‘Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and advice, you’ll be amazed who says yes’ – our Conversation with Britain’s most connected man

Serial founder, presenter, connector, host… These are a handful of the hats worn by Oli Barrett MBE. He’s a man of great range, who is making a difference in many peoples lives. This is our Conversation with Oli Barrett.

He is a humble man, who’s curiosity has sparked an impressive career as a host and presenter. Oli has hosted large events such as London Tech Week, Silicon Valley Comes to the UK and rubbed shoulders with an array of leaders from around the world. However, the most impressive element of his networking is Oli’s skill of connecting people from very different organisations to solve big problems. He prides himself on ‘trying to make life-changing introductions’, even setting up ventures to help companies do this.

Whether it’s his Tenner (the UK’s largest schools enterprise competition), Volunteer It Yourself (a program that helps kids fix community buildings) or Clean and Cool (connecting cleantech scale-ups with global corporates and investors), Oli has a solid track record of doing good that speaks for itself. His latest venture, Turn On The Subtitles (TOTS), was a campaign set up to improve children’s literacy. It has an array of celebrity supporters such as Stephen Fry, Sandi Toksvig and Sir Lenny Henry but most impressively has made large companies such as Netflix, Sky and YouTube stand up and take notice.

Oli is also the host of a series of virtual events that you will not want to miss called ‘Inside the Deal‘, presented by the finnCap Group. The series will bring together leaders across finance, tech and professional services to talk about the burning issues facing the business world. Find out more about Oli and his companies by visiting his website.

Watch the full interview with Oli Barrett here

Here’s a breakdown of what we discussed in the interview:

• I mentioned in the introduction that you were called ‘the most connected man in Britain’. I have to ask, how many contacts do you have on your phone at the moment? (1:12)
• When someone mentions this, do you go “here we go again” or is this a title you wear as a badge of honour? (2:00)
• I just want to rewind back to your childhood. What was life like growing up and did you ever feel yourself being interested to the business world or was that not even a consideration back then? (2:48)
• And then it was on to university, what was your university experience like? (3:50)
• That’s such an interesting point, because if I said today on Business Leader Conversations I’ll be speaking to someone who dropped out of not one but 2 universities by the age of 23, many in the general public would label that a failure and that word has massively negative connotations. Whereas many in the business world see failure as the ultimate badge of honour. In the people you’ve come across, how important is failure and do you think attitudes about it be changed? (5:52)
• Hopping back to the schooling system in general, there’s been chatter for years about how it’s not preparing youngsters in the right way, whether that’s teaching them about taxes or that running a business is even an option for many of them. Do you think it’s time for an overhaul of the schooling system to better prepare children for the real world? (7:38)
• In doing the research at you, it’s glaringly obvious that there’s more to you then just being a connector. A lot of the businesses and causes you’ve been involved with have been set up to make other people’s lives better. Why is that so important to you and is that always something you’ve wanted to do? (9:42)
• I want to talk about Turn on the Subtitles now. This is a campaign that you set up with Henry Warren and has been a source of major change so far. Could you tell us about the campaign and its success to date? (11:52)
• You’ve spent a lot of time networking in other countries including the U.S. Are there any differences in the way things are done in business in the U.S that you believe should be brought over to the UK, whether that be a practice, a way of thinking or otherwise? (14:28)
BUSINESS LEADERS ANSWER THE INTERNET’S QUESTIONS – Why are business people so mean? (16:55)
• What is the best advice you’ve ever received? (20:00)
• Who is the most famous businessperson in your phonebook? (21:18)
• Before we go, you’re hosting the Inside the Deal series presented by the finnCap Group. Could you tell us a little bit about the series and what people can expect from it? (22:23)
• Final word (23:59)

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