These days on London’s startup scene, it seems that if you want to be thought of as hot property, you also need to be listed property.
Hot on the heels of Business Insider’s list of the 100 coolest people in UK Tech, bookended by two of the country’s most recognisable women in tech, Baroness Martha Lane Fox, founder of LastMinute.com and an instigator of countless digital initiatives and programmes, and Eileen Burbidge, Tech City Chair and founder of VC firm Passion Capital of White Bear Yard, comes the 2016 Maserati 100.
It may sound more like a classic car race than a group of prominent “philanthropists, investors, mentors and advisors”, but this, on the face of it, unlikely alliance has done a sterling job of profiling some of the country’s most entrepreneurial, most disruptive and most entertaining business people.
The list has been compiled by a panel of experts at CFE, including founder Luke Johnson, previously Chairman of Channel 4 Television and Pizza Express, who praised entrepreneurs for creating as many as 700,000 net new jobs in 2014-2015, commenting that “their deep commitment to helping others often goes unnoticed”.
So who has made the second annual Maserati list? With a remit that casts it net wider than the traditional “techorati”, encompassing any business man or women to have made a significant contribution to the UK’s business growth across any sector, rather than the more familiar (to this column, anyway), “disruptive” tech start-ups, and including “ascending entrepreneurs”, there is room for a whole host of faces, some of them familiar, others not so much.
Anyone with a presence on the ground in Shoreditch or Camden where you will find “seed” or even “soil” stage entrepreneurs will no doubt be familiar with Rishi Chowdhury, who launched the world’s first “incubator on a bus”, Incubus, in 2013, having briefly worked at fast growth start-up Huddle, Jon Bradford, co-founder or CEO of accelerator programs TechStars, Ignite, and Europe’s first ever accelerator, The Difference Engine, launched in 2009, and Alice Bentinck and Matt Clifford at Entrepreneur First, a pre-seed investment program that introduces young entrepreneurs to one another and asks them to form companies with the help of intensive mentoring.
Then there are luminaries such as Lane Fox (although no Eileen Burbidge this year) , Sir Jack Petchey, one of Britain’s foremost philanthropists and serial entrepreneurs, an ex-navy soldier who made millions via a series of business ventures, and whose Jack Petchey Foundation has given more than £100m towards youth projects, and Dame Stephanie Shirley, a philanthropist who founded a software company that employed mostly women in the sixties, even calling herself “Steve” to give herself and her nearly 300 staff a better chance in a male-dominated industry; she now works with autism sufferers and across a range of IT projects via the Shirley Foundation she founded back in 1982.
Mentors rewarded for their efforts with a place on the list include Alison Lowe, who founded Chameleon promotions agency and now runs fashion PR agency Felicities, as well as teaching courses at the London College of Fashion, Colin Glass, a board member of the British Business Bank, Chartered Accountant and mentor to hundreds of start-up and SME businesses, and Jenny Halpern Prince, a PR expert and founder of Access, a charity that helps young people into employment via work placements.
There are also rising stars like Jamal Edwards, the face of government backed “Guild of Creative Entrepreneurs” campaign, Investor Michael Blakey, who has financially backed 21 businesses since 2000, Innocent drinks founder Ricard Reed who has since founded JamJar investments, and journalists Mike Butcher (Tech Crunch) and Sue Black (Guardian).
This list is surprising – so many different areas, careers, and approaches to business are examined; its diverse – although 50% of those on the list are London based there are representatives from Somerset, Newcastle, Scotland, Wales; even those from the capital are revealed to have cut their entrepreneurial teeth elsewhere; and its eclectic – hard working mentors and academics sit alongside millionaires, whilst serial entrepreneurs and investors share the floor with first time founders and those pursuing innovative new investment techniques. Accountants accompany writers and broadcasters.
Some might argue lists are disposable, lack rigour or merely serve as a vanity project for those included, but there is an important distinction between the listicle (10 reasons your boss will hate your new haircut) and a considered breakdown or snapshot of where things stand at a given point in time.
The Maserati 100 is in the latter category – something we can look back on in years to come and discuss whose inclusion or exclusion was controversial, who was overhyped, who deservedly won recognition, and perhaps most importantly, how each member of the list turned their inclusion into a positive, not just for them and their business, but for the communities they serve and the entrepreneurial ecosystem they are helping to seed.
Britain is a better place when aspiring entrepreneurs know who to thank, who to blame, who to contact and who to listen to – and who knows, perhaps we all know somebody working overtime to get themselves onto next year’s list. The carrot beats the stick, every time!