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Secret Leaders

Author: Dan Murray-Serter, Rich Martell

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Secret Leaders is the UK's top business podcast featuring the stories & struggles to success from founders of companies likes Slack, Deliveroo, Calm, Shazam, Jo Malone, & more. It also features some of the investors crazy enough to back them, and group interviews from sold out live events on managing mental health, equality, financing, managing in times of crisis and more. Our new show on Sundays, 'Represented' features Black & minority founders pitching for investment from an investment committee in the model of 'Dragon's Den/Shark Tank to do our part to support the #blacklivesmatter movement.
86 Episodes
In this episode you will learn;How he started his career in Russia working for the infamous MarkRich as an ‘intrapreneur’ and what that process taught him aboutbusiness.The value of being a sole founderHis definitions on focus,and how important that can be for someone who describes himself as‘easily distracted’.How he started an MBA knowing he’d most likelycome towards the bottom of the class but still be one of the onlypeople to start an actual business - and he was right on both fronts.And lots more of course...Key QuotesBeing considered by others as being fair in business is much morevaluable than being ruthless. If people need to check how manyfingers they’ve got left after a handshake, I dont understand howthat’s constructive to business.There’s nothing quite like ‘needing’ a business to work, and what’s more motivating than if you’ve put all your money in?Top Advice"As a founder, never, ever, do any work that you can pay someone else a simple basic wage to do. For starters, you are creating a job someone needs, and secondly, you’re more likely to create more jobs if you focus on your priorities and key skills like strategy and the big picture."“Write a business plan, and then spend as much time as you can looking around to see who else is doing it - and what you’ll do better. No harm in anyone doing it, just do it differently!”“You need to be decisive. What I learned whilst doing my MBA was there were many people far brighter than me who could do a bunch of presentations much better than I could, and yet they couldn’t pick one thing to go with and they never got anything properly off the ground - so being decisive is a key skill”.Other Facts:Yes, they had a pig in their office, and yes they had to take it for walks all the time.He failed a business which led him to be sure he needed an MBA before starting MoonpigMoonpig ended up being one of 5 ideas developed through his MBA
In this episode you will learn;Where the idea for Entrepreneur First came from originally, and howthat’s evolved through the yearsHow to start a business with nobusiness model whatsoeverThe best and worst company ideas she’s everbeen pitched.What they look for in individuals that gives them theconfidence to just give them cash and help them to develop valuableideasAnd lots more of course...Key QuotesAs an entrepreneur - where do you stop and the company start?I wantpeople to eventually see me as the greatest AI leader globally (andfun fact she is pretty certain EF is currently the biggest investorin AI technology in Europe)“We look for megalomania in our founders - this crazy belief that if everything else goes wrong, we’ll be ok - that’s pretty important for resilience.Entrepreneurs always come upwith the same ideas - so what we enjoy is trying to push people tothink a bit more uniquely. But I’ve heard probably every singledating and food delivery concept you’ve ever thought of.Top Advice:Get a mentor or professional coach - it creates huge value forfounders - so much so they use a bunch of them for their founders, tomake sure they’re mentally balanced.How important a ‘growth mindset’is for resilience and how she tries to embed that within her teams.Strong beliefs, weakly held.What makes you special? Think about thatbefore thinking about what you want to do. And then think big.Other Fun Facts:Magic Pony Technology was 18 months old from Entrepreneur First and sold for £150m to Twitter, with only 15 people - the founders had never met each other before they started.In one University they work with, more people join EF than join the financial services sector now!
In this episode you will learn; Why he started Photobox, and what it was like running a startup over the dotcom boom and bust, within the first year of it’s inception. The complexity of their raising funds, from trying and failing; from growing fast to scaling all the way back, what that felt like for them at the time. The process of buying and selling companies as a means to grow How to manage culture when absorbing other companies What it’s like starting as CEO, then hiring someone to replace you, and becoming CTO. And lots more of course... Key Quotes I don’t see myself as an Entrepreneur because to me, they feel more like the types that do it repeatedly, and perhaps I just got lucky. I’m one startup away from feeling like I’ve earned that title You dont manage one football club and get called a ‘football manager’ so to me the same is true about an entrepreneur. Top Advice: Sit back, assess a situation, and decide what to do next, instead of making a knee jerk reaction. Figure out why you want to be an entrepreneur - do you have a problem to solve, or do you want to be your own boss, if it’s the latter, don’t go sit in WeWork - get a normal job, build up your experience and contacts, and be patient until a real problem comes up that you need to solve. Other Fun Facts: He was cautioned by US naval intelligence for hacking He worked next to Nick Leeson - the infamous Rogue Trader who brought down a whole bank -
In this episode you will learn;How his journey from 20 years in the navy eventually led to him starting Pitch at PalaceHow he became fascinated with people and psychology - from education to growth and business successThe importance of being able to sell your business in a 3 minute pitchHow a conversation with Tom Hulme of Google Ventures led to him thinking of himself as an ‘accelerant’ and focus on adding value and amplifying entrepreneurs’ success rateHow Pitch at Palace has never really had great ambition but like all great startups, has thrived into a beastAnd lots more of course...Key QuotesThis nice little furry creature I created on a small scale turned into a ferocious lion that sits in the corner and wants to be fed all the timeThe venue for Pitch at Palace is absolutely intended to be intimidating!The really good entrepreneurs are the one’s who understand the ‘what ifs’. Because the ones that think about that, are the ones who plan, adapt, and think of how to stay ahead of everyone else.No plan survives first contact with the enemy.Top Advice:Everything is easier with a track record - we are here to try and help you get that track record.Dont worry about failing, just look to find opportunities from big shifts in the status quo.Be realistic and recognise just how long it takes to raise money. Not 3 months. Not 6 months. It could take you 2 years. Dont get caught out by the PR cos its not the reality!Other Fun Facts:HRH ideally wanted to become a venture capitalist yet he wasn’t technically allowed to be, which led him on this journey...He’s seen over 400 startup pitches in the last 3 years.
Jess Butcher is the co-founder of Blippar - the augmented reality giant. Founded in 2011, Jess has over 250 colleagues and as of 2016 raised a total of $100m valuing the business at a reputed $1bn and it’s also reported that they turned down an acquisition of £1.5bn. Jess gives us an insight into the founding days of Blippar and also what it's like building a behemoth of a business while also raising a family. This episode of The Secret Lives of Leaders was recorded at Stockton House in front of a live audience at the Foundrs Unconference.
Michael Acton Smith OBE is a man who's been described as the ‘tech version of Willy Wonka’. From setting up popular e-commerce websites with university friends to extravagant online games Michael Acton Smith has always had a drive as a maker. His biggest success, Moshi Monsters, grew to over 100 million registered users and expanded to over 150 countries around the world. It’s not all been plain sailing though. His businesses have come within days of missing payroll and after booming success Mind Candy has found it challenging reproducing it’s second hit. More recently our esteemed guest has focussed his attention on raising awareness and building businesses in the mental health space - an area very close to his heart with the meditation app - Calm.
Our guest in this episode is probably responsible for the funny tweets you saw, or that ridiculously viral campaign that captured your imagination. At 24, he’s one of those guys who has already had the life experience of most 40 year olds, with offices in Manchester, Berlin and New York, plus spending a small stint living in San Francisco as an Entrepreneur in Residence advising Bebo for their relaunch, he’s accomplished a great deal in a short period of time and shows no signs of slowing down. At the age of 18, Steve Bartlett dropped out of school and embarked on his first business, Wallpark - a social media venture connecting students with similar interests around, essentially a digital social notice board. He then exited that business in 2013 and Co Founded the Social Chain, having met a young guy called Dom McGregor, who had a unique knack of creating multiple twitter accounts and growing the shit out of them, and from there they’ve been at the heart of a number of viral campaigns growing Social Chain to a multi million pound business counting Apple, McDonalds and BBC as some of their clients. Quite rightly, they’ve picked up a ton of PR along the way and Steve, presumably learning along the way from those he promotes, has increasingly been popping up in my facebook feed as an inspirational speaker with his own YouTube channel, therefore, in his own right, becoming a key person of influence.
Our guest this week is one of the best networked ladies in UK tech, as the Co Founder of not only the first ever, but also arguably the most successful Seed Fund in Europe, Seedcamp. By only part-selling their stake in their most successful investment, they’ve already returned their entire fund back, as the high profile FinTech unicorn Transferwise was originally developed before Reshma’s eyes and with her support and brainpower. With over 200 investments to her name, its not fair to focus only on their largest, as they’ve backed many really exciting winners, which she’ll be talking to us about in this episode. With her roots from India, teenage years in America, and an MBA in france, it’s Europe she’s chosen of the 3 continents to call home, and it’s fair to say she’s had a huge impact on the technology scene.
Our guest in episode 9 is the bestselling author Daniel Priestley. Hailing from Australia Daniel was already a success before he moved to Europe. He used writing as a way to get his thought process down while running his own business and along the way his books is what he is most well known for. His catalogue includes the titles “24 Assets”, “Oversubscribed” and “Key Person of Influence”. Along the way Daniel has built huge businesses, advised celebrated entrepreneurs, broken world records, raised millions in venture capital and fundraised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.
Our second Australian guest in a row for our 10th episode of Secret Lives of Leaders. This episode we have the pleasure of hosting Alicia Navarro - the co-founder and CEO of Skimlinks. Known for her energy and enthusiasm, Alicia has been in the heart of the tech scene in London for over a decade. Her company has gone through many highs and lows along the way as well as receiving over $20m in venture funding. Alicia gives us an insight into running starting and then running a high growth company as well as what she gets up to when she's not working.
Our guest this week is the advertising giant Sir John Hegarty. As the co-founder of ad agency BBH and creator of acclaimed campaigns for brands such as Levi’s, Audi, BA and Johnnie Walker, Hegarty has been a leader in the advertising industry for more than 50 years. In our interview with him he reveals some of his creative tricks (lose the headphones) and “when the world zigs, zag” – words which went on to become the BBH’s mantra.
Tamara Lohan MBE is the co-founder and CTO of Mr & Mrs Smith Hotels. She started Mr and Mrs Smith with her husband James 14 years ago, and has been at the heart of one of the best loved internet brands in Britain, but it in fact started as a publishing business; a guidebook for people like her who wanted to explore the luxury boutiques across the country and discovering the real gems and stylish weekends away in unique hotels. They sold 10,000 copies in their first 6 weeks, but fast forward to today they have over 100 staff spread across London, LA, Singapore, New York… and have had contributions from celebrities ranging from Stella McCartney to Cate Blanchett.
Today’s guest is the self styled Jesus Christ Superstar of the organic viral growth world, Vincent Dignan. He puts the M in Millennial, the G in Growth and the WTF in Fashion. A man who very much practices what he preaches, and a true obsessive for the American personal branding school of thought - he knows that to stand out, you have to really stand out. And he does this to perfection. In his own words - his mission is to help as many founders and companies grow in the fastest way possible using bespoke techniques, tactics and software most people don’t know about. Whilst his over sharing and very un-British attitude towards self promotion doesn’t resonate with everyone - it’s categorically impossible to ignore Vincent once you’ve made contact, and underneath all the outfits and image is simply a guy interested to see how he can help others succeed with the knowledge he’s accumulated. From living off benefits to touring the West Coast inspiring young entrepreneurs and makers how to build an audience, Vincent’s life has gone from rags to riches in very little time, and should be viewed as an inspiration that anyone with a strong work ethic, positive attitude and most importantly, the self belief and confidence in what makes you unique and interesting is your pathway to success.
Today we are joined by one of the best known, and certainly most liked entrepreneurs in the UK - Sarah Wood from Unruly Media. The tl;dr on Sarah is that she went to University of Cambridge, then became a lecturer at the University of Sussex, then she Co Founded Unruly, sold it for £114m to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp a few years later, and now teaches a course back at Cambridge whilst maintaining a role as CEO at the company she helped build. In this episode you'll find out what Unruly does, and how Cambridge University responded to her suggested classroom title she teaches entitled “ Mashups, memes and LOLitics, online video culture and the screen media revolution”
Today’s special guest is one of the key Venture Capital investors in the UK, the CEO and Founder of Draper Esprit, Mr Simon Cook. Most recently, Simon has focused on disrupting the traditional VC structure by taking his company public on an IPO that raised over £100m of ‘permanent capital’ as he calls it which he intends to use to grow the UK’s influence globally. He has been involved in some of the best known deals in the UK including LoveFilm, Graze and Trust Pilot.
For the last 11 years, David has done nothing but think about takeaway. Sounds like a dream, right? But that’s the reality for the former CEO of food giant Just Eat, still part of the board to this day.Described as one of UK’s standout entrepreneurs of the last decade, David got a taste for delivery-based businesses when he created his own newspaper-delivering service at the age of 11.Just Eat helped restaurants deliver almost 100 million orders last year, from anything from curries to salads.David is now working at venture capital firm 83North as general partner. In his new role, he aims to identify technology startups in Europe and Israel that have the potential to grow to the same size as Just Eat, which now has a market cap in excess of £5 billion.Key takeaways:The Just Eat journey: how two colleagues working in a basementcreated an empire with a valuation of £5.5 billionTheir story of getting fundedWhat made Just Eat stand out from other food delivery servicesJoin us to discover more about the incredible story of Just Eat.Full show notes at:
If you are the type of person who is into sustainability, philanthropy, giving back, purpose, any of these things, our guest today is the crème de la crème. Meet Gail Gallie, co-founder of Project Everyone.Today we go through Gail’s entire story from when she was a producer at Radio 1, to becoming CEO of ad agency Fallon, and eventually working with Kate Garvey and Richard Curtis of Four Weddings and Notting Hill fame on Project Everyone, a communications house for the UN Sustainable Development Goals.The UN has committed globally to creating a fairer world by creating 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development that we can all commit to. Ironically, the UN is also not unbelievably good at marketing.Fortunately, world-class British filmmaker Richard Curtis and two brilliant marketeers came to the rescue.We chat about:Working as a producer for Radio 1The challenges of being the CEO of an ad agencyDriving awareness towards a sustainable futureLinks:Project EveryoneThe Sustainable Development GoalsTo learn how it all happened, join us today.Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!Full show notes at:
Today you are going to hear the story of Songkick led by Pete Finlay, formerly known as Pete Smith.You’re going to learn about the ups and downs of a very brutal story. Songkick was once one of the startup darlings of the UK, they raised a ton of cash, grew exponentially quickly, and, as Pete will share in today’s episode, really grew too fast for them to really understand how to manage this beast properly.Pete ended up leaving Songkick and starting Silicon Milkroundabout. This had its own challenges, which again he shares in brutally honest fashion. Like any great leader, he owns his mistakes and shares how others could avoid them in the future.We chat about:Songkick’s birth, infancy and later yearsWhat made Songkick different from other online concert discovery toolsPete’s experience with burnout and his advice to first-time foundersLinks:SongkickSilicon MilkroundaboutJoin us to learn more about Pete’s amazing journey.Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!Full show notes at:
Today we have an audio feast for you as our guest is Karen Jones, most well-known as the co-founder of the Café Rouge chain of restaurants. Her career is a textbook story of entrepreneurship.Karen was born in Lancashire, in northern England, and raised in Yorkshire, London, and Switzerland, before studying English and American Literature at the University of East Anglia, where she has now come full circle to serve as their Chancellor.As the Café Rouge brand grew, Karen and her co-founder Roger Myers formed the Pelican Group, which was eventually acquired in 1996 by Whitbread for a reported £133 million. Karen couldn’t stay away from the table for too long and became the CEO of the Spirit Pub Group. She is definitely not the kind of person to sit back and put her feet up, so she also joined the board of the London Gastropub Company among many others.We chat about:How the first Café Rouge came to beSelling Café Rouge and creating Punch TavernsWhat makes a brand a winnerKaren’s advice to entrepreneursLinks:Café RougeAre you enjoying the second season so far? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Let us know what you think and, while you're at it, why not give us a review in iTunes? We'd really appreciate it!Full show notes at:
Our guest today is on the more unconventional side. For starters, he wouldn’t necessarily choose to call himself a “leader”, so what better set-up for a secret leader?Mills, aka Matt Miller, is the co-founder of the fampany (read: family company) ustwo, a design studio occupying the ground floor of the Tea Building in Shoreditch, famous for hosting many of UK’s most creative brands.Mills started his career at design studio Animal, where his first and only ever boss demonstrated to him just how leadership can be: a friendship based on trust and shared values. After experiencing that, Mills and ustwo co-founder John Sinclair, aka Sinx, decided to replicate it to create a fizzing company culture of their own.Today we talk about doing things differently and putting values at the heart of an organization that really tries to keep its creativity in full flow, full-time employed. Mills and Sinx have zero intention to ever sell ustwo, and are on a mission to create the best working environment you can imagine.We chat about:The story of how ustwo was formedInternational expansionHow they created a global smash hit mobile gameMills’s love for mindful ultrarunningWhat's next for ustwoLinks:ustwoMonument ValleyWant to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
Comments (3)

John Davies

Is Graham not the nicest guy... Ever!

Mar 9th
Reply (1)

Vignesh Subramani

Awesome Dato

Apr 29th
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