It takes extraordinary people to do extraordinary things. These UK-based entrepreneurs are inspiring for a variety of reasons – whether that’s pushing boundaries, creating groundbreaking products, or doing their bit to save the world.
In alphabetical order, here are our top 30 inspiring UK entrepreneurs.
1. Kim Antoniou (Kafoodle)
Kim Antoniou founded Kafoodle in 2014 with her long-time friend Tarryn Gorre. Inspiration for the business came from trauma: Kim watched her husband be resuscitated on a restaurant floor in Greece after a waiter gave wrong allergen information.
Kafoodle aims to help chefs list ingredients and empower diners to know exactly what’s in their food. Also a Co-founder of Auris Tech, the multi-talented Kim has turned a traumatic experience into a product that could save lives.
2. Richard Blain (Earth-i)
Earth-i is at the forefront of the UK’s private space sector. The company has a constellation of satellites which can produce high-resolution images and video of Earth from space.
Richard also founded an aerospace company, is a licensed pilot, and owns a healthcare company which deals with professional sports players.
3. Chay Blyth (Challenge Business)
Sir Charles (Chay) Blyth rose to fame as the first person to sail non-stop the ‘wrong way’ around the world. Born in the Scottish Borders, Chay served in the Parachute Regiment and rowed across the Atlantic in 92 days.
Chay founded Challenge Business to break down barriers to adventure sport. The company organised four of the ‘World’s Toughest Yacht Races’ as well as creating the Atlantic Rowing Races and the Transat for Open 60’s.
4. Tania Boler (Elvie)
FemTech pioneer Tania founded Elvie in 2013 with partner Alexander Asseily. The Elvie Trainer, a Kegel training device, is a direct response to Tania’s experience of pregnancy, when she realised how little technology exists to help women.
Passionate about challenging taboo women’s issues, Tania aims to create a global hub of connected health and lifestyle products for women.
5. Hellen Bowey (Alcove)
Hellen Bowey is Co-founder and CEO of the care-tech company Alcove. She founded Alcove in 2014 to help disabled and elderly adults live independently. The company provides software, smart tech and an installation service to put motion sensors in vulnerable people’s homes.
If a resident suffers a fall, the motion sensors detect the lack of movement and raise the alarm. There are other packages, such as the ‘Wandering’ package which alerts family members if dementia sufferers leave their residence unexpectedly.
6. Simon Chinn & Jonathan Chinn (Lightbox)
The Chinn cousins founded Lightbox together in 2014. With Simon based in the UK and Jonathan in LA, Lightbox produces high-end non-fiction and has worked with Xbox Studios, Netflix, Fusion, Esquire Network, Channel 4, BBC2, FX, National Geographic and ESPN.
Simon is a double Oscar-winning producer, and Jonathan has won two Emmys.
7. Tessa Clarke (Olio)
Tessa co-founded Olio with Saasha Celestial-One to combat food waste in the UK. Olio connects neighbours and small businesses to spread around surplus food. Tessa was inspired by her farmer parents, seeing first-hand as a child how much work goes into food production.
Olio has won numerous accolades including a UN Momentum for Change award, a Europa award, a Sustainable City award, a national CSR award, and two SPARKies tech awards.
8. Jenny Costa (Rubies in the Rubble)
Jenny Costa is also on a mission to limit food waste. She founded Rubies in the Rubble in 2011 after feeling uninspired by her career in finance.
Rubies in the Rubble saves surplus fruit and vegetable produce from going in the bin by turning it into jams, relishes, chutneys, ketchups and other condiments. Jenny wants to make food waste a mainstream issue.
9. Andrew Diprose (RootWave)
Andrew Diprose is the CEO of Ubiqutek, which is branded as RootWave. RootWave uses electricity to kill weeds, offering a scalable and sustainable alternative to chemical herbicides.
Rootwave reduces carbon emissions and water consumption, is cost-comparable to herbicides, and offers instant results. Because there is no need to till the earth, the technology can also reduce soil erosion, carbon emissions and spread of disease.
10. Stephen Fitzpatrick (Vertical Aerospace)
Stephen Fitzpatrick is founder and CEO of OVO Energy, CEO of Kaluza, and, since 2016, founder of Vertical Aerospace. Vertical Aerospace aims to revolutionise air travel, with carbon-free, inter-city air taxis which transport people from their local neighbourhoods direct to their destination.
Stephen also used to own a Formula 1 team.
11. Amit Gudka & Hayden Wood (Bulb)
Amit Gudka and Hayden Wood are out to disrupt the energy industry. Both worked previously for energy companies and noticed widespread problems like poor service, inefficiency, expensive tariffs, and environmental harm.
Bulb is now one of the fastest growing UK energy companies and consistently receives the top rating for energy providers on Trust Pilot.
12. Ade Hassan MBE (Nubian Skin)
Ade Hassan founded Nubian Skin, a lingerie and hosiery company which caters to a diverse range of skin tones.
Ade has been featured in every major fashion magazine, supplies the wardrobes on Broadway and the West End, was listed in the EBONY 100 list, and was chosen to supply the underpinnings for Beyoncé’s Formation Tour.
Ade’s products have challenged the fashion industry to cater to customers of all skin tones.
13. Brent Hoberman (Founders Factory)
Brent Hoberman co-founded Founders Factory and Founders Forum to encourage and advance entrepreneurship in the UK through education and start-up/scale-up support.
Beyond the Founders platforms, Brent Hoberman is a busy man. He co-founded lastminute.com, selling in 2005 for $1.1bn. He is a co-founder of Karakuri.tech, mydeco.com, made.com, and PROfounders Capital. He is a board member of LetterOne Technology (a $16bn investment fund), the Oxford Foundry, the UK Gov Digital Advisory Board, and formerly of the Economist.
His political positions include: Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, Prime Minister’s Business Trade Ambassador, Business Sectors Council for Britain under Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Co-Chair of the Prime Minister Theresa May’s Business Sector Council for Britain for entrepreneurship, scale-ups and small business.
14. Anne-Marie Imafidon (STEMettes)
Anne-Marie Imafidon is a prodigy. At 11, she was the youngest girl ever to pass A-level computing, and at 20 she received her Master’s Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Oxford.
Anne-Marie has worked at Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard and Deutsche Bank, and has Honorary Doctorates from Open University, Glasgow Caledonian University, Kent University & Bristol University and an Honorary Fellowship at Keble College, Oxford.
Anne-Marie co-founded STEMettes, an award-winning social initiative dedicated to inspiring and promoting the next generation of young women in STEM. Since its inception 6 years ago, it has exposed more than 40,000 young people across Europe to Anne-Marie’s vision for a more diverse and balanced science and tech community.
15. Ben Jeffries (Influencer)
In 2014, Ben Jeffries dropped out of university to found his second company, Influencer. Now 23 years old, Ben has led Influencer through multiple rounds of investment and secured clients such as Apple, Alibaba and McDonalds.
Ben’s secret: he correctly predicted major changes in online consumer behaviour. He saw that trust in ads was low, but that there was huge potential in product recommendations from social media micro-celebrities.
Ben was recently named Media Week’s Rising Star and BMW’s UK Tech Founder 2018.
16. Belinda Kirk (Explorers Connect)
Belinda Kirk has spent the last 24 years of her life leading groups into the wilderness all over the world. These trips include numerous personal expeditions, youth development expeditions, biological research missions and remote filming trips for the BBC.
Today she is a motivational speaker, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a campaigner encouraging others to live adventurously.
17. Neil Laughton (Laughton & Co)
Another explorer, Neil Laughton is a former Royal Marine Commando and Special Forces Officer turned entrepreneur. He founded a group of companies in the design, construction and office furniture industries. These companies grew to £40m turnover and were then sold to a FTSE 100 company in 2011.
Neil is now a full-time business consultant, leadership coach and team trainer. He is a recipient of the Ness Award for “inspirational leadership” from the Royal Geographical Society and works with clients including B&Q, Virgin Atlantic and BP.
18. Martin Lewis (MoneySavingExpert.com)
Martin Lewis is a financial journalist and television presenter who founded the website moneysavingexpert.com back in 2003. It is a consumer finance information and discussion website that aims to provide the public with information on saving tips and deals. It was bought by moneysupermarket.com in 2012 for £87m.
Lewis is a known campaigner who has taken on unfair bank charges, extortionate energy bills, student loan surcharges and mental health issues to do with debt.
19. Ishaan Malhi (Trussle)
Ishaan Malhi created the UK’s first online mortgage brokerage in 2015, after a career at Merrill Lynch and as an entrepreneur/investor in early-stage tech companies. Trussle uses its proprietary algorithm to filter through thousands of deals from 90 national lenders to save British citizens millions on unfair mortgage charges.
20. Claire Novorol (Ada)
Dr Claire Novorol is a trained doctor and served as a paediatrician in London before specializing in clinical genetics. With a degree in both pathology and medicine from the University of Bristol and a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Cambridge, Claire is the co-founder and overseer of all of Ada’s medical affairs. As an industry thought leader, she gives a voice to the clinicians, patients and doctors to ensure that Ada’s products meet their needs.
21. Guy Riese (UpLearn)
Before the age of 25, Guy Riese is already an experienced businessman and entrepreneur, having started his first company at the age of just 13. That company, an internet hosting firm, grew over the next seven years under his stewardship before he sold the business.
With UpLearn, Guy aims to reinvent tutoring and help those whose education has been affected by illness through the use of AI and cognitive science.
22. Justine Roberts (Mumsnet)
Justine Roberts is the founder and CEO of Mumsnet and Gransnet – an online forum for parents to discuss the issues surrounding raising children. The idea came following a disastrous family holiday, and has since grown to an incredibly influential website.
Roberts was awarded a CBE for her services to the economy.
23. Chika Russell (Chika’s)
After moving to the UK from Nigeria at the age of five – and the youngest of seven siblings – Russell was inspired by her mother, and at the age of 14, she got her first job ironing shirts. Throughout her education she worked hard at age of 22 she bought her first investment property, showing an early entrepreneurial flair.
While on maternity leave, Chika returned to her roots and sought a more autonomous career by starting her own African food company. Chika famously turned down all the dragons on Dragons’ Den.
24. Mark Pearson (Fuel Ventures)
Mark grew up on a Liverpool council estate with his mother, where he overcame family issues, money issues and the feeling that education wasn’t for him. He is now an award-winning serial entrepreneur who grew his first company, Markco Media from his bedroom into a multi-million-pound enterprise, before selling it for £55m in 2015.
Following the sale of Markco Media, Mark founded Fuel Ventures in 2014. It invests in high-growth tech entrepreneurs who have the ambition to build a global company. Fuel has an expanding portfolio of 26 companies, adding 10 new investments a year.
25. Rafael dos Santos (High Profile Club)
Rafael dos Santos is a Brazilian-British entrepreneur, who is the son of a fisherman. His humble beginnings were the push for his parents to move to Santos, Brazil, so Rafael could receive a better education.
After moving to London at the age of 21, he had more than a decade working in a wide range of roles. After growing his own housing business to over a £1m turnover, he launched a Migrant Business Accelerator programme to help migrant entrepreneurs start their journey.
26. Emma Sayle (Killing Kittens)
In 2005, there was nowhere women could go to feel in control and explore their sexuality in a safe environment, so Emma created Killing Kittens. The business has sexually liberated people around the world, through events hosted from New York to Venice to Sydney on top of a global online community platform.
Emma faced a lot of social obstacles when founding her company, but despite her critics, the Killing Kittens brand is valued at £5m and has smashed its crowdfunding targets along the way.
27. Ben Scott-Robinson & Sam Watson Jones (The Small Robot Company)
The Small Robot Company is a start-up company focused on revolutionising the way that technology is used to create food.
Ben Scott-Robinson an experienced entrepreneur working at the cutting edge of user centred design, while Sam Watson Jones is a fourth-generation farmer. The pair aim to replace much of the work done by tractors in fields with a series of highly accurate, smart, lightweight robots.
28. Anthony Rose (SeedLegals)
Known as ‘the man who saved the BBC’, Anthony Rose helped to launch the BBC iPlayer. The prolific South African/British tech entrepreneur has founded a number of companies including Beamly, 6Tribes, Hey Blab and QJAM.
Anthony is currently the founder and CEO of SeedLegal, the world’s first legal automation platform for start-up funding.
29. Nigel Toon (Graphcore)
Within three years of being founded, Nigel Toon helped to grow Graphcore – a Bristol-based semiconductor company that develops accelerators for AI and machine learning – into one of the UK’s few unicorn businesses.
Under Nigel’s leadership, Graphcore has received large amounts of funding from some of the world’s leading tech firms, including Robert Bosch, Samsung, Amadeus Capital Partners, Microsoft, BMW and Dell.
30. Sophi Tranchell (Divine Chocolate)
Sophi Trancell is the CEO of Divine Chocolate, a Fairtrade pioneer, a social enterprise ambassador, the Chair of Fairtrade London, and a champion of doing business differently.
A prominent campaigner for equality and fair trade, her business is 45% owned by a collective of cocoa farmers in Ghana. This means that they have the same level of profits as the UK employees, and also have two seats on the board.