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Entrepreneurs

Founder and CEO, WorldRemit
Somali-born businessman Ismail Ahmed was inspired to set up WorldRemit when he was studying in London and experienced the frustration and cost of sending money back to family in Africa. WorldRemit allows users to send money conveniently and at low cost, and, crucially, to the ‘unbanked’ – those with no access to financial services – through mobile accounts. Its services are available to users in 50 countries who can transfer money to over 120 destinations worldwide, and it recently expanded into Russia. Ahmed was named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year for London and the South East in 2016.
Co-founder and Executive Chairman, Zopa
Zopa is Europe’s largest peer-to-peer lending service, matching lenders looking for better returns on their money with borrowers seeking low-rate loans. Since Giles Andrews co-founded the company in 2004, and now with CEO Jaidev Janardana, it has lent £1.9 billion and won multiple awards. Car enthusiast Andrews co-founded motor retailer Caverdale in 1992, leading it to £250 million in revenues, and then set up his own consultancy business before returning to entrepreneurship. In 2016 it was announced that Zopa, which stands for ‘zone of possible agreement’, will launch an online-only bank to challenge high street lenders.
Founder, Appear Here
Appear Here connects landlords who have vacant spaces with businesses seeking outlets to rent short-term. Founder Ross Bailey came up with the idea in 2012 after looking for a space from which to sell t-shirts in honour of the Queen’s Jubilee. A year later, and still only 21, he secured £1 million in investment. Appear Here’s genesis coincided with the rise of the pop-up economy, and today it works with large multinationals such as Google and Microsoft as well as tiny start-ups looking for a low-commitment space from which to sell, showcase their brand or tell a story.
Group CEO, Just Eat
Since the move of Just Eat's headquarters from Denmark to London in 2006, David Buttress has been an ever-present force at the online takeaway company. Starting as sales director, Buttress rapidly moved up the ranks to become managing director and then group CEO in 2013. Acting as an online intermediary between independent food outlets and customers, Just Eat has revolutionised the business of takeaway by making it quicker and easier to order from over 30,000 UK providers. The company was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2014 and is now worth an estimated £1.5 billion having moved into 13 different markets across Europe and South America. Buttress has a BA in Law and Business from Middlesex University Business School.
CEO, Zoopla
In the midst of the financial crisis of 2008, Alex Chesterman launched home-selling portal Zoopla and has since built it into the second-largest property website in the UK. Despite a shaky post-Brexit market, Zoopla’s sales rose by more than 80% in the last year and Chesterman has diversified the company’s offerings through acquisitions of Property Software Group and uSwitch, eventually aiming to overtake main rival Rightmove. A seasoned entrepreneur, Chesterman previously founded ScreenSelect, which went on to become LoveFilm and was sold to Amazon in 2011 for £200 million.
Co-founder and CEO, Hassle.com
Hassle.com allows customers to book and pay professional cleaners and to view and provide ratings and feedback. Founder and CEO Alex Depledge took the start-up to 70 employees and $6 million of funding within a year, and it soon expanded into Europe. Depledge is now a trusted authority on the UK’s start-up sector, working with the government as chair of the Coalation for a Digital Economy and as a founding board member of the organisation Sharing Economy UK. In 2016 she became Entrepreneur-in-Residence at venture capitalist firm Index Ventures, and was appointed MBE for her services to the sharing economy.
Founders, Transferwise
Peer-to-peer money transfer service Transferwise bypasses currency conversion and cross-border exchanges, saving its users money in fees and exchange rates. Estonian founders Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärman came up with the idea when Hinrikus was being paid in Euros, but living in London, and Käärman had a mortgage in Estonia being paid out in Euros. They agreed a fair exchange rate and each put money into the other person's account. Transferwise was launched in 2011, and now has more than a million customers, from individual freelancers to small businesses. CEO Hinrikus was Skype’s first employee and executive founder Käärman’s background is in finance.
Founders Factory
Seasoned entrepreneur Brent Hoberman was co-founder and CEO of lastminute.com and went on to be one of the major backers of online furniture seller made.com. His latest venture is start-up builder Founders Factory, which aims to create 200 successful UK start-ups over the next five years through its ‘accelerator’ and ‘incubator’ programmes. Its investors include easyJet and its portfolio currently includes Fitwell, a health and fitness coaching app, and DreamLearners, which creates animated bedtime stories for children.
Founder and CEO, Lystable
Lystable is a platform that allows companies to manage its freelance employees through individual profiles used for recruiting and training, project tracking and payment. It was set up by Google product designer Peter Johnston in 2014 with a loan from his flatmate and in response to the growing freelance economy that is believed to see 65% of professionals working as independent contractors by 2020. The company has since grown rapidly, securing funding from Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel amongst other venture capitalists, and in 2016 it opened an office in San Francisco, where Johnston eventually plans to relocate full-time.
CEO and Co-founder, Technology Will Save Us
Bethany Koby set up educational toy company Technology Will Save Us with her husband Daniel Hirschmann in 2012. The company sells DIY tech kits that enable children to build their own synthesiser, animate play dough or create a robot. Its wearable ‘Mover Kit’ recently raised $129,000 on Kickstarter, and the company has partnered with the BBC to create a microbit which will be given out to a million school children. Koby was previously design director at Wolff Ollins, and her products for TWSU have been shown at the Design Museum and New York’s MoMA.
Founding Partner, LocalGlobe
Former LoveFilm founder and CEO Saul Klein set up venture capital firm LocalGlobe in 2015 with his father Robin, also an experienced entrepreneur. The duo also collaborated on The Accelerator Group (TAG), and between them have backed successful start-ups including TransferWise, Citymapper, TweetDeck, Graze, Zoopla and Songkick. LocalGlobe’s recent ventures include WeFarm, which facilitates knowledge sharing between farmers in Africa and South America, and Echo, an app which allows NHS patients to manage their subscriptions.
Co-founder and Managing Director, Hotcha James Liang is the 35-year-old co-founder of Chinese takeaway company Hotcha, which was set up in 2011 in Bristol and now has 12 outlets. In 2016 it secured £7.5 million in funding to expand further, with ten new locations in London and the South-East due to open over the next 18 months. Hotcha chefs are trained in wok skills, and ingredients and sauces are prepared at a central kitchen to ensure consistency. Liang and co-founder Andy Chan hope that Hotcha will soon become the Domino’s of the ever-popular Chinese takeaway.
Co-founder and CEO, Blippar Visual discovery app Blippar enables brands to engage with customers through smartphones and wearable technology: users can ‘blip’ or scan a product and interact with it. Ambarish Mitra ran away from home as a teenager and was living in a Delhi slum when he won a business plan competition and $10,000. After moving to the UK and graduating from LSE, he founded several start-ups before joining forces with Omar Tayeb, Steve Spencer and Jessica Butcher to found Blippar, now valued at $1 billion. Mitra was named Ernst & Young’s UK Entrepreneur of the Year in 2016.
CEO and Co-founder, The Hut Group
Lancashire-born Matthew Moulding, who co-founded multi-website retailer The Hut Group in 2004 with John Gallemore, qualified as a chartered accountant and says he had no prior experience in online retail but ‘remortgaged everything and went for it’. The Hut Group began life as an entertainment re-seller and now owns a number of health, lifestyle, fashion and beauty brands including Myprotein, AllSole footwear and zavvi.com. With major retail veterans Terry Leahy and Stuart Rose amongst its shareholders, the group’s portfolio continues to grow, with Moulding’s objective of becoming the world’s foremost online health and beauty retailer in its sights.
Co-founder and CEO, Touch Surgery
Touch Surgery is a virtual surgery app, ‘the world’s first cognitive surgical simulator’ that allows surgeons to practice surgery on a mobile device. Plastic surgeon Jean Nehme and co-founder Andre Chow created the app as trainees, and it enables surgeons to learn and practice more than 50 procedures, from breast reconstruction to lumbar puncture. Touch Surgery is also used to reassure patients by helping them understand the surgical procedures they will be undergoing. In 2016 the company announced that it had agreed a ‘strategic collaboration’ with surgical instrument manufacturer Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
Co-founder and CEO, TechHub
Elizabeth Varley co-founded TechHub in 2009 with Mike Butcher, with the aim to nurture tech start-ups by providing spaces for entrepreneurs to meet, collaborate and network. It now works with more than 750 start-ups at any one time in major cities around the world, and runs events and advice sessions where members can access the expertise of success stories such as Jimmy Wales and Eric Ries. Its companies have raised over $1billion in funding and been bought by the likes of Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter. A sought-after commentator on the tech industry, Varley began her career in copywriting, editing and content strategy before running editorial agency Online Content UK.
Co-founders, Crowdcube
The world’s first equity crowdfunding platform, Crowdcube was set up to solve the lack of financing options for small businesses. Since its 2011 launch, it has successfully funded 473 projects and raised over £200 million. In 2016 it completed its largest deal to date, raising £4 million for goHenry, which sells pre-paid debit cards for children, allowing parents to track their spending. CEO Darren Westlake has first-hand experience of the challenges facing small businesses, having been a serial entrepreneur since founding his first company at 26. His co-founder and CMO Luke Lang previously ran his own marketing consultancy company.
Co-founder and CEO, Unruly
Ad tech company Unruly helps videos go viral, ensuring they are watched, tracked and shared through emotional engagement with viewers. From a self-funded team of three, Unruly now has 20 offices worldwide and has worked with 91% of Ad Age 100 brands to reach 1.44 billion people. In 2015 it was acquired by News Corp for £114 million. ‘Accidental entrepreneur’, co-founder and CEO Sarah Wood has been voted UK Female Entrepreneur of the Year by the Growing Business Awards, Digital Woman of the Year by RED Magazine and Veuve Cliquot’s 2016 Businesswoman of the Year.
Founder and CEO, Citymapper
Former Google employee Azmat Yusuf launched the Citymapper app in London five years ago, and it is now used in 38 cities, from Seoul to Seattle. The app helps city-dwellers plan their journeys, integrating the latest news on delays and strikes and giving options such as ‘rain safe’ and ‘bus only’. Yusuf was born in Pakistan and studied at the University of Pennsylvania, completing an MBA at INSEAD. His company raised £28 million in funding in 2016 but has yet to make money, which Yusuf expects will change in 2017.
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