The best startup advice in the UK. We explore what it's really like to be a top entrepreneur and how to get there. Founders of startups like Monzo, BrewDog, Slack and Jo Malone tell us about their biggest challenges, key decisions and life-defining moments. How would you respond if you arrived in the UK as a penniless refugee? Or had to fire your Mum? Or had a billion dollar deal fall through your hands at the last minute? Learn how to lead from business greats.
How many times have you stood in front of a wall of wine in a supermarket and taken a punt on one because the bottle looked nicer than the others? We’ve all done it… and often been disappointed by results. So, in 2009 Heini Zachariassen, Co-Founder, Former CEO and current board member of Vivino, decided to fix the problem. “Why is wine something that nobody has disrupted? And why is wine something where the only thing I can base my decision on is looking at a label.” Vivino’s mission is to help people find better wine and they’ve been doing it primarily through their mobile app which lets you scan bottles to find reviews, ratings etc. - and ultimately make better wine buying decisions. Vivino isn’t Heini’s first rodeo. His first foray into entrepreneurialism was with BullGuard, a company delivering cybersecurity and VPN solutions. “The real success for me in doing your first startup is learning. It's just incredible how much you learn, what kind of mistakes you do, and that just comes back at you later. That's why second time founders are just better than first time founders.” You don’t build a startup alone, says Heini, you aren’t the only one doing the work. Your family has to make sacrifices, your spouse, your children. And when things go wrong, you feel them in your body. Find out what he means… Sponsor links: smithandwilliamson.com/secretleaders netsuite.com/secretleaders linkedin.com/secretleaders vanta.com/secretleaders
44 min 40 sec
Growing a company to 14 million users and a valuation of $1.5 billion should be cause for celebration, but, like so many founders, for Vinay Hiremath, Co-Founder and CTO of Loom, it’s difficult to enjoy your successes. In fact it’s the failures that tend to stick with you. Loom, a video communication tool for businesses, wouldn’t be here today if Vinay and his Co-Founders hadn’t had their ‘sliding doors’ moment which revealed what they should be building right before they were going to have to give up. “Half the battle is figuring out what the fuck the problem even is, right? What pain points do people actually have? As you're pivoting, you end up finding something that works, and maybe it doesn't line up with your hypothesis perfectly, and usually it doesn't make any sense. And if you see traction, that's the point where you hop on and say, Okay, I'm here for the ride.” And what a ride it’s been. Most founders would be ecstatic if they hit one macroeconomic trend - Loom hit four or five, back to back. But the problem with phenomenal growth is the human cost: the toll it’s taken on the team, on the engineers, on Vinay’s mental health. Is it worth it? “Every year or two years, you're faced with some situation where you're like, is this worth it? Like, am I the right person? I wish I could say that it gets easier. But for me, it really hasn't.” Sponsor links: smithandwilliamson.com/secretleaders netsuite.com/secretleaders linkedin.com/secretleaders vanta.com/secretleaders
44 min 53 sec
Larry Gadea built the world's biggest Pikachu pictures website at 12 years old, was recruited by Google at 17, joined Twitter after college and then left to found Envoy in 2013. He did all this after getting smuggled out of Romania as a young child in the late 1980s and watching his parents have to restart their lives several times. Normally childhoods filled with upheaval breed an aversion to risk - but not in Larry. Envoy is a workplace management tool that helps with things like letting you know when visitors have arrived at your office and booking meeting rooms. 16,000 workplaces were using Envoy, so on paper it looked like Larry had the dream career. But then Covid hit. “So here we are with our products almost exclusively built for these workplaces that you can't go in. At first it was a little bit crazy. It was very scary, like what do you do?” Find out how Larry and Envoy have got past this genuine iceberg. Sponsor links: smithandwilliamson.com/secretleaders netsuite.com/secretleaders linkedin.com/secretleaders vanta.com/secretleaders
40 min 59 sec
After exiting Songkick, Michelle You was burnt out. It felt like failure and grief (her words). She spent a year backpacking around the world, living on $2 per day, trying to figure out what it took to make her happy, to figure out what mattered to her and what her next business move was. “I went camping and hiking and surfing and climbing for the first time. And it was that that made me fall in love with nature. And that was my gateway drug into the climate change crisis.” Michelle is determined not to repeat the same mistakes she made at Songkick at Supercritical, the climate tech startup helping businesses actually achieve net zero. “It took me personally lots of coaching and conversations to feel like okay, I really feel ready now to dive in again, because I was scared, you know, I was really scared of failing, I was scared of having a bad idea, scared of replicating terrible decisions, terrible experiences.” Find out how Michelle found herself again after feeling like a massive failure from her first startup, and why she’s built a climate tech software platform that isn't all just planting trees. “We measure the carbon footprint end to end. This typically takes somebody six months of working with a consultant charging five figures. And that's what I learned [during] my time at LocalGlobe. This can be done with software.” We chat about: Why the end of Songkick felt like grief The importance of a good product discovery process Why climate is the next diversity and inclusion Sponsor links: smithandwilliamson.com/secretleaders netsuite.com/secretleaders linkedin.com/secretleaders vanta.com/secretleaders
35 min 34 sec
Miki Agrawal was forced to become an entrepreneur having started her career, in her own words, as an awful employee: “I got fired from pretty much all of my jobs growing up, because I just wasn't listening, or I was questioning or I was talking back or I was running in the hall or I was eating while on the job or giving away smoothies to friends. Whatever job I had, I did something wrong.” The daughter of an immigrant who came to the US with $5 in his pocket, Miki learned early that if you see something you don’t like, question it and fix it even if you don’t have resources - even if you have no money. Miki nearly didn’t become an entrepreneur - she was going to be a professional footballer before fate decided otherwise. But now she’s the founder of Tushy, one of the most unusual startups we’ve had on the show. Tushy makes a collection of bidets and other accessories for the bathroom to help you become more hygienic, less wasteful - and kinder to your bottom. “My boyfriend, now husband, got me this really crappy birthday product that he found in some Asian place and he installed it for Valentine's Day and he was like, ‘Look, these will help your butt’ and then it truly changed my life.” Find out how Miki dealt with theft in her first startup and poisonous politics in her second venture making period pants before she realised how much our bottoms need saving. We chat about: Why entrepreneurs have to be naive The best interview question ever Conscious businesses outperform non-conscious by up to 13 times Sponsor links: smithandwilliamson.com/secretleaders netsuite.com/secretleaders linkedin.com/secretleaders vanta.com/secretleaders
43 min 12 sec
Jesse Powell grew up poor and hustling from a young age. First, he sold physical gaming cards, then he sold virtual ‘gold’ in the game World of Warcraft - and now he’s the Co-Founder and CEO of Kraken, Europe’s largest crypto exchange - with talk of going public for $20 billion. How did he make the jump? “Bitcoin, when I read about it, I thought it was interesting. I first saw it and just thought it was like another World of Warcraft gold that we can sell on the website.” Jesse has been in crypto pretty much since the beginning, helping out in the aftermath of the infamous Mt. Gox hack when $460 million got stolen from the world’s biggest exchange. It taught him a lot about security but today it’s NFTs that have got him excited. “I think NFTs are going to be a much bigger thing. I think you'll see the tokenization of basically everything. We're already starting to see tokenized securities, stocks becoming tokenized, art is becoming tokenized.” Find out how he found the world’s best hacker and the biggest mistakes he’s made in building a multi billion pound company. “If I could go back again, what I would do is, even if I didn't need the money, I would go through one of the major Silicon Valley accelerators, I would apply for Y Combinator, and I would do it for the network. Because, you know, it's basically like your entrance fee into this elite club.” We chat about: What you learn from being poor How NFTs and DAOs will change the world Why lawmakers need to rewrite legislation for cryptocurrency What he’d do differently next time
40 min 12 sec
“Every time you masturbate, God kills a kitten, and I went ‘right, that's it, that's what I'm calling my business.’” This is the story of Killing Kittens, the cult-like sex party, founded by Emma Sayle. “Everyone starts talking to each other and mingling and then you'll see maybe a few couples disappear off into a room, or you know a group of girls go off. One minute you've got a packed bar and the next minute it's only 10 people in the bar and everyone's gone off into different rooms, getting naked, having sex, doing whatever. It’s like Dante's Inferno, limbs everywhere.” Killing Kittens begun life in 2005 as a series of monthly hedonistic parties led by empowered women in London, but it has since grown into a global movement including apps like the most private of private messaging platforms. In this latest episode, Emma shares where the idea for Killing Kittens came from, why women today are much better at owning their sexuality, sexual double standards, what to expect at a KK party, and how to turn something like this into a big business. “I need to raise money because we need to go big or go home on the whole platform side of it. And to make it fly before some Silicon Valley upstart with millions in the bank comes in claiming to own the female digital sex space.” Sponsor links: www.smithandwilliamson.com/secretleaders www.netsuite.com/secretleaders www.linkedin.com/secretleaders vanta.com/secretleaders
How do you live a happier, healthier, more productive life? This is the question that doctor-turned-YouTuber Ali Abdaal is obsessed with. “Most of my childhood was spent chasing this dream of making magical internet money that mostly didn't work out. And it was like a string of failures. But when I did end up making magical internet money, I felt that a lot of the failures from childhood had been worth it.” Ali’s first business, 6Med, which he started in university in 2013, helps people get into medical schools and has been used by over 10,000 prospective doctors. But recently his career took an interesting turn when, having paused being a doctor to focus on becoming a YouTuber, he realised that his real love was teaching. With over two million subscribers and videos that have racked up over 145 million views, Ali has definitely found his niche. “I started seriously asking myself the question like, what the hell do I want to do with my life? One exercise I found really helpful was thinking about what do I want written on my gravestone? I ended up landing on some combination of good dad, good husband, and inspirational teacher.” Find out how to be more productive, why having fun with your work is so important, and how to tell your mum that you’re packing in medicine for a career on YouTube (eek). Links: Ali Abdaal Dr. Grace Lordan - Think Big Daniel Pink - Drive Tim Ferriss - 4 Hour Work Week Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
43 min 25 sec
“It’s really hard for companies to get acquired. I was shocked at how many entrepreneurs reached out to me after we announced the acquisition [of Bizness Apps], like ‘how did you get acquired?’” With a couple of exits already under his belt, Andrew Gazdecki saw first-hand how broken the process of selling a company was. He used that experience to start MicroAcquire in January 2020, a platform that helps startups get acquired by connecting them with buyers within 30 days. The goal is to give startups an alternative to brokers that’s easier, cheaper and more likely to succeed - and it’s working. In this episode, Andrew discusses the cut-throat world of clarinet playing, graduating Chico State with 2.07 - the lowest GPA of any student in their history; starting and exiting Bizness Apps and Altcoin.io; diagnosing the problems between private equity and entrepreneurs, and why he would support any of his employees who quit MicroAcquire to start their own company. “Entrepreneurship isn't for everyone. It's about understanding who you are as a person. But what I think about a lot is just, the fear of regret is so much heavier than the fear of failure.” Download and listen today.
“When I was about 28 or 29 I had a squirting orgasm, I completely lost my mind. I couldn't tell if I was having a religious moment or a seizure, or maybe both or neither. As I lay there on the cold tile floor staring at the ceiling, all I could think was, oh my god, how do I do that again? And more importantly, how do I do that again by myself?” Lora DiCarlo is the founder of the sex tech startup also called Lora DiCarlo, and is determined to change the face of sex products. Having won an award for their first prototype at the world famous Consumer Electronics Show in 2019, the award was subsequently revoked for being ‘obsence, profane and immoral’, prompting outrage over the double-standards on women’s sexuality. Lora’s is a story of orgasms, scandals, celebrity power, the patriarchy, and a sprinkling of robotics engineering. Oh and find out how to bring on board Cara Delevingne as a co-owner…
45 min 4 sec
Dame Stephanie Shirley, known as ‘Steve’ for reasons explained in the podcast, escaped Nazi persecution before founding a software startup in 1962 with just £6 which provided employment to hundreds of women when they weren’t taken seriously in the workplace. “I remember selling a six figure software project to a junior minister, and he was trying to pinch my bottom. It was very hard to maintain a sort of professionalism.” Steve’s story is one that reminds us both how much the world has moved on since the early days of her startup, and sadly how little has changed. “I can't believe how today we're still talking about the same sorts of things that I was talking about 50 years ago: feeling undervalued, women’s ideas taken and presented by men as their own, women being talked over, women being patronised, women being sexually assaulted.” From coming to England on the Kindertransport in 1939, to falling in love with mathematics, being appalled at pay inequality, founding her own company (Xansa plc, now part of the Sopra Group) in 1962, and navigating the 1975 equal opportunities legislation: “We tried to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. But all in all, we realised that that was the way the world was going. And now of course, all of business is much more inclusive. But it was a struggle. In the early days, women were second class citizens.” Having retired from the business aged 60 (she’s now 88), Steve is now a full time philanthropist, focusing on things she knows and cares about, treating her various charities as businesses. Her advice to listeners? “All the important things that I've done have been either disruptive or long term. Sticking with 11 years for this, 17 years for that, five years [there]. These are not things that are done overnight with a burst of energy.” We chat about: From refugee to entrepreneur Why she had to become Steve to get traction Surviving a nervous breakdown Becoming a good philanthropist Links: Book - Let It Go Book - So To Speak Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
45 min 57 sec
“Technology does not appear from nowhere, it is closely allied to the shape of society. And if you have exponentially changing technologies, they will force changes on society, or create a gap.” Humans coming second best to technology isn’t a new subject but our guest today, Azeem Azhar, has a new, thoroughly researched take on it which goes further than anything we’ve seen before. Azeem is a founder, journalist, speaker and now author of the book ‘Exponential: How Accelerating Technology Is Leaving Us Behind and What to Do About It’, which is being released right now. His book, and our conversation, is about the expanding gap between technology and society - not just computing power, but energy, market control, and even how our countries are run. He presents the immense problems and opportunities this creates for us as a species. When’s the precise start date of the exponential wave? Will the growing gap between tech and society inevitably lead to conflict? Why are cities important in the exponential age? What are the major problems accelerating tech can solve? Yes, it can be a huge force for good. Find out what the future holds for our civilisation.
44 min 50 sec
How many of us are kicking ourselves for not investing $100 in Bitcoin in 2010 - it would be worth almost $48 million today. Anthony Di Iorio, one of the co-founders of Ethereum, the massive open-source blockchain, which is home to Ether, the second biggest cryptocurrency in the world after Bitcoin, is not kicking himself. Anthony was an early investor in Bitcoin putting in $8,000 back in 2012. With the proceeds of his first sale of Bitcoin, Anthony was able to initially fund Ethereum with the few million dollars he made. Anthony stepped away from Ethereum in 2015, and is currently the founder and CEO of the blockchain company Decentral - a software development company he founded that focuses on blockchain tech. Anthony’s story is wild - not your average entrepreneur tale. He needs round the clock bodyguards and for a man who’s spent his working life seeking freedom, that doesn’t sit well. “I always search for freedom, to be empowered, where I can be in control of my life utilising technology to do that. A big turning point for me [was] when I'm surrounded by security guards and thinking, is this really the life that I want? And the answer is no. The more I search for freedom, the less freedom I actually get.” Links: Decentral Ethereum.org Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
42 min 32 sec
Most investors didn’t understand the concept. Most non-technical entrepreneurs at the time didn’t get it either. But Howie Liu, Co-Founder and CEO of multi-billion dollar tech juggernaut Airtable, had the conviction to bet the next 10 years of his life on it. “I didn't come up with Airtable as an idea, on a lark, it was informed by a lot of the research I did, a lot of the observations I had of the enterprise software landscape, of looking back at other companies that did similar things. I then came to this gut decision that this was a big opportunity.” Airtable is a low-code relational database, a highly versatile platform that’s grown massively since its founding almost 10 years ago. In the interim, Howie has learnt how to articulate a unique product to a huge customer base, and grow it from the ground up to become a category defining piece of software. But how did a home-brew startup become a Silicon Valley darling? Howie shares his story from lifeguarding, ghosting Accenture on the first day of his new job, joining the Y Combinator, founding Etacts and his subsequent decision to sell it to Salesforce less than a year later: “We felt woefully ill prepared to go and try to build a larger and more ambitious company from the starting point that we had set out with. And a few acquisition offers did come around, including Salesforce, we felt like they would be great learning opportunities.” Find out what Howie did next on his way to a near $6b valuation.
48 min 9 sec
What would you do if you sold your business and effectively retired at the ripe, old age of 28? Phenomenally successful serial entrepreneur Norman Crowley took just three weeks before jumping back into business. “A business isn't just a vehicle to make money. A vehicle is an expression of your creativity, it's working with friends. And then the thing nobody warns you about is that when it's sold, you just end up with a bank balance, and the friends are gone, the mission has gone.” Norman has founded multiple businesses in welding, gaming and eco-friendly energy. Each time he’s turned them into multi-million pound ventures, before selling them and moving on to the next big thing. Norman has had his fair share of bruises - including having a dream billion dollar deal slip right through his fingers at the last minute. “An Icelandic hedge fund, who already owned 25% of the business, offered to buy the whole thing for $1 billion. And when somebody offers to buy your business for $1 billion, it's impolite to say no, so we agreed to sell.” His focus now is on climate change, and despite being asked to sell his current business every six months, he’s resolute that this one isn’t for sale. Don’t miss Norman share his fascinating story in this episode. From how his childhood impacted his career, to the commonality of anxiety and entrepreneurship, starting and selling five businesses, learning to control the business narrative, building a gambling machine business from £70 to £300m in revenue, missing out on selling a business for £1bn, founding the cloud, tackling climate change with The Cool Planet Group, and learning how to walk on hot coals. “Keep fucking walking. This business shit is not easy. Anyone who tells you it's easy is not trying hard enough, so keep walking. Don't give up.” We chat about: Mental health and entrepreneurship Starting and selling 5 businesses Why his current business is not for sale Learning how to walk on hot coals Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
46 min 19 sec
Mathilde Collin is the co-founder and CEO of Front, a communications platform that has developed a cult following - despite having to stop working at one point because her anxiety had become so debilitating. Find out how Mathilde learned to overcome burnout, an incapacitated co-founder, and a serious case of competitiveness that almost let work take over her whole life. Front has grown quickly since its founding in 2013, amassing a cult following, and recently announced a huge series C round with some investors including Eric Yuan - the founder of Zoom. In this candid conversation, Mathilde shares why she was so unhappy as an intern before starting Front, meeting her co-founder, her Y Combinator experience, meeting Patrick Collison - CEO of Stripe, why dealing with anxiety has been so challenging, and why she considers discipline and transparency to be important skills for happiness and success. “For me, what matters is when I'm not working, I want to make sure that I'm not working. I think the biggest thing that prevents people from having a good work life balance isn't obviously the number of hours, but the fact that when they're off, they're on.” We chat about: Make something people want How YC gave her the confidence that Front would be a great company Transparency and discipline at Front Her super power Links: Mathilde Collin – Medium Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
40 min 4 sec
“Impact X exists because I'm tired. And there are a lot of people who are tired of asking the question - what to do to improve the lives of black Britain? We've been having this conversation for a long, long time.” Meet Eric Collins. He’s done some work for President Obama, built some of the world’s biggest tech companies, is the host of a new TV show on Channel 4 called ‘The Money Maker’, and is the CEO of Impact X, a venture capital fund in the UK for underrepresented founders. How did Eric find himself here? “I got a network of extraordinary people. When I say these people are extraordinary people I'm talking about when I was an undergraduate, there was a woman named Michelle Robinson, who was a student in my brother's class, you will know her as Michelle Obama.” Eric shares his incredible story from building a network at university with the selective eating club, Cottage Club, to the global tech behemoths he helped build, to the mistakes and reflections he gained from his time at SwiftKey, to hosting ‘The Money Maker’, and finally founding Impact X, a venture capital group for and by underrepresented entrepreneurs. We chat about: Building your network from university Going from $5 million to $70 billion in 3 years at AOL Funding underrepresented entrepreneurs Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
42 min 6 sec
Today’s guest is at the helm of probably the biggest company we’ve ever had on Secret Leaders. Jeff Lawson is the Co-Founder and CEO of Twilio, a cloud communication platform that helps businesses use everything from text to video calls in their sites and apps. Since its founding in 2008, Twilio has grown to 4,500 employees, annual revenue of $1.74 billion, and is valued at $65 billion. Yup, $65 billion. Woof. All this despite investors not being interested at the beginning which forced Jeff and his team to make a decision. “When choosing between listening to investors and customers, we're gonna choose customers. And we're gonna let customers guide our actions. And if that works, then investors will follow suit. And sure enough, they did.” But how did Jeff actually do it? How do you build a company like Twilio? We chat about: Learning how to start companies How big companies work How to reinvent yourself if you want to stay CEO How to have difficult conversations IPOing on the day of the Brexit vote
47 min 43 sec
Before he was the manager for Nas and Gwen Stefani, before he was the producer for the film 8 Mile, before he was getting into fights with P Diddy and 50 Cent, Steve Stoute was an entrepreneur. He’s always been an entrepreneur - starting out shovelling snow and selling mortgages. And boy has he got some stories to tell, like what Roger Moore said to him when 007 met Steve and Bono in a bar in Monaco. Find out how Steve is turning the music industry on its head as the founder of United Masters, having recently raised $50 million from an all star trio: Apple, Google and Andreessen Horowitz. “As an entrepreneur, your job is to have an idea, build out the vision so that it's clear, and that people can buy into it. Employees, outside partners, strategic partners, bankers, whatever it may be, you have to get people aligned around your vision.” Steve shares his journey, from growing up in Queens, New York, around the birth of hip hop, to investing in music producers, and creating and producing albums for Gwen Stefani and Nas: “Once you start getting momentum and you have heat, you know, heat attracts heat, people want to be around what’s hot, and working with Nas and then LL Cool J and Foxy Brown, Mariah Carey, Lauryn Hill and the Fujis...” Steve has learned from Sit Paul McCartney, has had public fallings out with 50 Cent, founded an advertising agency - Translation - and now with United Masters has created a record company that gives artists back their power. “Don't listen to the noise, be irrational with your pursuit of perfection, be irrational with your belief in your idea. And don't allow people to tell you that you can't do it. They're actually just putting their limitations on themselves, on you.” We chat about: The impact the rise of hip hop had on him Taking advantage of every opportunity Founding the record company in your pocket His darkest days as an entrepreneur Links: Book - The Tanning of America Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
47 min 51 sec
“I came across a job advert for a psychologist to join a matchmaking agency. I wouldn't describe myself as a spiritual person, but it just felt like my dad had sent [me] this opportunity. I had butterflies in my stomach. That was the moment that changed my life.” Are you unlucky in love? Or perhaps you’re exploring a very niche entrepreneurial path, then don’t miss Rachel Vida MacLynn, the founder of The Vida Consultancy, widely considered the best elite matchmaking agency in the world, on this week’s Secret Leaders. “One of our biggest challenges is we don't get to keep our clients for a lifetime. We have to keep finding new clients because most of our clients only stay with us for 12 months, and they're expensive to acquire.” It's a fascinating niche - they're a matchmaking service for high net worth individuals, entrepreneurs and business people looking for long term relationships. “I've pulled more and more psychology into the service, because it's become more apparent to me that a lot of clients think they know what they want in a partner, but what they think they're looking for isn't actually right for them.” But how does elite matchmaking work? What is the business model for such a niche? What does it cost? And how did Rachel get into it in the first place? From starting up to international expansion, to learn about Rachel’s incredible journey in elite matching and more, download and listen to this latest episode. We chat about: The role of psychology in matchmaking Finding customers for elite matchmaking Funding and international expansion Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
40 min 58 sec
Want to know what it’s like to negotiate for a person’s life? Want to learn the secrets of great negotiation? Want to find out why a deal can break down with no warning? “The deal-killers are as important as the decision maker”, explains Chris Voss. “We've changed our hostage negotiation strategies to take the people not at the table into account. And we found the exact same dynamic in business.” If you feel like your negotiation skills need sharpening, you’ll like this episode with Chris Voss, former chief international hostage and kidnapping negotiator for the FBI and author of the best-seller, Never Split the Difference. He’s got some pretty crazy stories too. Now the Founder and CEO of The Black Swan Group, Chris has carved out a career as the world’s number one negotiation coach, taking what he learned during his years at the FBI and applying those techniques to the business world. “Listening is not waiting for your turn to talk. It's an evolved skill. There isn't any negotiation book out there that doesn't list listening as an advanced skill that you have to actually work at.” Learn about Chris’s journey to becoming a negotiator, why listening and being coachable are the core skills of a great negotiator, what’s happening psychologically during negotiations, the art of the calibrated question, why Bono is one of the best negotiators in the world, why deference is a superpower... and why you should never split the difference. Links: Book - Never Split the Difference Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Follow us in your favourite podcast app.
45 min 57 sec
“We were 100% sure about one thing: if you go to the fucking moon, you shouldn't go to the supermarket. We have the technology to go to space and we’re still going to the supermarket? This is counter intuitive.” Kağan Sümer is the founder and CEO of Gorillas, a grocery delivery service which promises to have your order delivered to your door in under 10 minutes, at retail prices. They’ve been blowing up. Recently launched in the UK, they’re the quickest ever European startup to be valued at over $1 billion and they’re only just getting started. “Gorillas is about four things: being authentic, taking bold decisions, keeping riding, and constantly changing things and owning the change.” Kağan (pronounced Kaan, not Kağan) is celebrating Gorillas becoming the fastest ever European startup to reach a billion dollar valuation, and is now fighting hard to introduce the venture to the UK and US. If you haven’t heard of Gorillas, you can bet your bottom dollar they’re about to be everywhere. “You can outsmart me. You can out-structure me. You can out X me. But you cannot out self-discipline me. You can't outwork me. Because if I want something, I go for it.” Before we strap ourselves into the Gorilla rocketship, we first find out what made Kağan the man he is, what shaped his foray into entrepreneurialism, how the company grew from one man storing drinks on his balcony to a billion dollar company, the four values of Gorillas, how Kağan’s vision for revolutionising delivery, building a new supply chain and infrastructure led to Gorillas phenomenal growth, and knowing when it’s time to move on and hand the mantle over. If you’re keen to learn from Kağan’s success story or to follow in his shoes, don’t miss this incredible episode. We chat about: Kağan’s path to Gorillas Gorillas phenomenal growth The mega funding round led by Coatue Management Hiring for behaviour, not skills. The four values of Gorilla Links: sifted.eu/startuplife gorillas.io Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
43 min 37 sec
Most of the founders we speak to have already achieved much of their startup’s mission, but today’s Secret Leader is in the midst of a much longer journey with his company. Meet Matteo Berlucchi, a serial entrepreneur and the founder of Healthily which has spent several years building their product to a point where they can play for the ‘big prize’. “Healthily is a moonshot, it’s the textbook definition of a moonshot. The idea behind Healthily is to use technology to enable people to manage their health in a better way... To become the Spotify or Netflix of healthcare.” Launched in 2015, the app formerly known as Your.MD, now Healthily, is the first medically approved self-care app in the world, and is aiming for a user base of over a billion people. “To me, success is not making money, it has never been my definition of success. To me, success is building something that has impact.” From his first days founding startups, to helping create Healthily and turn it into a profitable startup; investment, failure and limiting beliefs, don’t miss Matteo’s hard fought insights. “Provided that you always do things with integrity and with belief, you believe that you're doing the right thing, then if it doesn't work out, it doesn’t work. Failure is lying to yourself, doing something knowing that it's not going to work and doing it anyway, that's a failure.” We chat about: What is actually success and failure Self care is the self service of healthcare How to make a company like Healthily profitable Failing to sell the story of Healthily to investors properly Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
40 min 9 sec
“I was a keen gym goer and I used to buy protein powder from what was the leading sports nutrition company in the UK at the time. And about six months in I looked at the back and thought, ‘what actually is this?’” Oliver Cookson founded the sports nutrition business Myprotein in 2004 with just a £500 overdraft, selling it to The Hut Group seven years later having kept 100% equity. The deal ended up being worth north of £350m for him. So how did he pull it off? “I don't live with regrets because some people said to me, ‘should you have held onto Myprotein longer?’ If I did, I’d be a billionaire now. There's no doubt about it. It is always growing. However, you can only make a decision at that moment, where you are now.” Oliver has written a book about his experience - Bootstrap Your Life - and hosts a podcast of the same name (links below). “If you want to create a leading brand, a national leading brand, or an international brand, there's no work life balance, especially if you’re bootstrapping. It’s impossible.” From students with an idea to FTSE 100 CEOs, this is an episode no entrepreneur should miss. “Stick to your guns. One thing private equity will do is they will try and ship you. So call their bluff early. I did. They will try and get you on bits and bobs of what comes out of the due diligence. Don't be bullied in that situation.” We chat about: Handling growth and achieving £1m EBITDA, still fully bootstrapped What you have to sacrifice for success Selling Myprotein to The Hut Group Working on the board with people he’s in litigation with Links: www.myprotein.com Bootstrap Your Life - book Bootstrap Your Life - podcast
52 min 30 sec
How did two Americans called Jeff come to lead Seedrs, one of the UK’s leading crowdfunding platforms? And why did their planned merger with bitter rivals Crowdcube get blocked? In today’s ‘Double Jeffardy’ episode, Seedrs Co-Founder Jeff Lynn and CEO Jeff Kelisky share their experiences and learnings - from the biggest missed opportunities when scaling, to what the CMA got wrong with the merger. “The CMA has chosen to take an exceedingly aggressive stance on anything that looks like a tech merger. I think they feel very burned by having approved Facebook and Instagram, where they didn't understand or see the platform power that would emerge.” In this episode you’ll learn about: The biggest mistakes Seedrs made in the early days Seedrs vs Crowdcube When Jeff realised he needed to hire a CEO How to integrate a new CEO into a founder-led company The failed merger How to get motivated to compete again after a merger like that collapses
55 min 51 sec
Founders dream of being early to market, garnering flattering press, watching their product fly off the shelves and IPOing in record time. For Kuba Wieczorek, Co-Founder and former Chief Marketing Officer of Eve Sleep, the dream became a reality. And then the wheels came off. Kuba founded DTC mattress company Eve Sleep in 2015 with his cousin Jas, and they quickly started experiencing explosive growth. Within just two years they’d raised £35 million and were valued at £140 million. To top it off, they IPOd in record breaking time. It was the stuff of fairytales. But the fairytale wasn’t to last. “About six months after Jas left I hit rock bottom as well. You know, really rock bottom, I realised that it was either my health and my family, or staying at Eve, so I made the right choice. I resigned.” In today’s episode, Kuba shares his journey with Eve, the effect it had on him and his mental health, and what he will do differently in the future. “I’ll be stronger with myself and not be seduced by crazy growth and money and promises of IPO and riches and all of that stuff. Authenticity, be authentic. If you know who you are, and you know the brand you're building, just stick to that.” We chat about: The meteoric rise of eve Sleep The fastest ever British retail float The toll of eve on his mental health Know what you’re building Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
48 min 39 sec
Markus Villig was 19 when he decided to spend the $5,000 his parents had saved up for university on starting a business instead. His initial goal for Bolt, then called Taxify, was to solve Tallinn’s (Estonia) taxi problem. By 25 he was the youngest unicorn founder in Europe and had shown that Uber wasn’t going to win everywhere. “Today, Bolt is the fastest growing mobility company in the world. We have more than 50 million customers on the platform. We operate in more than 40 countries. And we’ve raised more than $600 million of funding with a team of about 2000 people.” Markus knew from an early age he wanted to start a company and build a product. “The only things that were really, really clear for me were that it needed to be in technology, I really wanted it to be a consumer product. And it needed in some ways to make the world a better place. But other than that, I was pretty agnostic of which space to get into.” He chose transportation, not only because he can’t drive, but because hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on transportation globally by consumers each year, and what they get in return isn’t good. From the problems caused by private cars, to taking on Uber, their unusual funding routes, making big mistakes in his early hires, and why his strategy to focus on Africa paid off. “The last straw for me was when I was in Serbia, in Belgrade, meeting one of the local taxi companies. And halfway through the meeting, I realised that these guys are essentially mafia, the guy had a revolver on the table and a big safe in the corner of his office.” This is a tale of tenacity and grit, and a CEO’s unwavering belief in his vision. Don’t miss it. It’s a good one. We chat about: Building his first company at 17 Taking on Uber The hardest challenges he faced as CEO Scaling and fundraising when no VC will touch you Not diluting the company’s focus too much Links: Eat Sleep Work Repeat - Perspectives on the work to come Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
41 min 58 sec
You might not have heard of today’s guest or his company, but if you’ve had a Covid jab in the UK (or are going to) there’s a good chance you’ve used their tech. Laurence Bargery is co-founder of accuRx, a healthtech supplier trusted by 99% of GPs, and with ⅓ of all vaccine bookings in the UK now taking place through their systems. “Within about four or six weeks of us releasing this suite of Covid tools we'd gone up from that 50% point to about 99% of GPs using us.” Laurence and co-founder Jacob Haddad built a tool to allow GPs and other healthcare providers to communicate more effectively with their patients. To date, their software is used by 7,000+ GP surgeries and has messaged 30m+ patients. But they didn’t start out down this avenue. In fact, they started off looking at antibiotic resistance, but the market wasn't there, so they pivoted. They knew they wanted to create something that added value to healthcare, but not knowing enough about the industry and its sticking points, they immersed themselves in a GP practice. “And that's where this idea came from, of something super simple we can do that's going to be really powerful when applicable to so many of the problems in general practice and healthcare and ultimately, that was communication.” From getting traction with GPs, to building individual Wix websites, Laurence shares how they grew accuRx pre-Covid, to how they've dealt with the explosive growth during and post the pandemic. If you’re a founder and you’ve had to pivot your business, or you’re thinking about pivoting, don’t miss this latest episode of Secret Leaders. We chat about: Pivoting the business to accuRx Dealing with explosive growth Strategically handling 99% market share Monitoring employee engagement Links: Jacob Haddad Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
48 min 45 sec
We’ve been making the UK’s startup podcast since 2017 and this is our 100th episode. To celebrate, we’re doing something a little different and bringing you a bunch of the most powerful stories and insights from some of the amazing guests we’ve had the honour of talking to over the years. In celebration of this milestone, we’re also giving away a pair of Apple Airpod Pros to a lucky Secret Leaders subscriber/follower. Entering is super simple and takes just a few seconds - go to www.secretleaders.com/competition to win. We’ve divided this episode into three sections. In the first, you’ll hear war stories from the founders of some of the world’s biggest unicorns; in the second we share tales of mental health and adversity; and in the third we bring you big ideas. “What I want them to learn from me is to find that thing that really makes you happy, and where you're really creative, because that's what will bring you fulfilment in your life.” From Daniel Schreiber, co-founder of insurance disruptor Lemonade, on how he formulated the product, to Jo Malone talking about growth, to Will Shu, founder of Deliveroo, talking about those early scrappy days when everyone had to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in: “We would do stuff like just hand out flyers in the street. I wore a kangaroo costume too many times. I didn't enjoy wearing the kangaroo costume.” You’ll hear Cal Henderson, co-founder of Slack, talking about his company's reaction to the pandemic, former Chief Business Officer for Google X, Mo Gawdat, sharing how even the worst times in our lives can be gateways into something beautiful, and Jason Calcanis, the self-proclaimed ‘greatest angel investor of all time’: “A lot of founders and people have early success. The things that made them successful in that first phase of their career will actually work against them in the second phase.” For all you entrepreneurs out there, don’t miss this ultimate episode, jam packed full of 12 insightful, key takeaways. Download and listen now. We chat about: How to be a disruptor Lay the foundations for success The value of happiness, resilience and a culture of openness Develop atomic habits Support women in business Be humble Links: Daniel Schreiber Will Shu Jo Malone Cal Henderson Nicola Kilner Mo Gawdat Martha Lane Fox Damien Bradfield James Clear Debbie Wosskow Alain De Botton Jason Calcanis www.secretleaders.com/competition Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
1 hr 2 min
As the captain of the Harvard squash team, Will Ahmed trained and prepared as best he could. But, whatever he tried, his body kept breaking down. He didn't know why so he started researching the human body, devouring medical papers. Now, several years later, those personal frustrations have grown into Whoop, a wearable tech startup you can see on the wrists of NFL players, pro golfers and Navy Seals - despite being consistently told his strategy was wrong. “The vision for Whoop has always been the same, which is that we're going to build this wearable platform that's going to help you improve your health. And it's going to start with the best athletes in the world. And then it's going to be on everyone.” So he was proved right. Whoop counted professional athletes LeBron James and Michael Phelps among their first 100 users, and just got valued at $1.2 billion. “I object to the quote, ‘it's a marathon, not a sprint’, because it's actually both. If you truly are trying to create a company from scratch, and have it be this enormous success, you have to go at an incredibly high pace for an incredibly long time.” We chat about: How overtraining led him to found Whoop How do you actually create a resilient mindset Why the first fundraise was the toughest How to build epic brand partnerships What happens when Amazon try to rip you off Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe!
49 min 38 sec
Most people recognise Trinny Woodall for being one half of Trinny and Susannah from their breakout TV show: What Not To Wear, but not many people know this side of her story. Trinny is a serial entrepreneur. She was a founder in the dotcom bubble back in the day, and is the founder of soaring makeup startup, Trinny London, which booked £42m of revenue in the last year. What happened? How did she get here? In today’s episode of Secret Leaders, Trinny shares her really surprising entrepreneurial journey that doesn’t get told. “Susannah and I started the idea [their first entrepreneurial venture], it was a very lucky break. And I did that for eight years. And then from that television came and then I started writing books and that whole part of my career, when I look back now, brought me to being the CEO of Trinny London.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a budding founder or a seasoned entrepreneur, this episode with Trinny is not to be missed. From hiring interns with a twinkle in their eye, to having to sell her clothes to fund her startup, to understanding the need for personalisation in a brand, Trinny has a wealth of experience every founder needs to hear. “Through building Trinny London, advice I always give to other entrepreneurs, younger entrepreneurs, is stay in your own lane. Because if you look too much at the competition, you dilute the uniqueness of your offering.” We chat about: Her partnership with Susannah The genesis of Trinny London Financing Trinny London How she handled fame Creating a community on social media Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
53 min 13 sec
How big can a flower company really be? Well, the industry processes over a billion transactions every year and Bloom & Wild is leading the charge to become the dominant player. In today’s show we talk to Co-Founder and CEO Aron Gelbard about how it all nearly failed before it had even begun, and how much of that market they can really take. “We're doing a few million of those. So we've made meaningful headway. But there's a huge way to go around the world.” That’s not bad for a company that set up shop in 2013 and quickly became best known for making it possible to send flowers in under a minute on a smartphone, and for those flowers to be delivered through your letterbox. “We got 1,000 orders in the week of [our first] Mother's Day. And I remember this because I had to process them all individually in the spreadsheet, and it took me all day to do whereas normally the order processing took an hour.” From their first piece of accidental marketing by the Daily Mail (after being told to move on by Wholefoods on High St. Ken), to understanding the value of a great customer review: “We very rapidly realised that it was going to be really important to get good customer reviews and build trust, because people need to trust you in order to let you be the conveyor of their emotions. And so we focused on getting good review scores.” Don’t miss Aron sharing the challenges of international growth, the problem with building a website on the cheap, their success with replantable Christmas trees through the post, and raising their recent £75m seed funding round. “It's super important for me to be kind to everybody that I interact with. I think it connects to my desire to please people, it's really innate in the business that we're in, that you have to do it kindly. And I think I've tried to be kind to consumers and those that we work with, and to our team.” We chat about: Tracking sender and recipient Net Promoter Score Embracing sustainability Fundraising for international expansion Building and nurturing culture while WFH The importance of kindness Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
48 min 58 sec
To mark Women’s History Month, we’re serving you the secret sauce of four incredible female founders: Alice Bentinck, co-founder of Entrepreneur First; Debbie Wosskow, co-founder of AllBright; Saasha Celestial-One, co-founder of Olio; and Tamara Lohan, co-founder of Mr and Mrs Smith. Although the numbers for female-founded businesses are improving, it still remains that of the 6 million businesses in the UK, only 1/5 are run by women. There are twice as many male entrepreneurs as female ones. And only 1% of startup funding goes to female-founded businesses. “When I started, there was not a whiff of any kind of VC money specifically for female businesses, there were no female networking clubs, there were no female support groups, there was nothing.” In this one-off episode, recorded at our live event for International Women’s Day 2020, these founders share some of the toughest moments they’ve had in their careers, they discuss access to funding, and why there has never been a better time to become an entrepreneur, if you’re female. “I suppose my coping mechanism is to try and ignore [imposter syndrome] and just focus on solving the problems that will make my business better and more valuable, rather than constantly worrying about my own performance.” We chat about: Their toughest moments as entrepreneurs Funding as female entrepreneurs The shifting gender balance Tackling imposter syndrome Links: https://www.secretleaders.com/alice-bentinck https://www.secretleaders.com/allbright-debbie-woskow https://www.secretleaders.com/saasha-celestial-one https://www.secretleaders.com/tamara-lohan Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
48 min 40 sec
You can’t take your ears off our guest today. Born and raised in Canada, Michele Romanow has been building startups since university (a cafe which still operates today) followed by a venture in an industry she knew nothing about - caviar - right when the 2008 financial crisis struck. “There I am, 21 years old, selling the world's most unnecessary luxury product. I realised the world owes you absolutely nothing, that everything can fall apart in a second, that it can be your fault. It can be the market's fault, it doesn't matter. But I was gonna have to pivot if I wanted it to be successful.” And pivot she did. From Buytopia, to SnapSaves (acquired by Groupon), to Dragons’ Den Canada (‘I was the youngest Dragon ever’), to co-founding Clearbanc - Michele has done so much in such a short space of time. She co-founded Clearbanc having seen dozens of similar pitches on Dragons’ Den. The idea is that ecommerce founders no longer have to give up equity in exchange for capital. Instead Clearbanc invests and gets paid back from revenues with a 6% - 12% fee on top. “We have now invested more than $1.6 billion into 4,000 different founders around the world. We have backed eight times more women than the venture capital industry average.” What a story. We hope you enjoy it. If you like what we’re doing please subscribe or follow Secret Leaders. We chat about: Starting her career in cafes and caviar From Dragons’ Den to Clearbanc The struggle of financing Clearbanc The hardest part of being an entrepreneur Never be comfortable Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
52 min 1 sec
“I was a young kid with a family on government benefits living off £600 a month. I was surrounded by people that could afford private school. And from a naive child's perspective, they seemed to have everything that I didn't have when I went home to my reality. But I think that was the formation of Harry Hurst, the hungry, ambitious, immigrant entrepreneur.” Today’s Secret Leader, Harry Hurst, has been hustling ever since he was kid - and he’s had to. He credits his poor upbringing for his entrepreneurial spirit - and with two hugely successful startups to his name (Skurt and Pipe), he’s not only someone who’s risked everything - he knows what it takes to build a special company. With co-founder Josh Mangel, he founded Skurt, an on-demand car rental service, later acquired by fair.com in 2014. They subsequently co-founded Pipe, a trading platform for a new asset class - recurring revenue - in 2019. “You've obviously seen the press announcement how we ended up raising $50 million from all of these strategic [partnerships], it's Shopify, Slack, HubSpot.” But it’s not all been plain sailing for Harry. He’s had his back to the wall on many occasions but in 2016 he experienced one of the toughest moments of his life when he was hit with severe anxiety. From his humble beginnings, to starting and selling Skurt, to founding Pipe, dealing with mental health and the importance of sharing ideas, Harry is open, frank and honest about his crazy journey. “Don't hold back on discussing the ideas that you have, if you want to be a founder. It pains me when people say to me, ‘I've got this amazing idea, but I can't talk about it’. I think that's gonna hold you back.” Download and listen to this truly fascinating, rags to riches story. We chat about: The origins of Harry Hurst, entrepreneur Founding Skurt and Pipe Harry the leader at Skurt v Harry the leader at Pipe Experiencing anxiety Don’t hold back on your ideas Links: www.fair.com www.pipe.com Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
50 min 12 sec
Get you own unique referral link: https://www.secretleaders.com/hype Tom Blomfield, the former CEO and Co-Founder of Monzo, and Co-Founder of GoCardless, knows a thing or two about the fintech industry. “We wanted to create something different than existing banks. We believed that the banks weren't serving customers particularly well at that moment. Customer expectations had been raised dramatically by things like Spotify, Uber and Airbnb, in terms of the user experience and functionality.” Which is why his announcement in January 2021 that he was leaving Monzo, 6 years after founding the challenger bank, came as a shock to many. “When you get to that size, it's about people management. You spend almost no time on product or customers really. It's about process, a lot of process, extraordinary amount of regulation.” But it takes an outstanding leader to know when to step aside. And in today’s inaugural episode of Season 7, Tom talks about the mounting pressure when you’re at the top and ultimately its impact on your mental health and identity. “I've talked about suffering that kind of stress, a build up of stress, it starts impacting your sleep, or at least it impacted my sleep, it became this vicious cycle where not sleeping makes your work worse, make worse decisions.” From raising £1m from crowdfunding in 96 seconds, to how he scaled personally alongside the bank, to building a culture from the very outset, to what made him leave Monzo - Tom is exceedingly candid in this interview, which was recorded just a few weeks after his departure. Don’t miss this hugely insightful episode from one of Europe’s top founders and CEOs - it’s something all entrepreneurs need to hear. We chat about: Crowdfunding Monzo Building a culture from the start Entrepreneurship and mental health His decision process to leave Monzo Links: Monzo GoCardless Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
37 min 32 sec
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2 min 39 sec
“There's no birth control method that is 100% effective and Natural Cycles is as similarly effective as the pill. So it's 93% effective with typical use, and 98% effective with perfect use, meaning that you use protection on the days that the app says.” Before becoming CEO and co-founder of Natural Cycles, the world’s first and only app to be certified as a contraception both in Europe and in the US, today’s Secret Leader, Dr Elina Berglund, was part of the team that discovered the Higgs boson at CERN, which led to the Nobel Prize in physics in 2013. “I felt like with my understanding of data from particle physics, I can actually develop an algorithm that also learns cycle to cycle and applies more advanced statistical methods to say like, well, I'm definitely not fertile today.” Elina was looking for an effective natural contraceptive and applied her skills from particle physics to create an algorithm that could accurately pinpoint when a woman is fertile. Elina is now on a mission to pioneer women’s health with research and passion, empowering women with the knowledge they need to take charge of their health. From how to found an app and work with your husband, to building the algorithm without being in beta mode, dealing with unwanted pregnancies while using the app, to her biggest mistakes in the early days. Don’t miss Elina sharing her journey of how she created a product that fundamentally changed the way we choose to live our lives. “Now I'm looking back at it, I should have listened to my gut more, because my gut was telling me, this doesn't feel right, something feels difficult, this feels heavy. Now when things are actually going well, it feels easy, it doesn't feel hard anymore. So I think I should have listened to my gut and changed things faster.” We chat about: The transition from CERN to contraception How to build trust with the first users Funding and financing Natural Cycles Dealing with unwanted pregnancies Bringing wearable contraception to market Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
38 min 39 sec
“Both my businesses have really strong values. And those have evolved pretty naturally from my growth coming into those interests of sustainability, of ethics, and saying, well, if I'm consuming something, that's one thing, but if I'm selling it, that's a whole other thing.” Today’s guest on Secret Leaders is not your average 23 year old. Grace Beverley is a Natwest GBEA Young Entrepreneur of the Year and founder of two brands, Tala and Shreddy. A successful female entrepreneur, Grace is shaking up the archaic business world. With a global reach of over 1.5 million, she’s been named first in Forbes 30 under 30’s retail and e-commerce list, at just twenty-three. At The University of Oxford she set up her first company, B_ND, a vegan friendly resistance band company which has since come under the Shreddy umbrella, an app that gives you workout plans you’ll actually like. And Tala, a sustainable activewear brand that is flying off shelves. But that’s not all, she’s also written a book due out in April called, Working Hard and Hardly Working. “Everything that we produce is going to be vegan. And that's what we set from the offset. And that was part of our purpose and our pillars and our values. And yet, obviously, that evolved to be so much more than that.” From influencer, to founding B_ND at The University of Oxford, to becoming CEO of two companies. Today’s episode charts Grace’s entrepreneurial journey, how her personal growth perspective has shaped her businesses, and how she’s learned to be a better leader by saying ‘I don’t know’. “I made this commitment a few years ago when I realised that, okay, I have this opportunity here to travel the world and take pictures for a living. And I don't enjoy that.” We chat about: The genesis of Tala and Shreddy Being an influencer How her two companies overlap Working Hard, Hardly Working The gender divide on social media Why you need to define success for yourself Links: Book - Working Hard, Hardly Working Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
40 min 49 sec
If you’re in need of inspiration and ideas for how to succeed in the eSports world, then don’t miss this insightful episode with the co-founder and CEO of Fnatic, Sam Mathews. “I'm probably more like the Glazers than I am Alex Ferguson, because I'm kind of running the whole business.” Fnatic is one of the leading eSports teams in the world, and currently, the eSports industry is blowing up, not just because of Sam, but he has definitely contributed towards its success. But what is eSports and why are over 1.5 billion people around the world so into it? “[The] games we play on the computer are super engaging, and they're much more engaging in some ways than some of these physical sports, and tactical. And they're also unlimited in terms of imagination.” Not to mention watching people who are exceptionally good at eSports is thrilling in itself, and the top competitors engage with spectators in real time. From launching Fnatic at uni, to aiming to become a billion dollar company, in today’s episode of Secret Leaders, Sam shares his entrepreneurial journey to date. Including the transition from Neverland to becoming the CEO of Fnatic, how he bought his mum out of the company, fundraising on a $130 million valuation and most recently, creating an eSports partnership with Gucci. We chat about: What eSports are and why 1.5 billion people worldwide play them How he got his Mum working for Fnatic… and how he bought her out Why eSports tournaments are held IRL Creating an eSports partnership with Gucci Fundraising for Fnatic and becoming CEO Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
50 min 22 sec
“Once you see it, you can't unsee it. [Insurance] is something that is 11% of GDP, $5 trillion worldwide, 100% household penetration. And you're like, wow, this has been hiding in plain sight. It’s such a dull industry that nobody's noticed it. Nobody's thought to tackle it.” Until Daniel Schreiber. That is. So what made a law graduate with no prior knowledge of the insurance industry decide to co-found an insurtech startup in 2016, which floated on the New York Stock Exchange just 4 short years later, more than doubling in valuation on the first day of trading? “It has been a pretty rapid growth, we're talking from standstill to about $200 million in just over four years and doubling every year.” Lemonade isn’t like any insurance platform you’ve ever come across before. Daniel (former president of Powermat) and co-founder Shai Wininger, (Fiverr co-founder) didn’t want to simply follow in the footsteps of what had gone before. They wanted to create a new kind of insurance company, something that improved the user experience for everyone. “We built [it] from scratch, we were vertically integrated, we built every piece of technology. We're not fronting for some old insurance company, we built every element of the user experience, down to the insurance dimensions, as well as the technological ones.” From lawyer to SanDisk to Power Mat to Lemonade, Daniel has had a portfolio career like no other. His is a truly fascinating journey where the phrase ‘peer to peer insurance’ sparked an idea that rapidly grew into a multi million dollar business. We chat about: The multigenerational Schreiber entrepreneurial mindset Building Lemonade from scratch The spark of peer to peer insurance High speed execution and financing Lemonade The insurance industry is politics Links: Fiverr Powermat Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
55 min 12 sec
If you’re a budding entrepreneur, you can’t learn to swim by doing exercises on the beach, says Sir Ronald Cohen. “You can't keep preparing yourself for an entrepreneurial career. You learn by doing. And by your mid to late 20s, you're ready to do that. You don't have to prepare beyond that.” Sir Ronald is Chairman of the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment and The Portland Trust. He is a co-founder director of Social Finance UK, USA, and Israel, and co-founder Chair of Bridges Fund Management and Big Society Capital. But before all of this, he co-founded and was Executive Chairman of Apax Partners from 1972-2005. From immigrant, to grammar school, to Harvard Business School where he discovered Venture Capital, to setting up Apax Partners, to impact investing. Sir Ronald has had quite a life, his story is one of humanity and people. A 45-50 year overnight success story. “Venture capital was a way for me to do good and to do well, and at the same time create jobs and make money.” After becoming financially independent and at the age of 53, he informed his partners at Apax that he was leaving to deal with more important things. He wanted to help tackle social issues and try to contribute to achieving peace between Palestinians and Israelis. So, if you’re looking to create a social impact, Sir Ronald has a lot of sage advice for you - this is one episode not to be missed. “Principles have a cost, but they're always a bargain in the end. Don't try to take shortcuts. Live by your principles, you will attract the best talent, and you will be proud of your achievements.” We chat about: Founding Apax Partners Funding Dolly the sheep Social investment task force Impact investing Social investment bank The B Corp movement Links: https://www.onimpactnow.org/ Impact: Reshaping capitalism to drive real change Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
54 min 39 sec
How do you get sober when AA isn’t working for you? Well, if you’re Samantha Moyo, you found the global sober raving movement, Morning Gloryville. A business designed to get people to wake up at 6am and go dancing, sober, to famous DJs such as Fatboy Slim, Basement Jaxx and Carl Cox. She sold just 26 tickets to their first event, but such is Sam’s desire to challenge the status quo, she grew the business to a community of 200,000 within 18 months, across 23 cities. Morning Gloryville was born from her life as Captain Hello Titties, an unsustainable, creative, money-making idea that involved putting on parties on the River Thames. But it wasn’t all plain sailing. “When you have co-founders, and things aren't well, one of the things that helped us was getting a mediator. We kept doing some practices together just to keep the energy flowing, so that we wouldn't affect the business.” Not only did she part ways with her co-founder, they had too little money for the growing company, and she wasn’t being kind to herself or those at work. “I wanted to bring conscious clubbing to the world stage and spread love, peace and joy through dancing. And after five years of doing that, and waking up at 6am so many times, I think my spirit was done.” Sam is no longer with Morning Gloryville, today she’s a wellness entrepreneur, with a difference. Now, known as Mystic Moyo, Sam has undergone her own transformation, from burnt out business leader, to activist, to mystic secret leader. So what can you do to be a more conscious leader inside your organisation? What can you do to keep on the path of curiousness? How can you take a more spiritual path, a more spiritual journey with your leadership? To find out, don’t miss this incredibly insightful episode. We chat about: Captain Hello Titties Building Morning Gloryville The notion of kindness Racial and economic injustice is real in business The birth of Mystic Moyo Links: www.msysticmoyo.com www.samanthamoyo.co.uk Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
50 min 16 sec
The massive beauty disruptor, DECIEM, was founded in 2013 by “the beauty world’s most exciting disruptor”, Brandon Truaxe, and co-CEO Nicola Kilner. From the beginning, they weren't like any other cosmetic company, they acted more like a startup incubator launching 10 brands in rapid succession. They were hugely successful, did everything in house, outstripped the competition and grew wildly popular brands like The Ordinary. What Nicola wasn’t prepared for, however, was Brandon’s very public struggles with his mental health in 2018, his death in 2019, and the devastating impact it all had on the company. “Ultimately, you can't help someone who doesn't want help.” In this heartfelt, honest, emotionally raw episode of Secret Leaders, Nicola shares her incredible entrepreneurial journey to date. “It was always just trying to get the balance between keeping DECIEM going and trying to be there for Brandon. And people tell you all the time, you just have to wait for the person to want help. It's such a difficult situation to be in, you just have to wait for them to reach rock bottom. But what if they never do or, in Brandon's case, it ultimately ended in the worst possible way.” From founding DECIEM with Brandon, to seeking investment, scaling the business up, and then what happened when Brandon’s mental health took a turn for the worse. After being fired by Brandon, to assuming control of the company once more, Nicola tells the DECIEM story, warts and all, ensuring that Brandon’s legacy lives on. “Brandon would want, you know, he taught us so much about family and being there for each other. So it was kind of, let's just put that back into practice now.” We chat about: Starting DECIEM with Brandon Funding DECIEM with Estee Lauder Working with Brandon before and during 2018 Being fired and then regaining control of the company Communicating through a crisis Links: Brandon Truaxe Avestan Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
Wondering what to give as an unusual gift this year? How about donating in someone’s name to a social enterprise solving homelessness? Simply purchase a gift card for someone from Beam, and help a homeless person get back on their feet. “There's billions of pounds being spent on homelessness. More than 1,000 organisations are tackling homelessness. There are millions of people in London who care about this issue. And yet still, despite all of this, people are literally dying outside of tube stations.” But how does your donation help someone find a home? Well, it does more than that - through crowdfunding, you donate to people Beam are working with and the money goes directly towards training them in their chosen vocation so they can get back into employment. On the flip-side, Beam is giving scale-ups and corporates access to overlooked talent. “The greatest economic opportunity you can give to people is a sense of self worth and an opportunity to contribute back to society because really, they don't want donations. They want the ability to be in control of their own destiny.” Alex shares the story of the first homeless person he helped, Tony, and how he was the inspiration to scale up Beam. “I thought, well, if we can do that for one person, then what if we can do that for 100,000, or millions of people? What if we can use technology and operational processes to create this same life-changing intervention for other people at scale?” So, if you’re interested in learning how to solve huge societal problems with tech and new business models while making some money in the process, don’t miss this incredible episode. We chat about: Founding Beam and its business model Tony’s story Frustrations when running Beam Making money while doing social good Scaling up Beam with tech How to support Beam Links: beam.org Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
53 min 43 sec
“I think today, if I look at the companies that are doing really well and kind of came out of nowhere, it's when their customer experience is 10 times better than the competition.” If you run a b2b, there’s a high possibility that you’re already a customer of today’s Secret Leader, CEO and founder of HubSpot, Brian Halligan. Founded in 2006, HubSpot has grown to annual revenues of over half a billion dollars, 3000 employees, 70,000+ customers across 100 countries. Brian is also an author of several fantastic books and has been named as one of the best CEOs for diversity and best CEOs for women, before it was trendy in tech. “Part of my mission in HubSpot isn't just to build a big successful company, but to build a company, my kid, and hopefully someday my grandkids, will be proud of and brag about.” In the early days of HubSpot, Brian found culture an uninspiring topic and famously said, ‘Please, can we never have a chief people officer?’ But even successful startup leopards can change their spots. Brian is now a keen advocate for culture, firmly believing, ‘culture is how people make decisions when you're not in the room. Culture is how you scale.’ So to hear from the inbound marketing legend himself on topics ranging from customer experience to company culture, imposter syndrome to CEO support groups, don’t miss this incredible episode of Secret Leaders. We chat about: The what and why of HubSpot Never making the same mistake twice Wartime mode vs peacetime mode How to nail customer experience HubSpot culture code How to look after your mental health Links: Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs Marketing Lessons From The Grateful Dead Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
55 min 24 sec
If you’re concerned about AI and how it could affect your future, then don’t miss Tabitha Goldstaub on this week’s episode of Secret Leaders. Tabitha is a serial tech entrepreneur, an artificial intelligence industry expert who is chair of the UK government's AI Council, and co founder of CognitionX, which was before COVID, the biggest AI conference in the world, but has understandably had to pivot to an expert advice platform. “It was really clear that there were so many better experts to advise the government, but there wasn't anybody who could be the glue to hold them together. And they needed somebody to do a lot of the legwork. And also, I think they were looking for someone as optimistic as me.” Before that, she co-founded Rightster (now Brave Bison) a global b2b video network for distribution, content-sourcing, audience engagement and monetisation, and now she’s just written a book - How To Talk To Robots, something we could all do with learning. “I felt like I was at this sort of epicentre where I got to witness the future unfolding in front of my eyes. And I was selfish if I didn't explain it to my mates.” From explaining why she’s written a book about AI for women, to worrying that we won’t use AI to fight climate change, Tabitha is frank, open and incredibly honest about the future of AI. So, if you’re interested in the future of the world and the way that artificial intelligence will impact it, don’t miss this incredibly insightful episode. We chat about: Chairing the UK government’s AI council at 31 The fear that led her to write How To Talk To Robots The risks and rewards of AI Her biggest fear in AI The issue of trust Pivoting CogX from physical to virtual Links: How To Talk To Robots Cathy O'Neil - Weapons Of Math Destruction Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
50 min 46 sec
“Bill [Lazier] would always remind our students, the most important thing is to do work you love, with people you love. And if you do work you love, with people you love, you win.” Jim Collins is an entrepreneurial researcher, however he’s most well known for being a best selling author of multiple books that frankly, if you're listening to this podcast and you haven't read, you've definitely got your priorities all wrong. We celebrate all things entrepreneur on Secret Leaders, having been in the game for almost 10 years ourselves. And one of the first books we ever read, as every budding, new or even seasoned entrepreneur should, was Good To Great. The timeless, classic, entrepreneurial handbook written by two experts. Jim’s latest book, Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0, a revamped and updated version of the original, is an homage to his co-author and late mentor, the inimitable Bob Lazier. “I asked Bill one day, I said, ‘So what makes a great relationship?’ He says, ‘oh, if you ask each person in the relationship, who benefits more from the relationship, they each independently would say, I do’.” Jim, by his own definition, is not normal. But then, we argue, what exceptional leader of industry is? That's why we invite people like him onto this show, so listeners can learn all about them. And this episode is one of the best. Jam packed full of tasty tidbits and inspiration, you should have your pen ready, because this is bound to fire up your neurons and get your thinking juices flowing. “Leadership is a responsibility not an entitlement, or decision, not an accident, a matter of willful action, not genetics, whether you learn to lead greatly in the end, is a choice.” We chat about: Bill Lazier Writing Good to Great in the spirit of relationships Level five leaders The myth of the entrepreneurial temperament His encounters with Steve Jobs The Stockdale paradox Why Patagonia is such a great company Links: Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck - Why Some Thrive Despite Them All Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0 Turning the Flywheel: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great Turning Goals into Results: The Power of Catalytic Mechanisms Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
1 hr 9 min
If you've not read Atomic Habits by James Clear, we urge you to stop what you’re doing and go and get it. It's one of those books that once you've read it, you start to think about how those ideas can change your reality. “The book’s been out almost two years now and has sold over two million copies. And for me, the most gratifying thing is that the ideas are useful. The best thing is to see people using them to build better habits in their own life or to break habits that they've been struggling with for a while.” While James is not the father of thinking about habits, he is an expert on the subject, having built up a newsletter around the topic years before launching his bestselling book. “I'm not the smartest person, I'm not the fastest person, I’m not the first person to talk about this stuff. But I want to do it in a way that's useful.” By doing this, he's simply a master of demonstrating what best practice looks like and how that impact can impact your future, which above anything else, makes him a person you might want to listen to. “A habit is a behaviour that's tied to a particular context. And what you start to realise is that you cannot have a behaviour outside of an environment. They all happen within a certain context. Any time the environment changes in a big way, behaviour changes in a big way.” So for everything you need to know about habits and how they can help you be the best version of yourself, don’t miss out on this truly insightful and illuminating episode. We chat about: Why habits are universally timeless How Uber was founded on users’ habits What a habit is How COVID has changed our habits Bad habits that leaders should avoid Important habits for startups to avoid Links: Atomic Habits 3-2-1 newsletter The Outsiders - William Thorndyke Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
46 min 34 sec