We start the week with the latest nominees for the third annual City A.M. awards – our shortlist for Entreprenur of the Year. Some of the world’s great companies were founded in tough economic times, and we are undoubtedly living through dark days now. It takes a clear head to lead a company when all about you are losing their bottom lines, and this year’s nominations are ahead of the game. All have good ideas in common, but ideas are only the spark. To stand out from the crowd, a founder must deliver funding, customers and profitable growth.
The global online fashion and beauty retailer – led by Nick Robertson – offers over 50,000 branded and own label product lines. It has websites targeting the UK, US, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Australia, and ships to over 190 other countries from its central distribution centre in the UK. Asos attracts 16.6m unique visitors a month and has 8.7m registered users from 160 countries. For the three months to 30 June, total retail sales were up a whopping 31 per cent to £136.9m, and show few signs of slowing as the firm expands in the US.
On 1 June, high-profile personal finance guru Martin Lewis announced the sale of MoneySavingExpert for £87m to MoneySupermarket.com. Lewis created the website for just £100 in 2003, and will remain editor-in-chief of the website for the next three years. He aims to give £10m to charity, which includes £1m to Citizens Advice. Although he is not stepping down, he plans to focus on his work in the media and advocacy work – including his battle to get financial education taught in schools.
Vivienne Bearman & Tracy Dorée
The online design sale site launched just 10 weeks before being bought by Fab.com — one of the fastest UK exits in recent history. Founded by Vivienne Bearman, a former senior studio producer at Playfish, and Tracy Dorée, a former venture capitalist, Llustre raised £750,000 from entrepreneurs and topped 50,000 members in Europe before its acquisition.
Samir Desai, James Meekings & Andrew Mullinger
This has been a great year for the online finance marketplace, founded in 2010. In the first six months, Funding Circle members lent more than £18m to small businesses. In total, £40m has now has now been lent to businesses across Britain, helping to establish Funding Circle as a credible, mainstream alternative to banks for businesses looking for finance. In March, the group closed a £10m round of funding with the venture capital firms Index Ventures and New York-based Union Square Ventures.
Paul Lindley is founder of children's food brand Ella’s Kitchen, one of the fastest growing companies in the UK – doubling revenue every year since it was founded in 2004. In 2011 families spent over £50m on Ella’s Kitchen foods. Its market share has grown dramatically, currently owning a 13.8 per cent share of the wet baby food market. Paul launched Ella’s Kitchen internationally in 2009 and the products are selling with great success in the US, Scandinavia, Ireland, Malta, South Africa and Australia.