As well as being chair of the festival, Max Steinberg is also the chief executive of Liverpool Vision, and has been for six years. Born and bred in Liverpool, he’s every bit as passionate as you’d expect of a man in his position. And there’s no doubt that he’s incredibly proud of the festival that his team has built, happening for only the second time this year.
“2014 was the first of its kind, and a very successful festival,” he said. “We’ve learned some lessons, and this time around we’ve delivered 26,000 delegates across 80 events under one roof. We’ve heard from some amazing spokespeople. And we’ve facilitated 4500 business-to-business meetings and seen in excess of £265m of business done.
“This kind of success can be achieved in the north. When the idea was first devised, I endured 18 months of questioning on why this festival wasn’t in London; why does everything have to be in London? And then we delivered £200m of new FDI and £86m of new exports last year, so there’s plenty to be proud of.
“At its heart, this event is about doing business. The deals done at this festival produce a great number of jobs, both here in the north and across the UK.”
But there was nervousness about seeing that repeated this year, as long after the dates for the festival were confirmed, the EU referendum date was set – right in the middle of the event.
“The elephant in the room was always the referendum, and the days that followed immediately after were somewhat subdued. But we’ve still had 102 countries attending, and we’ve still had deals done here.”
Max is every ounce as passionate as you’d expect a Liverpudlian in his position to be. “If you look at some of the other modern economies of the world, the GVA differential between the capital and other major cities is much smaller than it is here.”
He cites Germany as an excellent example of that, before restating: “I believe in the Northern Powerhouse, but if we don’t have things like this in the north, the gap between the north and London won’t close – and that’s not good for UK PLC.”
And on the ACCELERATE event itself, the day which closed the festival; the decision to leave this event to the last day was very purposeful. “We’ve had groups of children through the Google Garage which we’re proud of. But the entrepreneurs of tomorrow are the people who are now in their late teens and early twenties, and the speakers today were designed to inspire young people.”
As the team enjoy a short breather, the 2018 IFB has been confirmed, and the World Foreign Direct Investment Conference is also to be held in Liverpool - work on that starts immediately.
“If we get this right, post 2020, we can continue to have the biggest biannual business festival in the world – and we can do it right here in Liverpool.”