By @SimonCocking, great interview with Brent Hoberman cofounder Founders Factory, , , founders forum, Founders intelligence, smartup: non exec:The Economist. See more in our interview with Brent here

What is your background briefly?

I co-founded in April 1998 with Martha Lane Fox. I also co-founded mydeco, the online interiors site before going on to found MADE.COM.

I co-founded and chair Founders Forum; a series of annual events for the world’s leading entrepreneurs. Founders Forum also has an innovation consultancy for top corporates (Founders Intelligence) and a recruitment company (Founders Keepers).

Most recently we launched Founders Factory, a corporate backed incubator and accelerator that will launch and scale over 200 early stage technology businesses, across six sectors, in five years.

I am also a board member of the Economist and a Non-Executive Board Director of TalkTalk PLC.

What is your current role?

I spend a great deal of time now with Founders Factory, where I’m Executive Chairman, meaning I still get to provide lots of hands on mentoring to our operations team and startup founders.

Founders Factory is an interesting idea, why do you feel it will be successful?

Founders Factory was set up based on our experiences with large corporations and seeing how hard it is do to innovation internally, and not because management are foolish, but because their structures are not set up to disrupt themselves.

Founders Factory works across six sectors, backed by some of the world’s leading corporates: easyJet (Travel), L’Oréal (Beauty), Aviva (Fintech), Holtzbrinck (Education), Guardian Media Group (Media) and CSC Group (Artificial Intelligence). We build two brand new companies in conjunction with them each year and scale five existing early stage startups per year. Meaning that at the end of five years, we’ll have stakes in over 200 companies, which we believe will be a great way for corporates to be in touch with innovation and move the strategic needle for them.

For the startups, we get a lot of input from our corporate investors on the types of companies we bring in and build, which means we’re already helping to find product market fit early on and also brings credibility to those startups.

How was it for you in 2016?

Professionally there were a couple of major things for me last year. I freed up a lot of time for Founders Factory and stepped aside as Chairman at MADE.COM but remain on the board. It was great to see that business move to a new successful stage of development – it was no longer necessary for me to be on the board of that business, as it’s already doing £100m plus in sales and growing fast with high margins and expanding right across Europe.

At Founders Factory, we closed our six corporate investors, even though people thought we were mad to try and achieve that.

What were the big wins?

Other than the incredible backing we’ve received for Founders Factory and the talent we attracted to the team and accelerator programme, there were some big wins for us.

At Founders Forum, HRH the Duke of Cambridge addressed some of the world’s leading tech entrepreneurs on the Cyberbullying Taskforce he is leading.

In June, we launched Founders of the Future at Downing Street; an initiative to uncover the next generation of technology superstars. We ran a number of workshops as part of the programme and will continue to do so this year.

Other companies I’ve co-founded had a great year too. SmartUp, a peer-to-peer microlearning platform used by everyone from startups to big business for innovation training signed deals with large corporate customers across banking, telco, real estate and oil and gas sectors – not bad for a startup!

Grip, another company I co-founded, launched the first artificial intelligence powered matchmaking API, now integrated in the largest event app providers and will be used by hundreds of thousands of people this year. Grip went from 0 to £200k revenue in under 12 months.

What are the challenges / anything you will do differently in 2017?

For me, 2017 is all about building the synergies of the businesses we have here – Founders Forum, Founders Factory, Founders of the Future, etc. It’s a fact that we are a magnet for entrepreneurs and offer incredible value to those entrepreneurs. I want to get the cohesive message across so top founders understand how we can help them.

Who are your go-to sources of inspiration?

Working with smart people every day is incredibly inspiring.

Inspiration for me also comes from the serendipity of news – that’s real news not fake news. I use Twitter and Facebook as well as newsletters like Nuzzle which tells me what my friends are reading. I like trying to find the non-obvious, interesting stories that not everyone else is reading. I really go by the adage that the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed. So, looking for where I can see this future today, is really inspiring for me.

You’ve had previous successes, how do you use this to help the people you are working with now?

Partly this is down to being on a non-linear journey, I think every entrepreneur likes to hear from people – not just the Google and Facebooks whose stories are pretty linear – from success to greater success – but most entrepreneurs have had a rollercoaster and I think some founders find that heartening and exciting.

Otherwise, mentoring and networking enable me to help founders and connect them with those who have been there and done it before, and some of the technologies we’ve built like Grip and SmartUp are now doing this at scale.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes – Founders Factory is accepting applications from startups across all its sectors. This week we announced our first travel tech startups FLIO and Lucky Trip, backed by easyJet.

So, if you are an early stage business with a great idea, initial traction and a team, apply for our accelerator programme via


If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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