nurtures UK technology enterprise – a pioneering role that has made him known throughout the East of England.

    With a sociology degree from the University of Durham, Walter joined Barclays Bank in Liverpool in the 1970s and later transferred to its Cambridge branch. He was a maverick when it came to banking, taking more risks than most, and lending money to high-tech start-up companies such as Acorn Computers. After 18 years with Barclays, Walter spent three years at Coopers and Lybrand, where he became Corporate Finance Director. He was later appointed onto the steering committee for the St. John’s Innovation Centre. Walter was the Managing Director from 1990 until he retired at the end of 2008. The Innovation Centre, based in Cambridge, is regarded as a model for incubators, particularly those linked to universities, both nationally and internationally. It provides a range of facilities and services for start-ups, including office space and business advice.

    In 1999, Walter was awarded an OBE for services to businesses in the East of England and in 2002 was the Cambridge Evening News ‘Businessman of the Year’. In 2006 he received the Queens Award for Enterprise Promotion and was appointed Visiting Professor at the University of Hertfordshire.

    In 2008, Walter Herriot OBE was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Business Administration.

    Currently Walter works with AREA and mentors students and academics wanting to start their own business. He is a member of The Low Carbon Innovation Fund and Future Business Centre Advisory Boards, the Chairman of a number of businesses and is consulted by universities and governments.

  • James Barlow

    • Freelance CFO

    Judge Round 2

    James is a Chartered Accountant and has spent the last 15 years as Finance Director of small and medium-sized companies. He has significant experience of the full life cycle of young companies – from raising finance through to successful exits. He is currently Finance Director of a number of young companies involved in the development and manufacture of Radio Frequency (RF) detection equipment, online soccer games and software development.

    As a core member of AREA, James is a guest lecture of the BA in Enterprise and Entrepreneurial Management and the MSc in Entrepreneurial Management and mentors student start-ups in Anglia Ruskin’s StartupLab.

  • Daniela Florea

    • CEO
    • Geo Strategies

    Judge Round 2 and 3

    Daniela is a successful entrepreneur having set up companies in both the UK and Eastern Europe based on the combination of geography and modern statistical methods (Big Data).
    She grew her first company from zero to 75 people before selling the Intellectual property. She has been an advisor to the UK government on cultural and business management and is known for getting things done in highly ambiguous markets. Daniela contributes to the EC Strategic Policy think tank on Digital Entrepreneurship and, amongst other things, chairs the Working Group on Leadership and Collaboration with a focus on cities as launch pads for digital transformation (Smart Cities).

    Having worked with CEDAR from 2009 until 2016, Daniela is keen to make entrepreneurial education more relevant to improving people’s lives and contributing to economic growth.
    Daniela has 22 years’ experience as an innovator, entrepreneur and leader and is well placed to share real experiences of both the challenges and joys of company leadership.

  • Ross Kay

    • Director
    • Laudens

    Judge Round 1

    Ross is an experienced UK and European patent attorney. He is also a European Trade Mark Attorney. The majority of his work is in the fields of Patents. He has worked both for law firms and in industry, notably at Motorola and Siemens. Currently, as a Director of Laudens, he has written numerous articles on intellectual property and has also talked about various current topics at conferences both domestically and overseas.

  • Dona Ardeman

    • Principal Associate
    • Mills & Reeve

    Judge Round 3

    Dona is delighted to be joining the Big Pitch team as a judge for the fifth year running.  Dona is a corporate solicitor with specialist experience in investment fund creation and early stage equity investment work in the private equity, venture capital and alternative finance sectors. She acts for a wide range of clients, from investment managers and venture capital funds, crowdfunding platforms, universities, technology transfer offices and business angels to entrepreneurs, companies and their officers.   She also advises on a wide range of matters from the structure, setting up and running of an investment fund or business through to financing, restructure, and exit.

  • Neil Prem


    Judge Round 2 and 3

    Neil Prem is the Head of Enterprise Engagement for Allia Ltd, a social enterprise supporting entrepreneurs to make their ideas happen.

    He has helped to create over 400 new social businesses, enterprises and community projects and is currently seeing amazing success with his Future Possibilities Workshop and 30 Day Challenge supporting social entrepreneurs to identify and turn their passion into profit.

    He is a highly sought after speaker and career coach working with some of the world’s leading universities including Cambridge, Imperial College and Oxford.

    One of the first professional coaches in the UK he has a passion to see leaders find their life’s work and has personally trained over 40 career coaches and has developed widely used innovative coaching models.

    He previously founded Studentmania, The World Changers Trust and The Life Purpose Institute and wrote “The Unofficial Guide to Surviving University.”

    He is a stroke survivor, has lived worked and travelled in over 25 nations and loves coffee, cricket and powerlifting.

  • John Niland

    • Chief Executive
    • Provide

    Judge Round 1 and 3

    John Niland has a degree in Politics from the University of Essex and post-graduate degree from the University of Southbank in Urban Policy.

    Although the bulk of John’s career so far has been in the local government setting, having worked for 16 years in various positions, he previously worked in both the voluntary and independent sectors. He was a transport planner with Essex County Council before moving into the planning and commissioning services in social care. He is credited with setting up community and accessible public transport schemes across the county of Essex.

    John’s involvement with the NHS began in 2004 when he became PEC Chair of the former Maldon & South Chelmsford PCT, and then Joint PEC Chair of Mid Essex PCT. He was appointed Project Director, Provider Services in April 2007 and is now the Chief Executive of Provide, a multi-award winning Community Interest Company in 2013 of the following national awards :-
    Social Enterprise category of the year National Business Awards, The Philip Baxendale Award – Cabinet Office Public Service Mutual Award, contribution to their profession. The annual Giving Voice award, run by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) and the Social Enterprise award in the Health and Social Care category. He recently won the Ernst Young Regional Entrepreneur of the Year Award for London and South then subsequently won the UK National Award for 2014 and is one of only 15 Mutual Ambassadors for the Cabinet Office.
    In October 2015 John received an honorary doctorate award in Health Sciences from Anglia Ruskin University.

  • Christine Michaelis


    Judge Round 1

    Christine is a trained Coach and NLP Practitioner. She has worked in marketing and advertising for more than 10 years before she decided to start her own business as a marketing and creative start-up Coach. Now she is mentoring students at the Anglia Ruskin University and University of Essex that want to start their own business as well as working with individuals and small business. With her hands-on approach, she has helped hundreds of individuals validating their business idea and creating a successful start-up.

  • Louise Stephens

    • Director - Marketing Fox Limited

    Judge Round 1

    Louise is the Director of Marketing Fox Ltd, a full service marketing agency based in Essex. Having spent her entire career working with some of the world’s largest brands she decided to start Marketing Fox to bring ‘Big Marketing to Small Businesses.’ In addition to running her business, Louise is also a mentor for entrepreneurs across East Anglia and spends much of her spare time helping young businesses get off the ground.

  • Julie Horne

    • Cambridge Leadership Coaching

    Judge Round 2

    Julie is an experienced ICF Master accredited business and executive coach and proven businesswomen with ‘hands-on’ experience of entrepreneurship and enterprise development.  Based in Cambridge, She has over 25 years experience of working as a consultant and coach with senior executives, academics, entrepreneurs and high potentials mainly with science, engineering and technology backgrounds.

    Following an early career in teaching and graduate careers publishing she founded Oakland Innovation Ltd to provide consulting services to support innovation in Global science and technology based companies and Universities. Working closely with the UK research Councils, Universities and Industry she has led a wide range of projects to promote knowledge and technology transfer both in the UK and Globally. After 17 years, her interest in this international business was successfully sold in 2006.

    Julie is passionate about encouraging and supporting people with entrepreneurial spirit to fulfil their potential and has since developed a variety of ways to enable this passion. She trained with The Neuroleadership Group to become a qualified coach and has built a successful practice coaching entrepreneurial individuals in business and academia. She regularly coaches for The Leadership Foundation Programmes, London Business School, CASS business school and Imperial College MBA programmes and staff development. In Cambridge she is an ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ with Anglia Ruskin University where she contributes to the business teaching programmes as well as mentoring budding entrepreneurs. She is also a coach/mentor and business advisor for several of the University of Cambridge start-up and business growth facilities. Her business clients include Board members in technology start up and high growth companies as well as a variety of ‘blue chip’ companies such as Marshall Aerospace; Handelsbanken; GSK; Morgan Stanley; T-Systems; and Aveva.

  • Holly Knower

    • CEO of the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE)

    Judge round 1 and 3

    Holly is the CEO of the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE), working with entrepreneurial students across 260 UK campuses. Holly is passionate about ensuring as many students as possible have the right skill set to be able to set up their own businesses, become more enterprising and to develop social enterprises. Previously, she held varying roles including as a graduate Teaching Assistant on the Fashion Promotion course at UCA.

  • Andy Brady

    • Programme Manager, 3rd Sector Futures, Anglia Ruskin University

    Judge Round 1

    Andy Brady is a SFEDI accredited social enterprise adviser, with over twenty years’ experience working in and with the third sector.  He leads the university’s 3rd Sector Futures unit, and is course leader for the Cert HE: Charity and Social Enterprise Management.  Andy is an experienced lecturer with a track record of designing and delivering innovative learning programmes for social entrepreneurs.  He has a Masters in Community Enterprise from the Judge Business School, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

    To find out more about Andy and 3rd Sector Futures Click here

  • Daryl Sharpe

    • PHD Candidate, Anglia Ruskin University

    Judge Round 1 and 2

    Daryl is a PHD Candidate with several years’ of experience working and studying in Higher Education, Student Politics and the creative arts. She holds an undergraduate in BAHons Drama, and worked for two terms in Anglia Ruskin Students’ Union; for one of which she was President. She has been involved in various local radio, film, theatre and photography projects, which have helped other like-minded entrepreneurial students; such as the recently founded Shedload Theatre, Spark in the Dark Films, and CamFM. Daryl’s thesis examines First Generation Students’ involvement in entrepreneurial activity on UK campuses and at her time in the SU she successfully led a monthly networking event working with student musicians and professional artists. She is curious to find Big Pitch ideas that get people thinking, connect with current events, and engage communities.

    Linkedin: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/daryl-sharpe-599502b9

  • Elene Marsden

    • Trainer – betterACTnow

    Judge Round 1

    A serial entrepreneur with a passion for teaching business owners to increase their skill set in topics as diverse as ‘How to Present Effectively to Unleashing the Power of Excel.’ Her betterACTnow company created, recorded and distributed training CDs designed to help businesses manage their database lists. Now she works with business owners to implement video into their marketing mix. Creating YouTube channels and uploading fresh video content is something Elene has proved works with her Preloved Chica brand on YouTube. Elene’s favourite mantra is Continuous and Never Ending Improvement.

  • Lisa King

    • Director - Burdett King Accountancy Limited

    Judge Round 1

    Lisa joined a medium sized firm of accountants from school and obtained the accountancy qualifications of both the AAT and ACCA. She subsequently moved to Cambridge and joined a local firm where she was made a partner in 2001. Lisa’s focus has been on owner managed businesses and has experience in many aspects of accounting including: audit, compliance work, tax – both corporate and personal, specialist accounts e.g. charities and providing general business advice. In 2013 Lisa set up on her own, trading as a Limited company.

  • David Sexton

    • ARUL Principal, MSc, CPFA, FHEA

    Judge round 1

    Following thirteen years working as a senior academic with Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), including three years as a Head of Department within the Business School, David joined ARU London as a senior lecturer and academic adviser in 2007.  He filled the role of Executive Director and Dean at ARUL in 2010 and has been Principal since 2012.

    After a decade in the accountancy profession, culminating in several years as a Group Accountant, David has led several educational organisations through substantive change including transforming a failing primary school as Chairman of Governors, and re-launching an academic community (ACIPFAL/JFMPS).

    David has been directly involved in the launch and growth of three Start-Up organisations, has mentored several budding entrepreneurs, and advised numerous small businesses.

  • John Thompson

    • Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at the Lord Ashcroft International Business School

    Judge round 3

    John Thompson is Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at the Lord Ashcroft International Business School; he is based in Chelmsford. He has an on-going research interest in the attributes of entrepreneurs and he has long been active in enabling both entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Prior to joining Anglia Ruskin he was instrumental in setting up two business incubators. He received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2009.