Michael Hayman, co-founder of StartUp Britain, draws inspiration from six innovators who show what entrepreneurs can achieve

Meet the innovators changing our world

Michael Hayman, co-founder of StartUp Britain, draws inspiration from six remarkable people who show what entrepreneurs can achieve .

By Michael Hayman

6:00AM BST 07 Aug 2013


“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” That was the clarion call of the campaign that relaunched one of the 21st century’s best-loved brands: Think Different was the defining moment for Apple and Steve Jobs. It saved a corporation and, for me, captured the essence of the entrepreneur. It can be hard to define the attributes of an entrepreneur, but you certainly know when you’ve met one. They are an impatient tribe who constantly challenge the status quo – fuelled by a driving intensity to invent or invest, to build or conquer. To get the job done. If you work for an entrepreneur, you might very well see them in extremes, perhaps as a saviour, perhaps a sociopath, very possibly both. One thing is for sure: they are far from ordinary. Steve Jobs caught the swashbuckling characteristics of the breed perfectly when he said: “It’s better to be a pirate than join the navy.” And in these turbulent times, where technology and trade make for a combustible mix, those who have hoisted the Jolly Roger rather than opting for corporate conformity are winning the battle of ideas. You don’t have to look far to find the evidence that entrepreneurs are building the titans of tomorrow. It is estimated that two thirds of the companies that will make up the S&P 500 in 10 years’ time haven’t even been created yet. Or take the Fortune 500 – almost 87pc of the companies that made up the original list in 1955 no longer feature. The lifespan of a S&P 500 company has declined from 67 years in the 1920s to just 15 years today. And it is entrepreneurs who are filling the void. As Carl Schramm, former president and chief executive of the Kauffman Foundation points out, big business has not created one net job in the US during the past 40 years. Not one. For the last four years, I have enjoyed an unparalleled vantage point from which to observe the influence entrepreneurs have on our everyday lives. The firm I co-founded, Seven Hills, is one of the fastest growing in its sector; I helped to create StartUp Britain, the national campaign for early-stage businesses; and I’ve been behind two of the biggest festivals for entrepreneurs in the UK – MADE and Accelerate. My work gives me the chance to meet some of the most exciting and innovative founders in the world. Here are six of them who have most inspired me over the past year. One you will almost certainly have heard of, the rest quite possibly not. They do not cover every sector or innovation that is changing how people across the world live and work. But they each illustrate how entrepreneurship is making a difference, and why it matters. They are the “crazy ones” who change lives.Andreas Raptopoulos (Matternet)

Earlier this year, I compered an event called Follow the Entrepreneur where I had to interview 34 speakers. The one who really stood out was Andreas Raptopoulos.

Raptopoulos is building a fleet of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can deliver medicine and other vital supplies to places hard to reach by road, whether an earthquake zone or a remote African village. These “do-good drones” can carry 2kg and cover six miles in 15 minutes, flying at an altitude of 400 feet (safely out of the way of other aircraft). They stop at a network of ground-based recharging stations, automatically swap batteries, drop off or pick up a payload, and take off again. It’s the stuff of science fiction.

Raptopoulos hatched his idea for Matternet in 2011 at Singularity University, a Silicon Valley summer school for budding entrepreneurs, and has so far run test pilots in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

And the drones aren’t just for the developing world. Imagine these little machines soaring over the traffic-jammed streets of London or New York; your Net-a-Porter order, delivered by drone.

Prediction: He will change the way we move goods.

Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia)

I interviewed Jimmy Wales on stage at Accelerate 2013 in June. It’s no exaggeration to say that this man has done more than anyone to create a global democracy of information.

He started Wikipedia in 2001 and, despite there being “no sane business plan” and “many bumps along the way”, he has built it into a category killer. Viewed by almost 500m people a month, it has become the go-to website for anybody wanting to find out about anything.

And yet there is no diminishing Wales’s urge to do new things. Outlining new plans for Wikipedia last month, he described the 12-year-old business as “a start-up in stealth mode”, capturing perfectly the restlessness of the eternal entrepreneur.

And the man who changed how the world shares knowledge has now got education, in particular outdated teaching methods, in his sights. “Our goal is really education and technology,” he said most recently of Wikipedia, also predicting the death of the university lecture at the hands of online education.

Prediction: He will challenge the status quo in education.

David Richards (WANdisco)

Every day, I get to work with some extraordinary entrepreneurs. One, David Richards – and I should declare an interest here, as I represent him – is the ultimate example of “from small acorns, do mighty oaks grow”.

He co-founded WANdisco in my home city of Sheffield eight years ago and has built it into a technology powerhouse, the backbone to the global phenomenon which is Big Data. WANdisco debuted on the Aim market at £1.80 and, little over a year on, its value has mushroomed to £9.

His company, now headquartered in Silicon Valley, makes software that allows companies to synchronise the computer programmes and documents they’re using in different locations. Hewlett-Packard, for example, has more than 40,000 software engineers in 40 different global locations running WANdisco’s software every day.

Richards is now tapping into the hyper-growth Big Data market, working with some of the key developers of Hadoop, the software that powers your Facebook updates and drives your Google Searches. To explain the value of Big Data, I am going to borrow one of David’s analogies: every 20 minutes, the world creates more information than currently contained in the Library of Congress. Think about it. Every 20 minutes.

The significance of this goes well beyond smart statistics. It’s what has allowed an MIT research team to help reduce the risk of repeat heart attacks – analysing data that would previously have been thrown away to identify deadly trends. It is allowing scientists to break down the DNA of cystic fibrosis sufferers and developed tailored drugs that give them a way of life that would have previously been impossible.

Prediction: He will equip the inventors of the future.

Charlotte Knight (G’NOSH)

When people moan that too many players in the food sector are sole traders who can’t hack high growth, I point them in the direction of Charlotte Knight, founder of G’NOSH. Here is a brilliant Kiwi who has hit the UK food industry with the full force of an All Blacks rugby pack.

Having developed a range of fresh gourmet dips in her Fulham kitchen, she launched G’NOSH last year, securing her first listing in Selfridges.

As much as Charlotte has achieved, it is what she stands for as an entrepreneur that distinguishes her. Put simply, she is a pioneer for how the entrepreneurs of tomorrow will fund their businesses.

One of the first to take advantage of the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), a genuinely innovative tax break, she was able to raise £250,000 seed funding in just six weeks from star investors including former Coca-Cola executive Robert Leechman.

Reducing the risk for angel investors who want to back start-ups, SEIS is a unique and innovative form of funding, something that was highlighted at an event I MC’d at London Stock Exchange focused on growth companies, at which Charlotte spoke alongside Business Minister Michael Fallon.

She stood out as one of the first entrepreneurs in this country who had the ambition to use SEIS to fuel her business, hiring new talent, building brand awareness, and quickly seeing the results. Her products are now sold at Waitrose and the Co-op among others. Not yet two years old, G’NOSH is already the most popular branded dip range on Ocado.

Tackling the vested interests of the food industry, showing that small producers can make it big, she is beating a path many more growth businesses will follow.

Prediction: She is at the crest of a new wave of funding growth businesses.

Glenn Paxman (Paxman Coolers)

I met Glenn Paxman on a recent visit to the University of Huddersfield’s 3M Buckley Innovation Centre, a pioneering centre which helps firms make the most of new technology. His story moved me greatly.

He lost his wife Susie to cancer – she was diagnosed at just 34. Seeing how devastated she was when she lost her hair during chemotherapy, Glenn was determined to act.

His father, Eric, had created the beer cooler so, using similar principles and technologies, he set about developing a cap that would prevent hair loss during treatment by keeping the scalp at a constant temperature.

The first prototype of the cooling cap was installed at the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in 1997 and Paxman Coolers was formed in 1998. It is a phenomenal company, taking on the shocking statistic that up to 8pc of women with cancer reject chemotherapy because of the effects of hair-loss. Around 70pc of patients who use Paxman’s systems do not need a wig.

Paxman has helped hundreds of thousands of cancer sufferers in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South America, and is now expanding the business into the US and Japanese markets.

Prediction: He will change the lives of cancer patients.

Des Gunewardena (D&D)

Des Gunewardena was behind the explosion of eating out in London in the Nineties.

He’s the Sri Lanka-born, accountant-turned-commercial brain at the helm of the Conran Restaurants empire, which includes Le Pont de la Tour, Quaglino’s, Bluebird and Coq d’Argent, plus top-notch restaurants in Paris, Copenhagen, New York and Tokyo.

What I love about Des is his passion to dominate and lead a sector. He bought out the visionary Sir Terence in 2006 and has taken the D&D group to new heights: now 34 restaurants and revenues of around £75m. His appetite for expansion is unabated.

Ask any visitor how they judge a city and many will say it is by the quality of its restaurants. D&D is at the frontline of how visitors and investors experience London, which remains the UK’s primary landing point for business travellers. He is defining the style, image and taste of our leading city.

Prediction: He will inspire the taste trends of the future.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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