HomeDebrett’s 500 2016Digital & Social


Digital & Social

Co-founder, Lastminute.com
Martha Lane-Fox co-founded lastminute.com, the online leisure and travel retailer, with Brent Hoberman during the internet boom of the late '90s, but since 2009 her primary role has been as the UK government's digital champion, promoting the socio-economic benefits of a digitally-literate society. In 2015 she gave the Richard Dimbleby lecture to argue that more people should be using the internet more often and she founded RaceOnline2012, which aimed to get two million more people online during the Olympics. Lane-Fox also chairs digital skills charity Go ON UK, as well as the 3D toy printing firm Makie Labs, and was instrumental in setting up the government's digital service. She is chancellor of the Open University and joined the House of Lords as a cross bencher in 2013, becoming its youngest female member.
Minister for Internet Safety and Security
Joanna Shields took up her current post within the UK government following the 2015 May general election, and her responsibilities include making the internet a safer place for children and working to remove terrorist and extremist content online. Prior to her appointment, Baroness Shields was a digital adviser to the Prime Minister and CEO of Tech City UK, leading efforts to develop the UK's digital economy. Her career began in Silicone Valley, and she worked for 25 years helping build technology companies, including as CEO of Bebo and vice-president and managing director at Facebook EMEA. She was appointed a life peer in 2014.
Co-founder, Silicon Milkroundabout
Cristiana Camisotti is a co-founder, with Pete Smith, of Silicon Milkroundabout, the tech industry's jobs fair. The company held its first event in 2011 in a pub, and its regular events now attract over 200 companies and 3000 candidates, with a first international fair set to take place in New York in 2016. In addition, its 'bootstrapped initiative' offers subsidised pitch spaces to underfunded start-ups, providing them with the same platform for investment as scale-ups and high-growth tech companies. Having studied product design at Central St Martins, Camisotti went on to lead the branding and visual design for a recruitment agency. She has since established herself as a key figure in facilitating the growth of an industry that lives or dies by talent.
Vloggers and Radio Personalities
Dan Howell (danisnotonfire) and Phil Lester (amazingphil) are video bloggers, radio personalities, best friends and flatmates with over 8 million Youtube subscribers and 4 million Twitter followers between them. Having gained followings on Youtube in their late teens, they became presenters of Radio 1's Sunday evening Request Show in 2013 before moving to its Monday night Internet Takeover. The duo published a book in October 2015, The Amazing Book Is Not On Fire, which topped hardback bestseller lists in the Sunday Times and New York Times. Their gaming platform DanandPhilGAMES, also launched in 2015, became the fastest growing channel on YouTube.
Managing Director, Gleam Futures
Dom Smales is the founder and managing director of Gleam Futures, the talent agency that represents the stars of new media. 'Team Gleam' manages individuals who have built audiences and influence largely through social platforms, securing sponsorship, advertising, book and merchandising deals, and its client roster includes such names as Zoe Sugg, Joe Thatcher, Tanya Burr and Alfie Deyes. Smales worked for a production company that created digital content before leaving to start Gleam in 2010, and his first clients were Pixiwoo, sisters Samantha Chapman and Nicola Haste from Norwich who deliver online make-up tutorials.
Partner, Passion Capital
Venture capitalist Eileen Burbidge is one of three founding partners at Passion Capital, the go-to source of investment for tech entrepreneurs. The company, regarded as one of London's leading seed investors, has provided funding for a dating app, an online furniture store and a Bitcoin exchange amongst a number of other innovative start-ups. In 2015, George Osborne appointed Burbidge special envoy for fintech – or financial services technology – as part of an overall plan to drive the UK's productivity and see it become a leading centre for financial innovation, as Burbidge firmly believes it can. She studied Computer Science at the University of Illinois and worked in Silicon Valley and for a number of top technology firms, including Palmsource, Yahoo and Skype, prior to founding Passion Capital.
Co-founder AND CEO, Techhub
Elizabeth Varley co-founded TechHub with Mike Butcher in 2009 with the aim to nurture tech start-ups by providing spaces for entrepreneurs to meet, collaborate and network. It now operates in major cities around the world, including Boston, Bangalore, Bucharest and Madrid, and runs events and advice sessions where members can access the expertise of success stories such as Jimmy Wales and Eric Ries. A sought-after authority to speak at industry events, Varley began her career in copywriting, editing and content strategy roles before running editorial and content agency Online Content UK. She went on to work with business advice site Smarta and headed the team for charity festival Twestival.
Gaming Vlogger
Better known as PewDiePie, Swedish-born Felix Kjellberg is the world's pre-eminent gaming vlogger, whose channel has been the most subscribed on YouTube since 2013, with the current subscriber figure standing at 40 million. As of December 2015, it had received a total of 10 billion views from gamers who tune in to Kjellberg's 'Let's Play' commentary on video games such as McPixel and Surgeon Simulator. Born in Gothenburg in Sweden, he started a degree in Industrial Economics and Technology Management but left in 2011 to concentrate on his YouTube career. In August 2014, in protest at the presence of spam and trolls, Kjellberg decided to disable comments on his videos. In October 2015 his book This Book Loves You, a collection of inspirational sayings and thoughts, became a New York Times young adult paperback bestseller.
CEO, Tech City UK
Tech City was set up by David Cameron in 2010 to support the East London cluster of technology firms known as Silicon Roundabout. It has since grown to work with other UK cities, offering support including training programmes, advice and advocacy to digital entrepreneurs throughout the country. Gerard Grech has been CEO since 2014, but came to the tech sector via acoustic engineering, which he studied at Southampton. He began his career writing about music before completing an MBA and working for Orange in Paris. He went on to Nokia and BlackBerry in New York before being headhunted for his current role.
President, TechUK/strong>
A vice-president at software company Citrix, in 2015 Jacqueline de Rojas was appointed president at TechUK, the body representing over 850 technology companies. She believes that the UK should have 'serious digital ambition' and hopes to see it become the Silicon Valley of Europe. De Rojas has worked at blue chip software companies throughout her career, including spells as managing director at Informix and Novell UK, and as vice-president at McAfee. As one of few female tech leaders, she also devotes much of her time to encouraging other women to enter and progress within the sector. She was named Most Influential Woman in IT by Computer Weekly in 2015.
Founder, SB.TV
Jamal Edwards is the 25-year-old millionaire music mogul whose media company SB.TV is the go-to platform for up-and-coming artists. After receiving a video camera for Christmas when he was 15, Luton-born Edwards started out filming his friends' rap freestyle videos and uploading them to YouTube. Since he founded SB.TV in 2006 the channel has showcased the early work of major musicians including Ed Sheeran, whose music it first played in 2010, a year before Sheeran became famous. SB.TV has recently diversified into events, curating stages at festivals such as Bestival and Wireless, and broadcasts professional recordings and interviews, with plans to cover business, fashion and sport. Edwards was recognised in the 2015 New Year Honours list, being appointed MBE for services to music, and in the same year it was reported that he had joined Apple Music, further expanding the reach of the artists he supports.
Co-Founder, Wikipedia
As co-founder of not-for-profit online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales has unparalleled influence over the information accessed by the global public every day. He first became 'addicted' to the internet during the early '90s when he worked for an options and trading firm in Chicago, and began writing code in his spare time. He left his job to become an internet entrepreneur, and after a few false starts, arrived at the idea for Wikipedia, outlining his aim to create a world 'in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge'. Wales's for-profit company Wikia is a website hosting a collection of 'wikis' on different subjects, including Memory Alpha – catering to fans of Star Trek – and Wookieepedia, devoted to Star Wars. He is a vocal campaigner against internet censorship and hopes to persuade China to lift its existing block on Wikipedia.
The Body Coach
Joe Wicks is The Body Coach, a nutritionist and fitness expert who has become an internet hit, accruing thousands of fans and followers for his humorous workout videos and quick, healthy meals. His 90-day SSS (Shift, Shape and Sustain) plan claims to transform users' bodies in three months through tailored nutrition and fitness plans, and includes a 'coach hero' providing support via email. A gallery of 'before and after' transformation photos on The Body Coach website pay testament to the plan's success. Wicks has a sports science degree and worked as a personal trainer for five years. His first book, Lean in 15, containing recipes and home workouts, was published in 2015.
Founder, Lepe Partners
Jonnie Goodwin is a founding partner at Lepe Partners, the independent merchant bank for the media, internet and technology sectors. He set up the company in 2012 after leaving US investment bank Jefferies, to whom he had sold his previous company, corporate finance boutique Longacre Partners. Lepe oversees multi-million pound deals such as the 2013 merger between PrimeLocation and Zoopla, and provides investment and advice to internet entrepreneurs and businesses. Goodwin studied at Nottingham, but was more interested in his own entrepreneurial ventures – selling rugby shirts and own-label wine, and running sailing courses. He is also a co-founder, with lastminute.com's Brent Hoberman, of Founders Forum, which runs annual events for leading entrepreneurs and rising stars.
Founder, Mumsnet
Justine Roberts launched Mumsnet in 2000 after going on a disastrous holiday that inspired her to share her experience with other mums. 15 years later, the site now receives over 14 million visits per month and offers a supportive environment for both new and experienced mothers on issues such as pregnancy, miscarriage, postnatal depression, parenting and sex. It has also launched several high profile campaigns, including Let Girls Be Girls, which spoke out against the sexualisation of young girls. After studying at New College, Oxford, Roberts initially worked in the City and in sports journalism, before founding Mumsnet. She also founded sister site Gransnet, geared towards the over-50s, in 2011.
Co-founder and Co-CEO, Decoded
As co-founder and co-CEO of Decoded, Kathryn Parsons works to improve digital literacy, most notably through the tech start-up's one-day Code in a Day course. The course teaches programming languages such as HTML, JavaScript and CSS, enabling participants to build their own app and is now delivered to employees of hundreds of companies including Google, the BBC, Facebook and Lloyds of London. Decoded has branches in New York and Singapore, as well as several pop-up locations. Parsons studied Classics at university and can speak Mandarin, Japanese, Italian and French in addition to the programming languages she hopes to school the world in.
Creative Partner, Mr President, and Co-founder, Shesays
Laura Jordan Bambach spans the digital and the creative worlds with her work as creative partner at digital agency Mr President, which counts the Body Shop and Grey Goose amongst its clients. She also co-founded SheSays, a mentoring and networking group for women who want to work in digital marketing and design. Bambach grew up on a hobby farm near Sydney and attended an agricultural school before studying at Sydney's College of Fine Arts. From 2013-14 she was president of the educational charity D&AD, and she founded the Cannt Festival in London as an alternative to the Cannes Lions. Mr President was named Agency of the Year by The Drum and at the IAB Awards in 2015
Founder, Mind Candy
'Mr Moshi' Michael Acton Smith is the founder of children's entertainment company Mind Candy and creator of the BAFTA-award-winning game Moshi Monsters, which now has over 90 million users in 150 territories worldwide. Moshi Monsters offshoots include a music label and film, books, toys and merchandise, and Acton Smith has become known as one of the UK's most successful gaming entrepreneurs. He began his career launching online retailer Firebox.com with a friend in his early 20s from a rent-free attic and with a £1000 loan from his mother. In the summer of 2014, he announced that he would move to a creative leadership role at Mind Candy, stepping down from his role as chief executive, and recently launched a new app 'Calm', which teaches a variety of guided meditations as an antidote to the frenzied digital world we inhabit.
Vice-President, EMEA, Facebook
Her background is in advertising rather than technology, but Manchester-born Nicola Mendelsohn wields enormous digital influence as the head of Facebook's operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In the two-and-a-half years since she joined, Mendelsohn has seen Whatsapp join the 'Facebook family', the separation of messaging function Messenger from the main Facebook platform, and a new focus on mobile users. 35 million people in the UK use Facebook each month, and Mendelsohn is the company's most senior employee outside the US. An advocate of work-life balance and support for working mothers, Mendelsohn is industry chair of the government's Creative Industries Council, a director of the Bailey's Prize for Women's Fiction and a non-executive director at Diageo.
Inventor of the World Wide Web
As the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee is arguably the most important computer scientist of our time. He first proposed a project based on the idea of hypertext, to enable information sharing between researchers, in 1980 while working at CERN, and says his subsequent inspiration to connect hypertext to the internet was 'an act of desperation, because the situation without it was very difficult'. Berners-Lee was introduced to electronics as a child while playing with a model railway, and went on to read Physics at Oxford. He is now director of the World Wide Web Consortium, which oversees the web's continued development, and leads the Alliance for Affordable Internet. Formed from a coalition of public and private companies including Facebook, Microsoft, Intel and Google, the body hopes to make the internet less expensive so that those in the developing world are able to access it.
Director, BBC Digital
Former AOL executive Ralph Rivera brought new structure to the BBC's extensive digital operations when he arrived at the corporation in 2010. He is responsible for developing interactive services BBC Online and the Red Button and for delivering digital media across mobile devices, the web and internet-connected TV. The BBC's portfolio of websites reaches an audience of 19 million, making it the most popular UK-owned site in the world. Rivera joined the BBC from Major League Gaming in New York, where he was in charge of product development, and had previously worked at Deloitte, IBM and Pearson Education as well as at AOL. He studied at Columbia and obtained an MBA from NYU.
Co-founder and CEO, King
King Digital Entertainment is the creator of the highly addictive Candy Crush, which has kept millions of users entertained on commutes and in meetings since its 2012 release. Italian entrepreneur Riccardo Zacconi co-founded the company with Melvyn Morris in 2003, and King now has 330 million monthly users of over 200 games including Farm Heroes, Pet Rescue and Bubble Witch as well as Candy Crush. Zacconi worked as a consultant at LEK and Boston Consulting Group after graduating, and joined Swedish online messaging start-up Spray in the late '90s, moving to the UK to work for Udate prior to its merger with Match. He is also an active supporter of the government's initiative to establish a tech hub in East London.
Angel Investor
Canada-born angel investor Sherry Coutu has made investments in around 50 companies and founded a number of successful technology businesses in the financial services sector. In 2015, with LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, she launched the not-for-profit Scale-Up Institute, backed by Google, the Stock Exchange, and the Business Growth Fund, which helps promising start-ups by providing strategic advice and access to a network of advisers. The fund was set up following the publication of Coutu's Scale-Up Report, encouraging the government to increase its attention on developing companies as opposed to just creating them. Coutu founded leading investment and trading website Interactive Investor in 1994 and ran it for six years before it was acquired by AMP. In the 2013 New Year's Honours List, she was appointed a CBE for services to entrepreneurship.
Fashion and Beauty Vlogger and Author
Tanya Burr has been vlogging about fashion, beauty and baking since 2009, and her YouTube channel now has over 3 million subscribers. Burr's videos, which feature make-up tutorials and document her daily life with husband and fellow vlogger Jim Chapman, have attracted sponsorship from advertisers including Mars and Asos. Burr grew up in Norwich and, having completed a make-up course, worked on the beauty counter at Jarrolds department store. In 2014, she launched her own make-up line, Tanya Burr Cosmetics, and she published her first book Love, Tanya in 2015. 2016 will see a follow-up in the form of recipe book Tanya Bakes.
Beauty, Fashion and Lifestyle Vlogger
A surrogate big sister to teens everywhere, 25-year-old Zoe 'Zoella' Sugg provides fashion and beauty tips and make-up tutorials to her millions of subscribers on YouTube while allowing people to see behind the scenes of her life as a digital star. She began her blog while working as a 19-year-old interior design apprentice, and the YouTube channel followed shortly after when Sugg was working at New Look. With YouTube subscribers approaching 10 million, almost 4 million Twitter followers and a further 6.6 million followers on Instagram, Sugg wields an influence of which the giants of old media can only dream. Her debut novel Girl Online was released in 2014 and became the fastest-selling book of that year, with her second, Girl Online On Tour, following at the end of 2015.
All the latest news, discussions, events and offers from Debrett’s and receive £10 off your first purchase