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BE OUR GUEST WHEN HIS BOSSES IN THE HOTEL INDUSTRY FAILED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE RISING HOMESTAY MARKET, NAKUL SHARMA TOOK MATTERS INTO HIS OWN HANDS AND LAUNCHED HOSTMAKER


Keeping your business moving


Connect the Dots on your Travel, Expense and Invoice Spend

Concur integrates travel, expense, ERP, invoice and credit card data to provide a single, accurate and actionable view of spending. Your company's finance team will never be left in the dark again. Expense. Travel. Invoice.

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Cracking the compliance conundrum Introducing joined up systems doesn’t just give SMEs greater understanding of spend: it can also make it easier for companies to remain compliant with the law IN AN INCREASINGLY COMPLEX REGULATORY environment, having the right data at your fingertips has become an imperative in business. This is particularly true in the case of managing company travel, employee expenses and supplier invoice processes. For smaller organisations and startups focused on growing and developing their business, compliance can seem like an uphill struggle and a distraction from their core objectives. Yet the price of getting it wrong and falling foul of regulation includes prosecution, fines and reputational damage – not to mention all the expense of putting things right. And compliance with government regulations, including HMRC requirements, is not the only issue. To keep control of costs and promote accurate budgeting, businesses also need to be confident that employees are complying with internal T&E and other policies. Failure to audit expense claims can lead to spiralling costs and a poor culture, as Keeping your business moving

exaggeration or lack of attention to detail becomes the norm. Employers also need to comply with duty of care and health, safety and welfare requirements. Without real-time visibility and joined up systems, they cannot be sure where their employees are when they travel for business, which means they could run into problems locating them in the event of an emergency, putting the employees and the business at risk. Gaps in compliance When SAP Concur asked finance leaders in smaller businesses to list their key priorities for the next 12 months, 40% ranked ensuring external compliance as their first, second or third priority. This made it second only to managing cashflow – which was ranked as a top three priority by 52% of finance leaders – and equal to those prioritising balancing the books.


Conversely, compliance with HMRC or other government regulations comes relatively low on the list, being mentioned by 14% of SME finance leaders. And yet there is clearly still work to be done in this area: when respondents were asked whether their processes were always compliant with government regulations, nearly one in five said they were not very confident or not confident of this for travel, 18% for expenses and 14% for invoices. SMEs also shared that they had compliance concerns related to their own companies’ policies and practices: internal compliance was mentioned as a top three priority by 19% of respondents. But one in five finance leaders lacks confidence or doesn’t know whether employees always comply with T&E policies when booking travel and claiming expenses. And a similar proportion shares the same uncertainty when it comes to complying with internal policies around purchasing goods and services. These figures show the importance SMEs attach to regulatory and other forms of compliance but also reveal significant – not to mention risky – gaps between what they want to happen and what is happening in practice on the ground. In the absence of full employee-spend visibility and comprehensive checks and balances, it’s impossible for businesses to be confident that existing data will stand up to the scrutiny of an HMRC audit, that they’re accurately reclaiming the appropriate amount of VAT based on expense type or that they are meeting their basic duty of care to travelling employees. End-to-end processes When HMRC decides to audit a company’s T&E processes, many businesses make the mistake of assuming that inspectors are only interested in the completed forms and receipts to support them. In fact, they are also interested in reviewing the entire end-to-end process, focusing on issues such as clear and enforced policies; appropriate approval processes, documentation, checks and controls; tax and VAT compliance and a robust and secure payment process.

lookout for fraudulent practices via frequent internal audits. To keep an eye out for non-compliance or suspicious activity, businesses should also employ automated, connected systems that facilitate easy access to complete and comprehensive data; provide complete T&E spend visibility and generate accurate reports on demand; automatically cross-check against expenses policies; and ideally incorporate mobile, cloud-based solutions that make it easy for employees and managers to complete and approve claims wherever they are. Essentially, this can have a huge effect on how smooth an HMRC audit is likely to be. The simpler it is to submit and audit expenses, the easier it is for employers and employees to show they are meeting regulatory and internal requirements. In an ever-changing regulatory and policy landscape, automated systems can also build-in alerts and warnings that will update as necessary to ensure nothing slips through the net. Many SMEs continue to manage their travel, AP and expenses systems separately. Yet when these systems are disconnected, businesses are left with an incomplete snapshot of spending, preventing them from seeing the bigger picture. This also hampers their ability to prove compliance across key areas of employee spending. Real peace of mind when it comes to compliance requires complete spend visibility throughout these interconnected areas. Easy access to intelligent and accurate data across the board will also speed up processing, control costs and improve productivity. Based on a combination of well-chosen software systems, well-trained people and rigorous policies, SMEs can take some of the headaches out of compliance, reducing the administrative burden and leaving them free to concentrate on wider business strategy, tapping new markets and developing new products and services.

This means that to keep on top of compliance risks, businesses need to establish a fair and flexible expenses policy that staff are likely to comply with and be on the Keeping your business moving


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19/12/2017 09/04/2018 16:42 21:14


46

NAKUL SHARMA THE ELITE Interview

Despite his father telling him not to, Nakul Sharma went all in when he launched Hostmaker. The gamble certainly paid off with the Airbnb-host-management service today having expanded to several international markets 6

ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK APRIL 2018

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22

issue 46 APRIL 18

REGULARS 9 12 19 86

From the editor Upfront The big idea The crunch

columns 21 Jacqueline Gold 31 Anil Stocker 32 Gary Stewart

22

34

68

The country has had a startup renaissance. But is it too little, too late?

Check out this former Google-employee’s proptech startup

Not taking the gender pay gap seriously can be costly for startups

INSPIRING ITALY

70

settling in

40

FINANCIAL FREEDOM

72

Can open banking be the cure to SMEs’ funding woes?

TECHING CARE

56

Game on

MIND THE GAP

Esports offer startups new marketing opportunities

Modern AIsolutions are revolutionsing the healthcare industry

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78

Meet the startups fighting fallacious facts online

How can you protect your ideas from being stolen?

great british fake-off

LIGHT-BULB MOMENT

APRIL 2018 ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK

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EDITORIAL Zen Terrelonge – Acting Editor zen.terrelonge@cemedia.co.uk Eric Johansson - Feature Writer eric.johansson@cemedia.co.uk Angus Shaw – Editorial Intern angus.shaw@cemedia.co.uk DESIGN/PRODUCTION Jenny Allen – Designer jenny.allen@cemedia.co.uk Dan Humphris – Designer dan.humphris@cemedia.co.uk Lewis Sharp – Designer lewis.sharp@cemedia.co.uk Lizzie Thurgood - Design Intern lizzie.thurgood@cemedia.co.uk Dan Lecount – Web Development Manager dan@cemedia.co.uk SALES Gemma Campion – Head of Sales & Marketing gemma.campion@cemedia.co.uk Jordan Banes - Account Manager jordan.banes@cemedia.co.uk Taylor Blayney – Account Executive taylor.blayney@cemedia.co.uk Natalie Tyler – Media Assistant natalie.tyler@cemedia.co.uk Ore Akinniranye - Marketing Intern ore@cemedia.co.uk CIRCULATION Alisha Hardie - Data Assistant alisha.hardie@cemedia.co.uk ACCOUNTS Sally Stoker – Finance Manager sally.stoker@cemedia.co.uk Colin Munday – Management Accountant colin.munday@cemedia.co.uk DIRECTOR Scott English – Managing Director scott.english@cemedia.co.uk Circulation/subscription

UK £18, Europe £38, Rest of World £60 Elite Business Magazine is published four times a year by Channel Edge Media, 1st Floor, Regency House, 16 Victoria Road, Chelmsford, CM1 1NZ Copyright 2018. All rights reserved No part of Elite Business may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the editor. Elite Business magazine will make every effort to return picture material, but this is at the owner’s risk. Due to the nature of the printing process, images can be subject to a variation of up to 15%, therefore Channel Edge Media, cannot be held responsible for such variation.

Roll with the punches C

hange can be scary. Especially when you’re fighting for business success on a landscape that’s forever shifting. It may well feel like you’re boxer backed into a corner while trying to defend a world title – but that’s not to say change isn’t positive. GDPR is enforced in May to keep companies and customers secure, which has been a talking point this spring. And tying in seamlessly to data, we’ve observed how open banking’s arrival is expected to revolutionise the British financial industry as we know it. Then there’s gender pay gap reporting, which has left many a firm disgraced – a wake-

up call for growth startups to channel equality if ever there was one. In keeping with the theme of change, our cover star Nakul Sharma, a seasoned hospitality executive, recognised early on that the hotel market was evolving with the advent of Airbnb. He leapt into action with Hostmaker, a housekeeping service that helps homeowners deliver a hotel-class service to guests – a proposition that’s picked up a tidy $24.3m of funding to date. Zen Terrelonge - Acting Editor zen.terrelonge@cemedia.co.uk

contributors

ANGUS SHAW Our editorial intern has brought you the latest must-attend events and news updates, including everything from Grindr and chatbots to CV lies and Scottish tech.

JACQUELINE GOLD International Women’s Day left the Ann Summers CEO with a plate full of food for thought after involving staff in the celebration of female empowerment in 2018.

Gary stewart Employee departure may be a worry for most bosses but the director of Wayra UK explains why seeing staff chase their dreams can be a good feeling.

ANIL STOCKER As MarketInvoice moves towards the milestone for 100 employees, the company’s founder explains why building a solid culture doesn’t involve beer and ping pong.

APRIL 2018 ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK

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Grindr leaked users’ HIV statuses

The investment rounds that rocked the startup community last quarter

Series

The LGBT-dating app shared sensitive information to outside companies

E

At om B a nk

£149m

While harvesting big data about customers is a huge revenue stream for a lot of tech companies, Grindr has learned to be more careful with what data they share. The LGBT-dating app shared unencrypted personal data of some of its 3.6 million daily users with Apptimize and Localytics, the app optimisers, according to research by Sintef, the research group, commissioned by SVT, the Swedish public broadcaster. This includes highly personal information, which detailed when users were last tested for STDs and their HIV statuses. In combination with emails, phone IDs and GPS data, it is even possible for users to identified alongside their information, according to Antoine Pultier, researcher at Sintef. Following a massive backlash, Grindr said it will cease sharing information by the app’s next update.

Since 2014, Atom Bank has been disrupting traditional banking with its app-based services. Now, hitting £369m raised, its fifth round paves the way to perfect its technology and invest in growth.

Series

E

e T oro

$100m

Dealing in the social trading of currencies, commodities, indices and stocks, eToro’s impressive latest round will see the company take its broad platform into new markets and develop its blockchain technology.

Chatbots are disappointing their masters

Series

A

M A DE

£40m

The furniture designer opened doors this quarter with its latest funding round. Knocking on wood, it intends to expand its digital brand with the £40m investment.

Most chatbot developers are dissatisfied with their creations, according to Warwick Analytics

Series

B

Mat il l ion

With an extract, transform and load architecture, Matillion champions cloud services this quarter by raising $20m. Plans are now in motion to expand into sales, marketing, partnerships and R&D.

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WORDS BY ANGUS SHAW

$20m

To find out you are unloved by your own creator must be a damning thing. However luckily for underperforming chatbots relying on human assistance, AI sentience hasn’t got there quite yet. Out of 500 chatbot creators surveyed by Warwick Analytics, the research group, 93% believe that human validation and curation is important to improve and maintain the performance of their bots. Moreover, 59% said they are categorically unsatisfied with their chatbots, with 90% citing issues of containment rates, 83% finding too many errors and 79% dissatisfied with out-oftouch metallic responses. Additionally, 21% of owners refrain from even launching their chatbots into cyberspace due to their unacceptable performance. Dan Somers, CEO of Warwick Analytics, said: “It’s all about finding the right technology that minimises the human intervention required but still increases accuracy.” Currently chatbots are unable to function without humans, it is certainly better than an apocalyptic future where humans are no longer needed and taken over by sweettalking programs.

ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK APRIL 2018

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Some jobseekers love to lie on CVs New research finds over one third of candidates are less than truthful If the dream job is worth it then surely nothing is offbounds from the to-and-fro tennis court of job hunting. However, it seems that some jobseekers are playing with a rigged racket from the start. Having surveyed 2,000 jobseekers, NGA Human Resources, the HR and payroll solutions expert, found that more than a third admitted to fibbing on their CVs. Of the people telling untruths, interests came out as the most common exaggeration at 47% alongside skills, with an altered career history in third place at 33%. Staggeringly, a daring 79% nonetheless believed their career information would ultimately be checked by employers. Commenting on the survey, Anna Dickson, talent management specialist at NGA HR, said: “Candidates are taking risks by embellishing their qualifications and skills, especially since they know they could be found out.” Although those 79% can credibly write down the ‘risk-taking’ quality on their CV, more stringent checks may be needed to draw out the honest majority.

April 18 - 19 The Northern Business Exhibition Manchester Central, Windmill Street, Manchester, M2 3GX

May 16 - 17 UC Expo ExCeL London, Royal Victoria Dock, 1 Western Gateway, London, E16 1XL

May 21 - 22 Digital Festival Wales Millennium Centre, Bute Pl, Cardiff Bay, CF10 5AL

April 25 - 26 IP Expo Manchester Manchester Central, Windmill Street, Manchester, M2 3GX

May 16 Kent Vision Live Kent Event Centre, Kent Showground, Detling, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 3JF

May 23 - 24 Accountex 2018 ExCeL London, Royal Victoria Dock, 1 Western Gateway, London, E16 1XL

A full event listing is available on our website.

Brotopia – Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley, Penguin Random House, $28.00, Out now

I

t’s hardly a secret tech startups in general and Silicon Valley in particular struggle with gender equality. Except for a few exceptions, the rule seems to be that women don’t make it to the top of the innovative elite. Despite behemoths like Facebook and Google all having made public pledges to provide equal opportunities to both men and women, they have so far failed miserably. In her new book, Emily Chang reveals why. From the 1970s when groups of male data scientists turned a Playboy spread into one of the world’s first JPEGs via the 1980s cultivation of the nerd stereotype to the rise of the PayPal mafia, Chang expertly lays down how something isn’t just rotten in the state of tech but also how the corrosion has spread. And she shows exactly what the consequences of this toxic culture have been for the aspiring women in tech. It’s difficult to read about the sexism both female founders and engineers go through but as the old saying goes, those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. That’s why this book is so important, because it shows where things went wrong so that they can change. And they are. While decades of sexism have wreaked havoc on countless women’s careers, Chang shows how a new generation of women in tech is having nothing off it. Times they are a-changing and not a minute too soon. EJ APRIL 2018 ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK

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Successful crowdfunding campaigns that have closed in the last quarter

Discovery Group

£2.21m

22.79% Equity The producer of compact yet comfortable yachts, Discovery Group eventually turned to crowdfunding. Now, the company is able to craft up to ten ships per year with the backing of 401 investors.

Scottish tech startups nearly double in sharp rise

Northern Monk Brew Co

£1.5m

13.01% Equity With a passion to bring back ancient monastery brewing, Northern Monk has truly tapped into the novelty factor by raking in over 2,000 investors to overfund its original modest target of £500,000.

Following high profits, Scottish tech startups have shown seriously impressive growth Always hailed as the heartland of the UK’s old industrial power, Scotland has more strength to offer than just the kind found in its beverages. And going by recent analysis, this now even extends to its entrepreneurial spirit in tech startups, despite fears of a post-referendum slowdown. A display of northern innovation saw 440 Scottish software-development and programming startups being launched in 2017, according to RSM UK, the business advisory firm. Amazingly, this represents a whopping 77% increase from the 249

SunTech UK Ltd.

£940,200 12.39% Equity Bouncing off the accolade of British Invention of the Year 2016, SunTech’s transforming mobility scooter eFOLDi went on to secure £115,000 of awards and year one distribution agreements alongside its near £1m crowdfunding closing this quarter.

What’s the word

Labrador

£891,540

14

WORDS BY ANGUS SHAW

13.57% Equity This startup has capitalised on its 443 investors’ desire to easily switch energy providers. With £891,540 more in the bank, that’s really an electrifying result.

companies established in 2016 and is in line with nearly 70% of Scottish tech firms seeing improved sales in 2017, according to ScotlandIS, the trade association. Speaking about the success Ross Stupart, partner at RSM in Edinburgh, cited Scottish universities playing a role in “developing and nurturing exceptional talent”, with abilities to “gain good access” to finance. With such figures it is no wonder 80% of tech firms responding to ScotlandIS’s survey predict a “positive” 2018. Let the good times keep on rolling.

The Government must take responsibility for the potential fallout this may have on workers, their families, the community and their wider industrial strategy Diane Abbott, the UK’s shadow chancellor, felt Brexit blues over expectations of a Franco-Dutch firm winning the deal to make post-Brexit passports instead of a British firm

I’m not sure we shouldn’t be regulated

[There] are no successful tech companies in Europe and they are jealous of the US so they are punishing us

After five days Mark Zuckerberg broke his silence, potentially indicating a way forward after the Cambridge Analytica scandal

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, upset many a European entrepreneur when he spoke at the Economic Club of New York

ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK APRIL 2018

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Dealing with data protection Facebook users globally were left gobsmacked in March as it came to light a developer had improperly secured access to data of “tens of millions” of users on the social network, which saw the information reportedly sold to Cambridge Analytica, the data analysis business. It prompted mass outrage as many, including a co-founder of Facebook-owned WhatsApp, took to Twitter to voice plans to #DeleteFacebook. Meanwhile, days without comment from Mark Zuckerberg only caused further fury. The scandal comes as data is on everyone’s lips right now with the implementation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into action on Friday May 25 2018, which will require businesses to have watertight approval for usage of people’s personal data. Indeed, without GDPR compliance, companies risk being fined up to 4% of annual global turnover or €20m – whichever is higher. So you can see why data protection is such a hot topic right now. Amidst all of this, what should be going through the minds of startup leaders? WORDS BY ZEN TERRELONGE

Egil Bergenlind CEO, DPOrganizer

Mark McClain CEO, SailPoint

Karen Holden founder, A City Law Firm

Tony Pepper CEO, Egress

Reactions to Facebook enabling Cambridge Analytica access to user data without prior consent demonstrates the importance of customer data usage transparency. Regardless of size, organisations must think seriously about data security and privacy practices. The good news is startups are generally in better stead to do something about this, not weighed down by legacy systems. Thankfully, GDPR is the perfect tool to help them avoid the many mistakes made by Facebook.

As data breaches increase in frequency and severity, as the true value of personal and company information comes to light, it’s no wonder regulations are holding organisations accountable for cybersecurity efforts – or lack thereof. GDPR brings a new set of ‘digital rights’ for EU citizens, giving them unprecedented control over their personal data. The best place to start is conducting a thorough risk analysis and mapping of data and owners across the infrastructure, then strengthening controls.

Businesses should take active steps to ensure compliance with GDPR. They need to know what data they’ll be storing on their customers, whether they have a lawful basis for collecting and storing such data and for how long they can hold this data. There should be suitable legal and technological infrastructure in place to comply. You must ensure any third party will comply with GDPR and that you have safeguards if they do something wrong – such as indemnities, warranties and insurances.

This scandal demonstrates even the largest companies can lose control of data. Startups should educate staff on sensitivity of data they handle. Facebook was damaged by a backlash that affected share price, advertising revenues and user numbers. While it’s unlikely a startup would experience ramifications to this extent, GDPR is ushering in an age of greater scrutiny of how all organisations handle and protect data, with consequences for wilfully or accidentally lax practices.

APRIL 2018 ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK

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A dv ert i s i ng f e at u r e

Business Account Switching a Guide for SMEs A

round 100,000 small-business owners have already taken advantage of the simplicity and reliability of switching business accounts to another bank or building society, since the launch of the Current Account Switch Service. For too long, SMEs felt unable to get the best deal available due to the complexities involved in switching to a new business-banking provider. Moving payments manually, informing suppliers and customers of a change in account details made the idea impractical for many. Thanks to the Current Account Switch Service, all that has changed and the once daunting process is now simple, reliable and stress-free. Over 99% of switches have been successfully completed within seven days and the service has achieved a satisfaction rate of 93%. And those figures include many SMEs. How Business account switching works Firstly, decide which bank or building society you’d like to move your account to. Then go through the normal account opening process, stating you want to use

the Current Account Switch Service. The good news is that, following changes implemented by 18 banks and building societies across the industry in January, opening a business account has now become even easier. Once your new account is open all your old account activities, including all your in and out payments, will seamlessly switch to your new account within seven working days. Importantly, any payments sent to your old account by mistake will be redirected to your new one, indefinitely if required. If any payment is made using the old account details, the payer will receive a message confirming your new details. You will need to have fewer than 50 employees and have an annual turnover of less than £6.5m. If your business meets these criteria, the rest is plain sailing. So confident is the Current Account Switch Service that the transition from the old to the new account will be seamless that it comes with a guarantee. This means that in the unlikely event of any issues your new bank or building society will put it right.

Bacs’ director of product and strategy, Anne Pieckielon, said: “We have worked tirelessly since the Current Account Switch Service first launched, to put SMEs and consumers at the heart of the service. Only by doing this can we truly offer a service which delivers the best outcomes for all. “We have also worked collaboratively across the industry, using our unique position and experience as a catalyst for change and the Current Account Switch Service is a shining example of this.”

Who runs the Current Account Switch Service? It may surprise you to learn that the switching service is owned and managed by one of the most trusted brands in the UK’s financial services sector – Bacs Payment Schemes Limited (Bacs), the organisation behind Direct Debit and Bacs Direct Credit. Although nearly 50 banks and building societies have signed-up to offer the service to their customers, it is managed impartially by Bacs to ensure that the needs of consumers and SMEs are put at the centre of decisions relating to its day-to-day operation. As a small-business owner there are many things which might keep you up at night but moving your business account needn’t be one of them. currentaccountswitch.co.uk/business

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Stasher

Leader of the packing Stasher checks travellers’ baggage into local businesses

BY ZEN TERRELONGE

W

e’ve all been there: You book the earliest flight to your destination and the latest flight back to make the most of your time away. But the problem with an early check-out often means lugging a suitcase around, especially when staying at a house or apartment instead of a hotel, which isn’t ideal during the last-minute sightseeing, feasting on local cuisine or meetings you’ve planned – and that’s where Stasher comes in. The idea came when Jacob Wedderburn-Day and Matt Majewski would often stash luggage at friend Anthony Collias’ house during trips to London since he lived so close to King’s Cross station. Collias joked about charging them for the privilege and Stasher, formerly CityStasher, was born. From there the three co-founders started to approach local businesses and hotels to leverage their unused space for storage, thereby

acting as a cheaper alternative for travellers than lockers. A couple of European rivals have since sprung up but Stasher is still the market-leader having been first on the scene, boasting over 300 Stash Points across the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Denmark. It’s a position the business isn’t taking lightly either, with ongoing developments generated from customer feedback including an app to build on the web presence. Having overcome the challenge of knocking on doors to win clients, a $1.1m seed round secured in January will take the business forward. “Since that injection we’ve managed to grow to a team of 12 and have launched in numerous new cities,” says Wedderburn-Day. “We’ve also been able to inject money into marketing, rebranding and our tech, so that we can make sure we’re targeting customers with a really high quality service.” As travel habits transform with the advent of Airbnb, Stasher certainly looks to be in a strong position. You only have to read our cover interview with Hostmaker CEO Nakul Sharma for evidence of that.

APRIL 2018 ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK

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THENEW NEW MUSIC THE MUSIC LICENSING EXPERIENCE LICENSING EXPERIENCE One contact. One licence. One invoice. One contact. One licence. One invoice.

PPL PRS Ltd is a new music licensing venture between the UK’s two music licensing organisations PPL and PRS for Music. We’ve joined forces to streamline part of what we do, making it easier for our customers to obtain a music licence.

PPL PRS Ltd is a new music licensing venture between the UK’s two music licensing organisations Previously, businesses organisations to obtain separate licences from making PPL and PRS for PPL and PRS for Music. We’veand joined forces had to streamline part music of what we do, it easier for our Music. However, we have now come together to form PPL PRS Ltd and launch TheMusicLicence. customers to obtain a music licence. Previously, businesses and organisations had to obtain separate music licences from PPL and PRS for Music. However, we have now come together to form PPL PRS Ltd and launch TheMusicLicence.

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Jacqueline gold ceo, ann summers

Agents of change

Female equality is not a women’s issue, it’s an everyone issue and companies need to lead by example

I

’m extremely passionate about female empowerment and I was delighted this year to host our first International Women’s Day event for our colleagues at head office. As an employer of over 2,000 people, it was important to understand what female empowerment meant to our employees, so we filmed their opinions and played the footage to our audience to start the event. Following that, a panel took place with BBC TV presenter Cherry Healey, marketing expert Liz Jackson, Vanessa Vallely, founder of We Are The City and Lottie Lumsden, entertainment director at Cosmopolitan, who discussed the challenges facing women in business today. Whilst the topic centred around women, it was important to hear from men in the room about their views on female empowerment. Indeed, it’s a confusing time for men. What do their behaviours suggest? How can they act for women to feel more equal? The fact of the matter is, female empowerment is not a women’s issue, it’s an everyone issue. We need men to be agents of change too. It was great to see so many other businesses getting involved in the conversation this year like ASOS and Marie Claire. British Airways really brought the day to life with the largest all-female flight, including female cabin crew, pilots, ground staff and baggage handlers. Media interest has been heightened on the back of campaigns such as #MeToo – I only hope this encourages greater support for women moving forward. However, despite all the positivity, it’s frustrating we’re still in this position. On International Women’s Day I watched a topical Sky News

debate and was disappointed to see a public vote revealing many people think we’ve gone far enough with female empowerment. We’ve not gone nearly far enough yet. As business leaders we need to help unlock barriers facing women to give them freedom to pursue their dreams and the confidence to realise them, as well as supporting those returning to work after maternity leave. I’m proud to say that at Ann Summers 70% of my board is female, 65% of my senior leadership team is female and still, I only ever recruit the best person for the job, regardless of gender. We’re a medium-sized business, so we can’t do things John Lewis and bigger brands can. But there are still ways to support your people – no matter the company size. There’s still so much to be done to ensure women in business receive the same opportunities as men and as female business leaders we must continue to own our success if we want to inspire women and the next generation. APRIL 2018 ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK

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09/04/2018 22:42


INSPI AFTER STRUGGLING TO FIND ITS FOOTING FOR DECADES, THE ITALIAN STARTUP ECOSYSTEM IS SLOWLY EMERGING. BUT WILL IT BE ENOUGH TO CATCH UP WITH THE REST OF EUROPE? BY ERIC JOHANSSON

ITALY HAS A BAD REPUTATION WHEN IT COMES TO STARTUPS. From heavy tax burdens to a deficit of support infrastructures for entrepreneurs, being a founder in the country means facing a slew of challenges. Although, it’s hardly surprising why The Boot is lagging behind other European enterprising hotspots. “We are very young in the venture business,” says Gianmarco Carnovale, CEO of Roma Startup, the network for entrepreneurs in Rome, and Rome Startup Week. “We didn’t get on the wave around the internet bubble in the early 2000s and only started to build an ecosystem around venture-backed businesses around 2010.” Despite being slow off the blocks, there are signs that Italy’s ecosystem is making up for lost time. “Because we’re a very conservative country, we’re a very slow follower of international trends,” Carnovale says. “We’ll get there in the end, just much later than everyone else.” Importantly, while VC-backed enterprises are a reasonably new thing, that doesn’t mean the Italian Republic is a stranger to SMEs. “Italy’s economy is big on micro businesses,” says Emanuele Angelidis, CEO of Breed

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Reply, the VC firm investing in internet of things startups across Europe. Indeed, 99% of the country’s companies are SMEs, according to the European Investment Fund. However, there’s a huge difference between having lots of small businesses and having loads of scalable startups, not to mention a culture that supports them. Up until recently Italy had neither. “So in the past, if you had an innovative idea the typical approach was to go abroad where they had a more developed ecosystem,” says Angelidis. Still, some companies managed to rise to prominence in the past three decades. For instance, Yoox Net-aPorter, the fashion e-commerce platform; Technogym, the fitness manufacturer, and FastWeb, the telecom company founded by Angelidis, all became successful in those years. Although, they didn’t do so with ease. “It was very difficult,” he says. Being able to reach their potential despite having to overcome overwhelming bureaucracy is certainly inspiring for the new generation of entrepreneurs. Indeed, they need all the inspiring examples they can get. “Honestly there are not very many of them,” says Angelidis.


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But then, just as the world regained its footing following the financial crisis, something happened in startup Italy. “There was a completely new boom,” says Marco Trombetti, co-founder of Pi Campus, the earlystage VC firm. Suddenly, new startups seemingly popped up left and right. In fact, three-quarters of Italian scaleups with investments over $1m were founded after 2010, which is the second highest percentage in Europe after Portugal, according to the Startup Europe Partnership, the innovation platform established by the European Commission. “For a few years Italy grew faster than anywhere else,” Trombetti says. “Sure, it was starting from a very low number, so it was easy to grow percentage-wise. Still, it was baffling.” So what happened? “There was a cultural shift,” says Trombetti. He argues that three things happened thanks to the tech titans of Silicon Valley spearheading the dawn of the new age: the world became more global, young entrepreneurs realised that they could be part of the new digital trends and these two occurrences opened the eyes of potential investors who had until then saved all their money in banks. “Angel investors and a change of culture was the driver for this new trend,” says Trombetti. Additionally, as angel investors and budding founders started to eye these opportunities, the country also became better catered to in terms of accelerators and incubators. “If you look at the number of accelerators it’s still very small compared to the UK but what has changed is that we’ve gone from zero to 20,” Trombetti says. For instance, in 2012, LVenture Group, Italy’s most active early-stage venture-capital firm, launched Luiss EnLabs, Europe’s biggest accelerator at the time that could comfortably house 40 startups in its 50,000 square foot offices in Rome. But you don’t have to be an investor or an entrepreneur to recognise the positive impact a flourishing startup culture can have on a region. “At the end of the day it benefits the whole country because even early-stage companies will be in a position to hire more people, be

WE’LL GET THERE IN THE END, JUST MUCH LATER THAN EVERYONE ELSE Gianmarco Carnovale, Roma Startup

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more successful and provide more competitive services to the market that make more customers happy, says Angelidis. Win. Win. Win. Understanding this, the government has made efforts to help the ecosystem grow. For instance, in 2012 it launched the Italian Startup Act to make it easier to launch startups. “These efforts have been extremely effective,” says Angelidis. The government has also slashed red tape for non-bank investors, eased up on taxes to encourage investment in innovation and introduced startup visas to encourage more international entrepreneurs to try their wings in the republic. Moreover, new enterprises that sign up the government’s official startup registry – which unfortunately is a time-consuming exercise in paperwork – can also benefit from relaxed labour laws, lower taxes and other benefits that simplify their journey off the launchpad. “They’ve been useful and it’s extremely important that these kind of actions keep going on in the future,” he says. The slight wrinkle with these measures is that, while certainly welcome, they are not enough. “A lot Marco Trombetti, Pi Campus has been done but, you know, we’re a bit like pigs: they’re never happy with what has been handed down to them,” says Roberto Magnifico, director at LVenture Group. And he’s hardly alone in having this view. When the World Economic Forum released its latest Global Competitiveness Report in September 2017 it ranked the country as the 43rd most competitive country in the world, after nations like Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic and Indonesia. The main reason why it fell behind other European countries was because of its sluggish bureaucracy, followed by taxes and strict labour laws. Additionally, it’s expensive to work in Italy with income taxes being between 23% and 43%. “So we have a lot of catching up to do and clearly there have been measures put in place but we need to develop the venture-capital culture further,” he says. A consequence of all the red tape startups have to cut through and the young age of the ecosystem is that many Italian entrepreneurs still find it easier to launch their businesses elsewhere. “At the moment our best startups are simply flying away,” says Carnavole. While there are now several early-stage investors in Italy, the country isn’t particularly well-catered to in terms of late-stage investors. The Startup Europe Partnership estimated that 86% of all seed and series A rounds were led by Italian investors but dropped to 78% for series B and then to about 50% for later stages. “They are seeking investments

FOR A FEW YEARS ITALY GREW FASTER THAN ANYONE ELSE

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in other ecosystems like Berlin, Barcelona and London,” he says. “Many are flying to New York or Silicon Valley. So we are not closing the cycle, which means we can’t attract other investors.” Encouragingly though there are some startup success stories in the country: 94 Italian tech scaleups were acquired between 2010 and 2016, according to the Startup Europe Partnership. While this was about four times lower than the number of exits in the UK and three times fewer than in Germany, these success stories are vital for the continuous growth of the country’s startup hotbeds. “Exits are very important both for capital-fund managers and for the development of the local startup ecosystem itself,” says Magnifico. “Because if stakeholders start to see results in terms of exits either through IPOs or through M&A transactions then that means that there are concrete opportunities for entrepreneurs.” Moreover, not only are these deals inspiring for the next generation of entrepreneurs but exits also mean that the founders behind these deals will reinvest in the ecosystem through VC funds or angel investments, making the market more attractive for foreign investors in the process. “Whenever you have an exit you create opportunities with the liquidity from these exits for entrepreneurs to reinvest in other startups,” he says. And as the number of exits continues to grow, they may embolden more people at the beginning of their careers to launch a new venture. Sadly, while there has been a clear cultural change in the past decade, many students still don’t consider going at it alone to be a viable option. “The issue is that often university students’ main objective is to get a degree and to find a job in large corporate because the perception is that there is where they should begin their professional careers,” says Magnifico. The perception among the people in the startup community is that, while there have been efforts to merge the cultures of entrepreneurialism and academia, Italian universities still lag behind other countries

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we’re a bit like pigs: they’re never happy with what has been handed down to them Roberto Magnifico, LVenture Group

in terms of educating their students about the opportunities of going into business by themselves. “Today technology offers the opportunity for many talented people to move into an entrepreneurial activity but not everyone realises that they have an entrepreneurial talent,” he says. Given it’s still early days for Italy’s startups, it’s difficult to pinpoint any particular ‘house specialty’ that the republic’s startups will become extraordinarily strong in. “Many people seem to think of Italy as a fashion industry only but honestly, there’s a lot happening in every sector,” says Angledis. As an overview almost a fifth of the country’s scaleups are e-commerce companies, a tenth operate in fintech and 9% are digital-media businesses, according to the Startup Europe Partnership. There are also entrepreneurs innovating in healthcare and manufacturing and as the ecosystem finds its footing it may be easier to see in the future where its entrepreneurs’ strengths really lay. After years of lagging behind the rest of the continent, Italy has taken strides to catch up with the rest of the pack. “There are lots of opportunities,” says Magnifico. However, for the country to fully take advantage of the nascent market the government must play a bigger role. He argues that the government should draw inspiration from France where Emmanuel Macron pledged to invest $11bn in disruptive technologies and that Italy’s leader should create more legislative sandboxes to make it easier for startups to grow. “We need to get things moving and to get them moving fast,” he concludes. “To get them moving, clearly the government needs to play a decisive role in terms of putting money on the table and to attract more private capital.” If it can do that, then both international investors and native entrepreneurs may find that all roads truly leads to Rome once again.

ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK APRIL 2018

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WHAT REALLY ATTRACTED ME TO FSB WAS KNOWING I COULD PICK UP THE PHONE AND SOMEONE WOULD KNOW ALL THE ANSWERS FSB Member Rachel Hanretty

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WE ARE FSB - THE EXPERTS IN BUSINESS We’ve been helping business owners like you for over 40 years with market-leading business benefits, a powerful voice in Government and supporting a network of members across the UK. Our aim is to help you achieve your ambitions by freeing you up to do what you do best – running your business. Benefits from day one include: • 24/7 legal advice line • Online legal documents and templates • Free business banking† • Tax investigation protection • Debt recovery service • UK wide networking with other members And many more

Visit fsb.org.uk/explore to learn how FSB can help your business from just £172.50 in the first year* †Subject to status *Membership starts from £142.50 per annum with a £30 registration fee in the first year. This rate is applicable to businesses with no employees. Rates increase depending on your number of employees. Please see the website for full details of subscription rate bands. Federation of Small Businesses Registered Office: Sir Frank Whittle Way, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY4 2FE. VAT No.997 3427 63. The National Federation of Self-Employed and Small Businesses Ltd (FSB) is registered in England, number 1263540.

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A dv ert i s i ng f eat u r e

Expanding abroad – without the HR headaches Dany Rastelli, Head of Communications, Elements Global Services

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usinesses seeking to expand their operations abroad can face significant HR, financial and legal complications. How can these problems be overcome with minimal costs and risks?

Automation is often discussed but never clearly, which makes it seem overwhelming. What’s it all about? Automation is the process of completing activities without the need for any human intervention. Its applications are near limitless and it is widely acknowledged within the world of business that automation and digitalisation will be the dominant route to market going forward. This is creating greater cost efficiencies and enabling companies to improve profitability. However, lots of important processes cannot yet be fully automated, especially ones involving creativity, empathy and managing people. While it may reduce the burden of certain admin tasks, it’s not about to replace HR professionals, recruiters or any other peoplefocused roles but it will help to boost productivity and efficiency. 30

Businesses regularly hiring new staff need to manage onboarding. How do SMEs in this situation get supported? When considering external support in the onboarding process, it’s important to know the difference between professional employer organisations (PEO) and employers of record (EOR). Some companies, when they expand abroad, are not ready or in the right situation to set up a registered entity in their country of choice. In this instance an EOR is the best option as the external provider can act as the legal employer, while the company retains full control over things like hiring and termination, culture and benefits, and strategic direction. By comparison a PEO is best suited to companies that have set up a registered entity in another country but still need support with different HR, legal, and payroll functions. A company and its external PEO supplier enter a coemployment agreement, and allocate responsibilities as they see fit. If SMEs are looking to outsource a wider range of employment requirements, they are better off working with a truly end-to-end or direct EOR or PEO company, rather than a host of disparate suppliers. When it comes to onboarding new staff – especially abroad – having a joined-up and well-managed experience is essential. Does a company need to be a specific size for a payroll and onboarding solution to be viable? The decision to outsource payroll and onboarding tends to come down to a company’s in-house resources. Managing these requirements

can present an administrative headache for businesses of all sizes. Regardless of the size of the business, these processes are considerable undertakings and not all businesses will have that expertise in-house. This is especially important for businesses looking to expand abroad since rules and procedures for managing a workforce can vary massively from country to country. More often than not, it makes more sense from a cost, efficiency and compliance perspective for rapidly growing businesses to work with an EOR/PEO solutions provider that has the requisite expertise and presence on a global scale to support complex needs. Whether you’re onboarding one or 100 employees, the potential costs and risks that result from doing it wrong massively outweigh the costs of working with an expert. elementsgs.com

ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK APRIL 2018

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Anil Stocker co-founder and CEO, MarketInvoice

Getting culture right in a scaleup business

In a startup’s early days, culture is easy to define. It’s set by the small team who are working together to get a company off the ground and the founders are very closely involved in all the details.

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ulture becomes harder to shape as a company grows, generally because founders have more demands and physically can’t work with everyone regularly. But you can implement a great company culture no matter how fast you scale and it has nothing to do with a trendy office, ping pong table or beer fridge. I describe culture as intangible but crucial to authenticity. It has to be led by everybody,

particularly demonstrated from the people at the top. A company’s culture shows in behaviour externally and internally and can change over time. The first change is around the 20 people mark as founders can’t be with everyone all the time. It shifts again around 50 people because suddenly you have managers in place. And at 100 people you have a couple of layers of management and not everyone can

work with founders directly or interact with them frequently. However, culture will help retain employees for the long-term business cause and employees will want to go that extra mile to finish a particularly time-sensitive project. Your values should reflect what matters to you as a business. Values should be a combined effort from the whole team and embody the vision of the founders. The first step in defining your values is to get input from as many employees as possible. That way the process isn’t done in isolation and captures everyone’s views. Values are no use to your company if they are just a few platitudes on a wall. Empower everyone to live the values every day. At MarketInvoice, we decided early on that transparency is something we hold dear. Much of our daily business communication takes place over open Slack channels, so that information can be shared freely and easily. Although we’re rapidly reaching the 100 employees mark, we still have a town hall meeting every Friday over a couple of drinks to share the latest news. We also encourage employees to ask questions anonymously for the leadership team to tackle – the team can even vote in real-time whether they’re satisfied with the answer. Publicly praising and rewarding employees for living the values is also vitally important. Something as simple as some special branded merchandise or a gift voucher will really reward employees who go the extra mile for you – it makes them feel good and sets the bar for the team. Values and culture should be consistent but you don’t have to be constrained by them. It’s natural for business values to evolve over time. APRIL 2018 ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK

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09/04/2018 22:43


GARY Stewart director, Wayra UK

Purpose over payday and profit

Having a member of staff leave your business isn’t always a bad thing – especially when you’ve set them on a path to achieve their dreams

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t was not entirely unexpected when my colleague Maiko left the business. I’d first met him when he connected via LinkedIn to say he wanted to work with me. Though still in his early 20s, not only had he decided that working at Wayra, Telefonica’s startup accelerator, aligned more fully with his future vision of himself than being a ‘simplification expert’ in Germany, he had also convinced his then boss to subsidise his transfer to the UK. 18 months later, he left Wayra to pursue his own entrepreneurial dreams. Happily, Maiko’s story is not unique. Millennials – and quite a few of us now too ‘mature’ to be considered ‘the future’ – prioritise purpose over payday and profit. As a Gallup report entitled ‘How Millennials Want to Work and Live’ put it: “Despite the financial

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constraints many millennials are experiencing, they still place jobs that allow them to grow, develop and do what they do best over jobs that supplement their income.” Maiko is so convinced of this trend that he launched realchangers.com, a job portal that aims “to enable companies and individuals to solve the world’s biggest problems” by “connect[ing] individuals to careers at companies with impact.” Even among investors there is a growing trend toward investing in purpose-driven companies. As Darren Walker, the head of the $12bn Ford Foundation, highlighted at a recent FT conference: “It’s not just 5% of your money you give away that matters. What you do with the other 95% is almost more important.” This world view sees no necessary opposition between capitalism and social good. UBS, for example, has committed at least $5bn to impact investing. The FT also detailed how the Global Impact Investing Network notes that impact investing is already a $114bn sector, which JP Morgan posits could grow to $1tn by 2020. This is driven in part by the recognition that, according to a survey by US Trust, social impact matters to threequarters of millennial investors. For the moment, this is largely a US phenomenon. The US is responsible for 40% of the current impact-investing outlay. Europe’s portion has been growing steadily but it is still a bit behind the US. A Eurosif study found, for example, that from 2011 to 2013, European impact investing grew at an annual rate of 52.3% to reach €20bn. But the good news is that Europe is full of Maikos, which means that the future will undoubtedly be full of companies – and employees – that do well while doing good.

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S E T TL E D

BY ERIC JOHANSSON

SETTLED’S CO-FOUNDER GEMMA YOUNG REVEALS HOW HER TIME AT GOOGLE INSPIRED HER TO TRY TO REVOLUTIONISE THE PROPERTY MARKET THESE DAYS, YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOOK FAR TO SEE HOW broken the UK property market is. Not only has the average age of first-time buyers soared significantly since the 1960s but the lucky few who can afford to get on the property ladder are in for an overwhelming amount of timeconsuming, costly and mind-numbingly boring bureaucracy. From banks and mortgage lenders to solicitors and estate agents, finding a home means dealing with a surplus of providers angling for a slice of your savings. “So what you’ve got is eight traditional stakeholders in this process and not a great experience for consumers,” says Gemma Young, co-founder and CEO of Settled, the online property platform. This is also exactly what her startup aims to solve by slashing away the middlemen and provide homebuyers and sellers with a one-stop solution to make the ordeal

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painless and even enjoyable. “That means building a platform allowing people to just sit on their sofa, know what’s happening and to either accept offers on a house or to compete for one when they’re on holiday,” she says. Nevertheless, revolutionising an entire sector isn’t for the faint of heart. Fortunately, this former Google-employee has an advantage: passion. “You’ve got to have that if you want to do this,” she says. “It has to get you out of the bed every day and through the hard times.” And Young is making no secret of where her passion for Settled’s mission comes from. “My father was actually involved in the property sector,” Young says. “So I’d heard from a being a young girl about the problems, the difficulties and the time it took. It’s as stressful as getting a divorce.” However, she doesn’t just have her dad’s experience to draw from. Having earned a degree in sociology and criminology from Buckinghamshire New University in 2003, her first step into the labour market was working 11 months for Connells, the estate agency. “I was really intrigued to understand how it all worked,” she says. Working at the coalface made her see just how awful the process was, which made her understand why only 25% of people in Blighty trust estate agents, according to a survey from Ipsos MORI. “But interestingly, people still used them,” Young says. “They’re seen as a necessary evil.”


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While these insights would certainly prove pivotal in laying the foundations for her proptech startup, having spent almost a decade working with Google certainly played a huge role too. “Being inside Google taught me that digital technology can transform people’s lives,” she says. Nowhere was this as evident as when she went to Silicon Valley and experienced its startup culture. For instance, she had a chance to meet several entrepreneurs, including partying with the ragtag team of developers behind a little firm called Airbnb. “You couldn’t go into a coffee shop without somebody being on their laptop talking about a startup,” she says. But while she noticed how startups were changing everything from advertisement and travelling to e-commerce and fitness, the property market kept dodging being swept away by the technological tide. “I saw all these changes happening in every other industry and I was waiting at Google for many years for someone to really leverage digital technologies to change the sector,” she says. It wasn’t until one of her friends turned up to her house in tears, saying that the deal for her dream house had fallen through after five excruciating months that Young realised that this someone was herself. “That was the light-bulb moment,” she says. Having decided to disrupt the market, Young quit her job in 2013 and used about £50,000 of her savings to find a fix for the broken sector. “It was quite overwhelming,” she says. Still, she hunkered down for days by her dining table, drew up how the process could look and began to talk with consumers to find out what kind of service they wanted. Only a short time into this process she enlisted the help of her brother Paul. Given he’d previously provided financial-services for the property sector and was one of

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Paul and Gemma Young

the co-founders behind The Vape Store, he offered invaluable insights to get Settled off the launchpad. “Having his perspective was really wonderful,” she says. The two co-founders’ first priority was to overcome teething problems like outsourcing the creation of the first iteration of the platform to an agency and finding a name for the startup. The last bit actually proved surprisingly tricky. “One of my friends from Google came up with the idea of calling the company Settle, without the D,” Young says. Unfortunately, she soon discovered that the small Yorkshire town with the same name had already bought the URL and had no plans to forsake it to the benefit of a London-based startup. “Eventually another friend of mine asked, ‘why don’t you go with Settled?’” Young recalls. “You want the D because you want people to feel that they are settled and not that they are settling.”

But if a great name was enough to spearhead the proptech revolution, we’d already have been able to swipe right on property deals with the same ease as you can find a Friday night date on Tinder. No, to scale you need cash, which was something the Youngs were quickly running out of. Luckily, the government’s Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme provided a solution. “Schemes like that really makes the difference,” she says. Indeed, by leveraging the tax cuts investors could make from the scheme, the siblings convinced friends and people who would normally not be angel investors to raise a total of £150,000 at the tail-end of 2013. “It was a big help,” she says. Backed by this influx of capital, roughly a year after they’d set out to shake up the industry the siblings confidently took their minimum viable product out for a spin and tried to attract their first customers. “I wanted to check that the idea was

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right and that it was something that people would be interested in,” she says. To get customers to sign they initially didn’t charge. And it’s safe to say this inaugural experience proved a great success. One early client in particular has stuck in her memory: a 60-somethingyear-old professor from Sussex. “We had a very close relationship with him when he tested the system and he called us within a week and said, ‘I’m on my sofa toasting with champagne with the person who’s buying my house,’” Young says. “After we hung up, Paul and I just jumped around shouting ‘it works!’ That was a very special moment for us.” Off the back of their success Settled was able to raise a second seed round in 2014, this time led by 500 Startups, the VC firm. While the extra £1m certainly came in handy, it wasn’t the biggest benefit from the deal. “Not only did we get investment from them, they also ran an incubator programme with other startups,” she says. By being close to other entrepreneurs like the ones behind the launch of Airsorted, the Airbnbservice-management company, Young and her brother had a chance to build their network and to learn from the people who’d faced similar challenges as them. “We

After we hung up, Paul and I just jumped around shouting ‘it works!’ That was a very special moment for us

spent a month with the other founders going over the best ways to scale a business, which was great timing for us,” she says. “We were already scaling and this allowed us to maximise the scaling potential of Settled.” This round was then followed by a third one led by the VC firms Piton Capital and Connect Ventures, both of which have great reputations of helping startups grow. “We are very lucky to find that the people we wanted to work with also wanted to back us,” she says. Backed by this additional influx of £1.2m as well as the guidance from these experienced teams, Settled was able to level up their game even further. “It allowed us to continue to scale and to hire people,” Young says. “Importantly, it enabled us to invest time into our product, into our software, which is absolutely at the core of what we’re doing.” Speaking of the team, while other tech firms have struggled to bridge the STEM talent gap, Settled has had no problem expanding its workforce. “We’ve got some amazing people working here,” Young says. “They feel like family.” Drawing inspiration from her time at Google, Young is conscious about the importance of not only hiring the best people with the sharpest skills but also how vital it is that these people fit into the culture. To ensure this, the founders determine candidates believe in the company’s mission to fix the broken property market and boost their retention and motivation by offering candidates equity in Settled. “That really gives us an edge in finding the best talent,” she says. And it certainly feels as if this advantage has provided them with something to build on. To date, Settled has more than 20 employees, helped sell over £300m worth of homes and slashed over 9,000 days off the time clients have to wait for completion. But Young isn’t stopping any time soon. “We’re focused on how this journey can be completely perfect,” she says. To do that, she’s putting all her efforts into evolving and spreading the word about Settled. While this will require a lot of hard work, we’re sure she’s got the passion to see this through.

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OP E N BA NK I NG

FINANCIAL FREEDOM AFTER BEING PROPOSED IN 2016, OPEN BANKING HAS ARRIVED. BUT IS THE FINANCIAL SERVICES SHAKEUP EXACTLY WHAT STARTUPS NEED OR IS IT TOO DRASTIC?

BY ZEN TERRELONGE

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Hearing the words ‘open’ and ‘banking’ side-by-side will sound like an oxymoron for many entrepreneurs. In their search for finance, just how many of them have had banks slam their doors rather than welcoming them with open arms? Luckily, this began to change with the rise of challenger banks designed to meet the needs of startups and consumers that large traditional institutions couldn’t or wouldn’t. That has the potential for change with the introduction of open banking, which will ensure financial giants have nowhere to hide. Proposed by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in 2016, open banking


O PE N BA NK I NG

is a way of levelling the UK’s financial playing field. Just 4% of business customers change bank-account providers in a given year, so the idea is that banking behemoths won’t simply win customers because of their size and longevity. As part of open banking, banks will be required to actively communicate with customers to explain any changes to services, quality of products and so on. Meanwhile, customers – businesses and consumers alike – can share their data with other banking-service providers, such as fintech startups, to get the best deals. This will give users the ability to weigh up financial needs against what’s on offer and make informed decisions about their accounts, whether that’s trusting the traditional or checking out challengers. With the CMA in charge of open banking as it seeks to breathe new life into the financial-services market, the initiative is funded by Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, Barclays, Danske, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide, RBS and Santander – the nine largest banks and building societies in the UK. With banks having started testing in January 2018, March brought about the ability for customers to harness open banking. In a position to benefit is challenger Monese, the mobile-banking app. As VP of partnerships for Monese, Marcus Exall is prepared for the open banking opportunity but he’s also well aware that study is required before charging in full steam ahead. “It’s a good thing to be making banking easier to understand, cheaper and more transparent for customers,” he says. “But what we need to consider for the consumer is ‘what are the things that will be most useful?’ We don’t really understand that yet.” While open banking is at the forefront of conversation for fintech enterprises, their customers have yet to acknowledge the banking breakthrough. Exall explained a grand total of “zero” enquiries have been made by Monese customers about what open banking means for

them. He believes that it will remain industry terminology rather than something consumers use in conversation, with open banking itself being broken down into a series of smaller segments that customers will have more understanding of. Supporting his comments, a Which? survey of 4,000 people in autumn last year showed an overwhelming 92% of the public said they hadn’t heard of open banking. Furthermore, 51% added they would be unlikely to share their data for the scheme – a figure that may well have spiked in the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data breach. “Open banking has mostly permeated businesses and the financial services industry from a discussion point and everyone’s watching but technical standards are yet to be fully formed,” Exall details. “We’ve got ideas and they’ll form part of our roadmap as we go forward but we’re taking a look at the possibilities right now rather than going hell for leather building products.” While Monese is taking a considered approach to the industry shake-up, Jens Bader, co-founder

I EXPECT A CYCLE OF INITIAL CONFUSION AND DIVERSE INTERPRETATION OF THE RULES AND STANDARDS, EARLY FAILURES LEADING TO DATA BREACHES APRIL 2018 ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK

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OP E N BA NK I NG

of MuchBetter, the payments and fintech startup, is worried about the companies that won’t be as careful. In fact, he’s not sure open banking will be straightforward at all, despite the well-placed ambitions to advance financial services. “Open banking is a good concept with the right intention,” he says. “However, it’s highly complex as it involves opening up and, to a certain extent, changing a very traditional industry quite radically. With the complexity of the open banking concept and the many stakeholders involved, I expect a cycle of initial confusion and diverse interpretation of the rules and standards, early failures leading to data breaches.” From a business standpoint, MuchBetter is in a similar position to Monese in that it’s working out the logistics of open banking and how the business will be impacted. That said, having traded for just a year, Bader is confident it will be able to get up to speed at pace – and he’s not sure banks will be in the same position. “The major point for me here is that the banks are pressured to change and break out of their

set ways,” he says. “This will lead to an inevitable change of the financial services industry. Opening sensitive data sources, whilst at the same time introducing GDPR, makes it somewhat difficult to fathom.” While admitting there are undoubtedly hurdles to overcome, Naaman Tammuz, chief product officer at DueDil, the company information platform, thinks SMEs are purpose-built for open banking and have the chance to strike gold. He believes that a funding gap can be bridged, so that growth companies have all the possible outcomes displayed before them when looking to get into bed with the mainstream or alternative lenders. “By incorporating open banking data, we can enable lenders to extract previously unavailable insights and an up-todate, holistic overview of a company’s financial health,” says Tammuz. In his mind this will facilitate faster and more tailored lending appropriate for businesses specifically, rather than tarring everyone with the same brush. “In comparison to major banks and more established financial institutions, startups have been working towards open banking for some time in order for it to complement, rather than disrupt, their business models,” he concludes. “It’s likely that the initiative will encourage banks to work more cooperatively with startups as they look to learn from best practice in an increasingly digital and customer-focused sector.” As the saying goes, ‘no risk, no reward’. So while there are undoubtedly a number of risks surrounding open banking, we know where they have the potential to lead to.

We’re taking a look at the possibilities right now rather than going hell for leather

APRIL 2018 ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK

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A dv ert i s i ng f e at u r e

THE TRUE ALTERNATIVE TO TRADITIONAL BANKING H

istorically, the only option available to SMEs needing funding has been the traditional banks. However, regulation has put them under immense pressure to maintain higher capital ratios and to de-risk their balance sheets. As a result, more and more SMEs are falling short of traditional banks’ restrictive lending criteria. Regrettably, many are falling through the funding gap – businesses often referred to in the media as the ‘deserving underserved’. A NEW WORLD OF ALTERNATIVE FINANCE A new financial sector has emerged to take on the challenges and aspirations of SMEs without the constraints imposed by the banks: alternative finance (alt-fi). More agile than their predecessors and more efficient, alt-fi lenders are innovating continuously to gain market share. This has led to a blossoming in different niches for specialist alt-fi providers. While some have focused on particular industry types or regions, others have differentiated themselves based on size and types of loan. Some, such as ThinCats, have focused on providing vital funding for dynamic SMEs across the board, providing true alternatives to traditional banks.

OVER £200 MILLION AVAILABLE TO FUND SMES’ AMBITIONS ThinCats is built for business, a true alt-fi provider dedicated to funding growing and ambitious SMEs up to £5m. They are institutionally backed but are anything but fat cats. Liberated from ivory tower thinking, inefficiency and high overheads, ThinCats provides a focused, responsive and accountable service for SMEs seeking scalability. Skilled, savvy and successful, ThinCats’ team has a proven track record with over £250m of SME funding delivered since 2011. ThinCats is now looking to lend a further £200m against assets and/or cashflows with a clear mandate to provide the vital working capital to help SMEs drive further growth and scale. To achieve this, they have harnessed cutting-edge technology and big data to create an award-winning data-modelling system designed to track down SMEs with good prospects, a near-future need for finance and, most vitally, those that are being overlooked by the traditional banking industry. THE DEALS BANKS CAN’T DO – NOT THE ONES THEY WON’T DO ThinCats offers a transparent and balanced assessment for those businesses that are in need of finance. Starting with the ability to process funding for applications that banks are unable to consider due to their lack of time, skills and resources, ThinCats looks at each deal on its own merits, delivering the flexibility to adapt funding to suit a business’ needs: efficient, timely processing of funds; and a distinctly relationship-driven experience. It has never been easier to make the switch to supportive finance to drive your success. It’s time to take a closer look at the true alternative. www.thincats.com

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THE FREEDOM TO ACHIEVE ThinCats is dedicated to funding SMEs up to £5M. We can fund the following scenarios to help your business prosper: - Funding Growth – working capital, property, stock or equipment purchase, or expansion plans - Management Buyouts and Buyins - Acquisitions - Re-financing/restructuring of debt

SCALE UP YOUR BUSINESS. CONTACT US TODAY. Tel: 01530 444 040 | Email: loans@thincats.com www.thincats.com

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N A KUL S H A R M A

HOST

BY ERIC JOHANSSON PHOTOGRAPHY BY EMILIE SANDY

WITH

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WITH HOSTMAKER, NAKUL SHARMA MAKES IT EASIER FOR AIRBNB HOSTS TO PROVIDE HOTEL-QUALITY SERVICE. BUT BUILDING THE STARTUP HAS REQUIRED A LOT OF GRIT, EVOLVING WITH NEW REGULATIONS AND CONSTANTLY PUSHING HIS FATHER INTO A PANIC 46

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B MOST

BY THE TIME AIRBNB RAISED ITS $112M ROUND IN 2011, Nakul Sharma knew that the hospitality market was changing. However, he seemed alone in the industry to notice how big transformations were afoot. “It was on nobody’s radar,” he says. And the San Francisco startup wasn’t alone: around the same time homestay platforms like onefinestay and HomeAway had all raised multi-million pound rounds. For a decade-long veteran in the hotel sector like Sharma, this was enough for him to sit up and take notice. “If you could take the expertise of everything that hotels do in hotel rooms and in their operations to the homestay, that’s a massive opportunity,” he says. “So why was nobody seeing it?” Tired of waiting for his bosses to do anything about it, Sharma co-founded and became CEO of Hostmaker, the technology-driven Airbnbhost-management service. Ironically, as a teenager he had no intention of spearheading the launch of a tech startup. As a matter of fact, it was quite the opposite. At the beginning of the noughties, his native India was enjoying a digital renaissance where talented students either started software startups in the country or emigrated to try their luck in Silicon Valley. “That was my dad’s dream for me, that I would become an engineer and work for those brands and make lots of money,” Sharma says. “But for me it didn’t click.” For every day his university enrolment drew closer, he felt the panic rise within him. He just couldn’t get excited about it. Fortunately, he picked up a brochure from Shannon College of Hotel Management. Having never even travelled outside of India, entertaining the idea of studying in Europe felt exciting, even exotic. “That was a hard battle with my dad for sure,” he says. “I mean, I’m unsure if he’s still not over it 17 years later.” But moving to the Emerald Isle meant adjusting to the constant rain and the big emptiness. “Shannon is a really small town,” he says. “There are like 50,000 people there and coming from Bombay with its 15 million, it was just a lot of silence. You couldn’t see people for miles. That was quite a culture shock. Not to mention how much the Irish drink.” Although, the sharp contrast from India was just what excited him and he happily dove into the new culture. Moreover, once he swapped majors in his final year to a marketing degree at National University of Ireland Galway, he couldn’t help but sport a big smile on his face. “I liked that move because it was more commercial and I got a good grip on how a business runs as opposed to just how hotels run,” he says. “And that made it a bit more exciting.” Having completed his studies in Ireland, Sharma joined Starwood Hotels’ graduate management programme in 2005, which led to his first job with the hotel chain in 2007 and also provided a first taste of what life as an entrepreneur could be like when he helped set up two hotels in Dubai. “I lived on the tenth floor and worked on the second and for the first six months I didn’t see sunlight,” he says. Despite the gruelling workload, looking back on the period Sharma thinks it was an important experience as it toughened him up for his future career with Hostmaker. “It gave me a good sense of how to navigate chaos start making sense of it,” he says. However, by 2010 he believed staying with Starwood would’ve just been more of the same. “I felt it was a good opportunity to take a step back and see what other skills I could develop,” he says. To further sharpen his business chops, he began studying


N A KUL S H A R M A

for an MBA at INSEAD, one of the world’s largest business schools. “You generally felt incompetent in the class because everyone was so smart,” he says. “That was a good thing after coming from the experience in Dubai where you were 25 and felt like an expert. I was 25. I couldn’t be an expert at anything. So it was good to go back to class and feel like an idiot.” Importantly, the one-year programme also provided networking opportunities that’d prove vital in his future entrepreneurial endeavours. Upon completing his studies he joined InterContinental Hotels’ strategy team in 2011, enabling him to be less concerned about the daily running of the business and look more at big macro trends. “You had to get a bird’s eye view of what was happening,” he says. One trend he noticed was how the homestay sector was about to transform the hospitality market forever. This prompted him to co-write a report in 2013 about the impact movers and shakers like Airbnb would have. His conclusion? That InterContinental should buy the scaleup or find a way to enter the nascent market. “But the response was ‘it doesn’t matter because this is just some kid out of San Francisco and it’s not our customers,’” Sharma scoffs. “Total denial.” While his bosses were less than excited about the opportunity, he wouldn’t let it slip through his fingers and in 2013 he left his job and set out to launch Hostmaker. Although, he didn’t do that before consulting with his wife Deepti. “We discussed it together and decided to take the risk,” he says. They agreed to put £50,000 of their savings into the business and that she’d stay at work to provide a source of income. But one month into the project she called him up from her stressful job at a law firm. She’d had enough and wanted to join

in, meaning that they went from double incomes to none within a month. “That was pretty crazy,” he says. While Deepti happily joined him on his adventure, his dad wasn’t equally thrilled. “He completely panicked,” Sharma remembers. “He said, ‘why don’t you do it on the side and test it out for a few months and then quit?’” But half-arsing it wasn’t an option for Sharma. During his years at InterContinental he and three of his INSEAD friends had attempted to launch a series of hotel investments. However, since only one of them dedicated his full attention to the project it eventually fell through. “So I strongly felt I needed to cut the addiction to a salary,” Sharma says. “Because otherwise every month will be cushy and you’ll get money. You won’t be desperate enough to make important decisions.” Again opting to go against his father’s wishes, he set out to make his own path with his wife by his side. Their first step was to pilot the concept by renting out their apartment for three weeks in December 2013 via Airbnb while they took a vacation. The test would prove a roaring success. “We actually made more money in those three weeks than we spent on the holiday,” he says. Key to these great results was that the couple had done everything in their power to bring the hotel experience to the people renting the flat. This meant enlisting the help of friends to deliver keys and ensuring housekeeping made the flat look welcoming. Having proven the concept to themselves, the couple quickly moved forward with their project. “We actually ended up moving out of our home and rented a flat 100 metres down the road and turned our home into a test lab,” he says. After their inaugural test, they began to research how to improve the experience for hosts and guests even more. “We’d get the bookings and we’d go and ask questions to our guests,” Sharma says. This helped unearth how to make their home more appealing for visitors. Equally important was realising what the pressure points were for hosts. For instance, the couple realised that not everyone could take care of dirty sheets, clean the flat or provide hotelier-styled services as well as they could. “That to me was the ‘aha’ moment,” Sharma says. “I realised that the homes will end up segmenting just like hotels because of the product and service quality and if that’s going to happen then there is a need for a hotelmanagement company for homes.”

IT GAVE ME A GOOD SENSE OF HOW TO NAVIGATE CHAOS AND START MAKING SENSE OF IT 48

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NA KU L S H A R M A

Armed with this insight, Sharma set out to ensure Hostmaker would fill that gap. To make sure the startup did, he enlisted the collective cognitive creativity of the three classmates from INSEAD who he had his earlier project with. “We booked an Airbnb home in Hampstead and for 48 hours we thought through the business proposition,” he says. The biggest result of this brainstorming marathon was realising how providing hotel sheets would heighten guests’ experience. “When you go to a hotel you never think about the fact that thousands of people have slept in that bed before,” Sharma says. “What makes the experience great is having a really well-made bed. There’s crispy white linen and that makes you feel that you’re being taken care of, that you’ve escaped into a holiday.” So if Hostmaker could provide that service for both the host and the guest, then profits were bound to soar. But taking advantage of this insight would prove more challenging than expected when they started calling up hotel-bed-linen suppliers. “All of them were like ‘Airbnb? What’s that?’”Sharma says. “Nobody got it.” Undeterred, he pressed on and eventually found a supplier who would not only help the startup but who was also willing to lie to his own office and say Sharma owned a small B&B. The only problem was that they needed a new place to deliver the linen to because the supplier’s 40-foot truck couldn’t get into the residential area where Sharma’s flat was. “So we had to find our first warehouse around King’s Cross and got our first delivery, which was really exciting,” he says. “And we kicked off from there.” Recognising the need to provide a completely hotel-like experience, the company’s first full-time employee wasn’t, contrary to many other tech startups, a software engineer but a housekeeper. “And we paid well above living wage because this was the person who’d make or break our business,” he says. “For the first month I think she had the sweetest job ever because we only had three bookings. So she made about £500 an hour.” But with all these investments, the founders’ initial nest egg was quickly running dry. “Fortunately, we were starting to build momentum,” he says. This helped persuade his three classmates to each invest £10,000 into the startup. But what really helped them raise £350,000 in 2014 was being officially recognised by Airbnb. “They actually invited me to San Francisco to come and speak at their first ever host conference,” Sharma says. Off the back of this first investment, another INSEAD alum called him up from Italy and asked if Sharma was considering bringing Hostmaker to Rome. “I was still figuring it out in London but told 50

They’d come in at 8.30am, get their coffee and if they had a question they’d walk straight into our bedroom

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01245 673 700

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Not only is it hard but it’s super expensive as an early stage startup to find talent willing to believe in your startup him that ‘if you think there’s an opportunity in Rome then I’m all ears,’” he says. That’s how he ended up not only growing his business to the Eternal City but also expanded his operations to Barcelona. However, these expansions and the further investments into the technology didn’t come cheap and by the tail-end of 2015 the company was again running low on cash. “I didn’t know what to do,” Sharma says. Luckily, his INSEAD network would again come to his aid, this time by giving him a chance to pitch at its quarterly angel-investor event. “And one of the judges was a venture-fund investor and he really encouraged us and made introductions and the that’s how we got our first introduction to venture investors,” Sharma says. With the backing of this investor the company was able to raise a $2m seed round, which would eventually be followed by two series A rounds in September 2016 and February 2017 of $1m and $5m respectively. While this money would certainly come in handy to attract more investors in the future, the more immediate benefit was that Hostmaker could finally move its offices out of the couple’s apartment. “People would sit and work on the couch,” he says. Even though this helped them save money, by the time they raised their first VC round the situation had become cumbersome. “There was almost no privacy,” he says. “They’d come in at 8.30am, get their coffee and if they had a question they’d walk straight into our bedroom. 52

I was like ‘come on guys, let’s at least leave this place alone.’” So with the influx of VC capital they quickly started looking for new offices. And as they did, they began to look for more tech talent to help build the platform. However, given the UK suffers from a systemic STEM skills shortage, filling these roles were far from easy. “Not only is it hard but it’s super-expensive as an early-stage startup to find talent willing to believe in your startup who don’t actually just want to go and make money at Google, Amazon or Facebook,” he says. Unwilling to compromise the quality of their service they began to hire people to work on the platform remotely. “We’ve solved the distance problem by getting our tech team together every couple of months in one of our offices,” he says. “That makes them feel like more of a unit.” Another challenge is the fact that regulators are increasingly cracking down on the previously unregulated Airbnb market. For instance Airbnb hosts are only allowed to rent out their homes for 90 days per year. Surprisingly, Sharma doesn’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. “The fact that there is so much resistance means something big is happening,” he says. “It’s actually affecting the community. It’s affecting the city and that’s why people are caring so much.” Instead of worrying, he believes new legislation can be good for the industry. “I think that people are just trying to make sense of it,” he says. “So in my view, the fact that it’s getting regulated is a positive thing. Because that means that, one, it’s here to stay and, two, that Airbnb is getting its voice heard.” Maybe it’s this optimism that has seen Hostmaker keep growing over the years. In November 2017 the startup raised a $15m series B round, which is now being used to expand the business exponentially. While having already opened its platform to hosts in Lisbon, Nice, Cannes and Madrid over the past few months, Sharma teases that this might only be the beginning. “We ended 2017 by being in five markets and we will more than double that number this year,” he says. And even more growth may be on the horizon as the founder hints of an upcoming new investment round. “We could possibly be looking at something towards the end of this year,” he winks But despite all this success the question remains: has Sharma’s father forgiven him for not becoming an engineer? “I don’t think he’ll ever let go of that,” he laughs. However, that doesn’t mean he’s not positively affected by it. “He doesn’t say it but I think he’s proud of what’s happening,” Sharma concludes.

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A DVERTI SI NG F E ATURE

Manchester Prepares For Workspace Revolution The International creative workspace provider Spaces has announced the opening of a new centre in Manchester

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workspace created for corporate shakers, burgeoning businesses, freelancers and energetic entrepreneurs, Spaces provides a tailored business community for its members that brings creative minds together in one place. Set to open in May 2018, the new Spaces will be a light-filled energy efficient workspace, spanning ten floors of Peter House, Oxford Street. Occupying over 7,940 square metres in the heart of the city, its proximity to Manchester Piccadilly Station and cultural attractions like the

historic Museum of Science and Industry makes it an ideal location for businesses seeking flexible workspace. A recent report by the Centre for Cities thinktank ranked Manchester as having the fastest growing population and job creation rate of any other city in the UK. An urban renaissance has seen businesses flooding to Manchester and in need of a base for their operations. With an unforgettably grand entrance hall, and combination of comfortable private offices, lightfilled coworking spaces and hotdesking options, the new Spaces

is expertly designed to provide a dynamic, forward-thinking workspace that works for all entrepreneurs. Richard Morris, UK CEO of Spaces, says: “Demand for flexible office space is growing rapidly. Our research shows that 53% of professionals globally now work remotely for at least half their working week and 30% of corporate real estate portfolios could be flexible workspace by 2030. People are recognising that they are far more productive and successful in a dynamic working environment, while businesses are waking up to the financial and strategic benefits. Spaces is helping to supply this demand and drive a workspace revolution in Britain. “We are excited to provide a flexible and creative working environment with socialising and networking at its core, in the heart of the dynamic city of Manchester. It’s an environment that enables members to share ideas and build partnerships through a programme of business and leisure events.” Both entrepreneurs and wellestablished businesses are recognising the benefits of flexible workspace providing a more creative environment as well as financial and strategic benefits – cutting costs, attracting new talent, enabling fast growth and access to a network of potential business leads and collaboration opportunities.

spacesworks.com APRIL 2018 ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK

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ESPO RTS

G A M E BY ZEN TERRELONGE

Taking to newspapers, magazines, the web, social media and TV to get your marketing message across are all the norm, but have you ever considered esports? If you haven’t, it may well be about time

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layStation or Xbox? Perhaps you’re one for nostalgia and regard the Nintendo 64 or Game Boy as the epitome of gaming omnipotence. Whatever your personal tastes, gamer or not, there is a business-marketing opportunity to be had from video games via the medium of esports. Esports can be traced back to the 1970s, when the idea of competitive gaming was, as you would expect, rather rudimentary. Dubbed the ‘Intergalactic spacewar olympics’, the first contest was hosted at Stanford University with the top prize a 12-month subscription to Rolling Stone. Leap forward a few decades and esports is a different beast entirely. No longer just something found on a college campus, the concept has spread globally to cater to the masses. In 2017, the International 7 tournament set a new esports prize pool record at a total of $24.6m with the winning team pocketing $10.8m. Sums like these make it abundantly clear esports is no passing fad but a sector that businesses can capitalise on. Minute Media, the online-sports community, is one such company championing the scene having tackled esports 18 months ago with a dedicated brand called DBLTAP. Observing large in-arena tournaments where thousands of fans are cheering for teams, as well as streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube where live matches can be viewed, Minute Media sensed opportunity. “We took a very considered approach to looking at esports before we launched DBLTAP,” explains Michael Murphy O’Reilly, head of global partnerships at Minute Media. “We saw room around players and personalities. We didn’t really 56

know who the LeBron James or David Beckham of esports are and felt something was missing.” From there DBLTAP sought to lift the lid on the players, providing fans with video insights on the gamers in the same way as traditional sports, with things like after-match commentary. “It’s not just about the match, we’re asking them about their worst dates, fan experiences, fantasy teams – all the stuff fans want to know about the players that they rarely get asked.” With such a clear demonstration of how the market has changed and the passion embedded within, it’s apparent why brands are turning to esports as part of the marketing mix. Traditionally tech-centric companies would be the main parties involved in esports, such as hardware businesses touting laptops, PCs and other peripherals to players and fans but that’s changed significantly. The likes of Audi, Toyota and T-Mobile have tried out everything from team sponsorship to sponsoring a tournament series and customised product placement to in-stream messaging. “No matter the size of the business, big or small, that marketing shift is very relevant to everyone,” says Murphy O’Reilly. “We’re moving away from endemic brands where there’s clear business value to people realising this is a highly engaged audience they might want to target their brands to.”

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ESP ORTS

O N A cautionary tale, however – the esports audience is young and tech-savvy, so they’re wise to marketing methods and will be only too eager to tell you if you’re doing a bad job. “There’s lots of ways businesses can get involved – investing is great but don’t just throw money at esports, do your research, become one of the gamers, become a fan,” advises Dominic Sacco, content director at the British eSports Association, the not-for-profit body increasing awareness of the sector. “The esports community is incredibly astute, switched on and can be unforgiving, so if you get something wrong and don’t know what you’re doing, they’ll see through it.”

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Murphy O’Reilly recalled one such occasion where Mercedes sponsored an event to the point it was borderline excessive. With commentators – casters as they’re known – marketing the Mercedes E-Class during gameplay, Reddit forums picked it up and mocked the car manufacturer with memes. Although this could have crippled the firm’s activity, rather than taking on a corporate approach, Mercedes played along and won the respect of gamers in the process. Moreover, Sour Patch Kids, the confectionery brand, has no obvious esports proposition and yet it became a sponsor of the Overwatch League, which would allow it to showcase sweet and sour

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ESPO RTS

moments from matches. “It’s that kind of stuff brands can do to align their marketing to esports,” details Murphy O’Reilly. “There hasn’t been a huge movement from SMEs and I think that will change. The moment you see big brands get involved and spend significant money, you know something is there for people to pay attention to.” Explaining the potential for startups to take heed of esports, Sacco believes getting involved on the ground floor is the best way for marketing – especially with millennials and, increasingly, children so engaged in the scene. “Esports is a great way for companies to reach the audience who might not be watching TV or reading magazines as much as before,” says Sacco. “But they’re on Twitch watching their favourite streamers, games and tournaments – they know exactly what’s going on and don’t need traditional media. This audience is a challenge for some traditional businesses to get hold of.” He points to sports clubs as a prime example of those in the UK taking steps to reach these audiences. West Ham was a first-mover with its push into esports in 2016 when it hired a professional gamer to represent the club at FIFA tournaments. Of course, not every startup has corporate-sized pockets, so Sacco suggests independent esports initiatives where growing companies can run in-house competitions that showcase their own products as prizes. Because in the same way startups are trying to make a name for themselves in a world full of large brands, there are small esports teams battling against household names too.

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Don’t just throw money at esports, do your research – become one of the gamers “With brands, don’t just look at the top,” Sacco says. “Grassroots leagues are a great way to get involved and test the water at a much smaller scale without a seven-figure budget and you’re helping the next level of talent.” Noam Lawi, co-founder and COO of World of Duelists, a platform for esports betting and challenges, launched the business having spent several hours a day gaming for over 20 years. “Nowadays, you have kids making hundreds of thousands of dollars by being proplayers, so I figured we could offer gamers of all levels across the globe the chance to make extra cash while playing their favourite titles at home,” Lawi says. He noted that while working with socialmedia influencers and sponsorship is commonplace, creating hubs to engage, educate and entertain esports fans is an alternative option for getting marketing messages out there. He adds: “Some TV broadcasters have also launched dedicated esports channels where startups and SMEs can purchase ad space.” Although Lawi’s background is in onlinemedia buying, he intends to leverage YouTubers and Twitchers to promote World of Duelists. “This results in 100% organic gamer traffic directed to my site – for a mid-size gaming channel on YouTube, we’re talking about at least two million subscribers,” he says. Esports may seem like uncharted territory at present but companies would have once felt like that with the advent of social media advertising, which has rapidly become the norm. Game on.

ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK APRIL 2018

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FA K E N E W S

-OFF FAKE NEWS HAS EMERGED AS A MAJOR THREAT TO DEMOCRACIES. NOW STARTUPS ARE STEPPING UP TO SHIELD PEOPLE FROM LIES ON THE WEB

T

ECH ENTREPRENEURS ARE NO STRANGERS TO DISRUPTION. However, over the past 18 months startups have found themselves facing challenges to the status quo of a more negative kind in the form of fake news. No matter how you look at it, false stories circulating online have become a huge burden for democracies and companies around the globe. “And I guarantee you that it’s getting worse,” says Dhruv Ghulati, co-founder and CEO of Factmata, the startup using AI to detect falsehoods online. Fortunately, he and other entrepreneurs are now trying to turn the tide in the fight against untruths on the web.

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Fake news stories are in themselves nothing new. “The business of disinformation is as old as the world,” says James Chappell, co-founder and CTO of Digital Shadows, the digitalrisk-management scaleup. Indeed, look back through the ages and you’ll find no shortage of individuals spreading lies for personal gain or to undermine others. For instance, between 1678 and 1681, England fell victim to the so-called Popish Plot where protestant clergyman Titus Oates convinced the country that Catholics plotted to assassinate King Charles II. Despite being an utter fabrication, the lies played on the anti-Catholic sentiments of the time and resulted in the executions of 22 innocent men before the hysteria ended and Oates was sentenced for perjury. “And we’ve got examples dating as far back as Roman times,” says Chappell. However, long and murky as this history may be, it’s hardly a secret that the dawn of the


FA K E NE WS


FA K E N E W S

digital age has exacerbated the situation. Far from being confined to a corner of the internet predominantly populated by trolls, falsehoods on the web have now gone viral. “I didn’t think it was something that affected me,” says Lyric Jain, CEO and founder of Logically, the intelligent-newsfeed startup. “But I started taking it seriously when I was fooled by that meme about Donald Trump thinking Republican voters were stupid.” The meme in question was one of the most well-circulated ones during the 2016 US presidential election. Although, it was neither the only nor the last one. In the past 18 months fake news – often with Russian origin – has seemingly attempted to influence the outcomes of elections in the UK, France and essentially every other western democracy having a vote during this period. As the problem has become critical, people have realised that the consequences of it can be disastrous. “It can deeply affect how our democracy works,” says Jain. No wonder then that Collins Dictionary named ‘fake news’ the word of the year in 2017. And you don’t have to look far to see how tech has made the situation worse. “The speed of tweeting means you have the ability to reach millions and millions of people instantly,” says Jain. Moreover, the emergence of bots and hypertargeting techniques means false stories can more easily reach the people they’ll affect the most. “That’s probably the reason why all of this is so damaging,” Jain says. Making matters worse: people like fake news. In March, researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology tracked both fake and true news stories shared on Twitter between 2016 and 2017. Alarmingly, of the 126,000 stories selected, the top 1% of false news stories reached between 1,000 and 100,000 people whereas the truth rarely reached more than 1,000. And they weren’t spread by bots but by individuals who actively shared them. “People love hearing that they are right,” says Jain. But the times they are a-changing. In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s victory Mark Zuckerberg scoffed that it was “a pretty crazy idea” to think that fake news on Facebook played a key role in the election. He’s since changed his tune, pledging in January to do more to tackle lies on the site. Twitter’s co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey has made similar pledges and these two tech titans are hardly alone. “There have

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been significant calls from not only within these organisations but also from regulatory bodies to try to deal with the credibility of the content people are consuming,” says Jain. For instance, in November the EU budgeted €1.1m to its East StratCom Task Force to tackle Russian fake news, which was the first time it had received money from the EU budget rather than being funded by member states’ voluntary contributions. Similarly, Theresa May pledged in January to set up a unit to tackle fake news. Moreover, industry bodies like Newsworks and the European Association of Communications Agencies have called for more discussions around fake news. It was also a hotly debated topic at this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. Even the pope has taken a stand, saying: “Fake news is a sign of intolerant


FA K E NE WS

WHAT IS FAKE TO YOU MAY NOT BE FAKE TO SOMEONE ELSE Dhruv Ghulati, Factmata

and hypersensitive attitudes and leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred.” And as the problem has become more widely acknowledged, fighting fake news has proven to be a fertile ground for startups. “Technology has transformed our lives,” says Chappell. “Our lives are now lived online and that brings new opportunities but also new risks and people are responding to these dangers. We are seeing a natural evolution of people trying to minimise the negative impact and maximise the positives.” And the need for these startups is only set to increase. “I think we’ll see the role digital media plays in society further grow in importance and therefore the value of modifying online conversations will continue to rise,” says Chappell. However, it’s difficult to classify exactly what this sector is. “It actually involves a number of different disciplines,” says Chappell. “In that sense it’s tricky to sort of define it as one thing.” For instance, Matter, the media accelerator, has announced that it’s actively looking for media startups to help them fight news and cybersecurity startups like PerimeterX use AI to track and block bots from sites. Moreover, there’s a slew of initiatives aiming to educate people about being more sceptical online and how to get out of their own bubbles. “So I would stop short of calling fake news a sector,” says Chappell. “I’d say that media is the sector and that there are companies that help media organisations combat fake news.” Given there are lots of different startups fighting fake news, there are also many different ways they go about doing it. For instance, some aim to tackle the huge challenge of fighting falsehoods on social-media platforms. “The scale at which these campaigns occur makes it

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FA K E NE WS

that people still argue about the truthfulness of the Leave campaign’s bus that claimed that leaving the EU would free up £350m to the NHS per week. Even though there is promising technology out there, accurate fact-checking still requires lots of human input. “Fact-checking in terms of automation is a true artificial intelligence – if a machine could do that we would have proper natural language understanding,” says Ghulati. But that technology is still years off into the future. Recognising the difficulties of attacking fake news once it’s begun to spread on social-media platforms, it’s hardly surprising that many startups are working to take down the sites publishing fake news before it goes viral. Often this means combatting so-called impersonation. “Pretty much all businesses and organisations have some level of impersonation,” says Chappell. One of the most well-known examples happened during the French presidential election when someone set up a bogus website of the Belgian newspaper Le Soir which had a fake story claiming that Saudi Arabia was financing Emmanuel Macron’s campaign. While this example saw someone set up a fake site, purveyors of fallacious stories also find ways to hide their stories among real media outlets’ pages or on real corporate sites. “What we do when we detect this is to tell the customer how the criminal has put it in place and the impact of it on their organisation so they can brief their customer-service agent and their personnel,” says Chappell. “We also operate a take-down service.” By nipping it in the bud, startups like Digital Shadows hope to prevent the proliferation of phoney content. Despite these efforts, the fight against fake news won’t be over anytime soon. “We’re only just seeing the start of this really,” says Chappell. “It’s still very early days. The attackers will continue to evolve their techniques and innovate but so will the defenders.” Because of this simultaneous evolution, it’s impossible to see one side or another win the war. “I think it will be more than a series of battles,” he concludes. But at least, with these startups backing them, the champions of truth may have a fighting chance.

The business of disinformation is as old as the world James Chappell, Digital Shadows

really hard for social-media companies to respond quickly,” says Chappell. As an example, in a bid to tackle this Facebook has announced it will hire 10,000 more people to work on the site’s security and safety. However, pumping up their staff numbers may not be enough. “If you think about how much content they have to look at, the scale of it is so big that you can’t economically deploy humans to look at every single post,” says Chappell. “You have to automate it.” And creating that automation is just what some startups are working on. But separating lies from truth is harder than it might look. “What is fake to you may not be fake to someone else,” says Ghulati. Therein lies the problem. While it may be easy for AI to spot inaccuracies about hard data like the population of a country, it’s extremely difficult to create software that can say whether or not nuanced information is true or false. Remember

APRIL 2018 ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK

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G E N DE R PAY GA P R EPO RT I NG

MIND

THE GAP

COMPANIES HAVE BEEN LEFT SWEATING FOLLOWING GENDER PAY GAP REPORTING AT THE START OF APRIL BUT IT COULD BRING ABOUT WORKPLACE EQUALITY LIKE NEVER BEFORE BY ZEN TERRELONGE

WITH MEN TRADITIONALLY PAID MORE than women, the gender pay gap debate has waged on for years. And it’s not just a UK business issue but a global epidemic as we’ve seen Hollywood stars like Jennifer Lawrence condemn uneven rates of pay for actors and actresses. One of the most notable examples of Tinseltown inequality was for 2018 film All the Money in the World, which saw Mark Wahlberg reportedly paid $1.5m for reshoots compared to co-star Michelle Williams’ paltry $1,000. Just think: these are rich and powerful women known globally and they’re still being short-changed, so just how bad is the climate for the UK everywoman? We now have a clearer idea of that than ever before. Tuesday 68

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GE N DE R PAY GA P RE P ORTI NG

April 4 2018 brought about a new change to the way British businesses operate as companies with over 250 employees were legally required to publish the differences in average hourly pay between men and women. Championed by the Government Equalities Office, gender pay gap reporting came into effect as part of The Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017. According to the BBC’s numbercrunching of the government data, which is based on the 10,000 employers that reported, the median pay gap is 9.7% in favour of men. Despite this attempt to make groundbreaking change to create even footing, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission revealed almost 1,600 companies missed the deadline. This only highlights the uphill struggle that women have faced as it would seem these firms aren’t taking the issue seriously. The consequence of their actions, or inactions, means they will be named and shamed by the government and face legal steps. While many startups won’t yet have crossed the 250-employee threshold, the gender pay gap should still be at the forefront of their minds for forging an ethical working environment free of discrimination. And knowing the sudden rate of scale SMEs can experience, they could well find themselves required to

participate in gender pay gap reporting before long, which inevitably will swing open the doors to any skeletons lurking in the closet. “Gender pay gap reporting will eventually trickle down to smaller firms,” claims Jonathan Richards, CEO at breatheHR, the HR software provider, reinforcing the importance of the legislation. “This is shining a spotlight on some poor workplace cultures and inequalities across the UK. SMEs should learn from the mistakes of bigger businesses, that have arguably left it too late, and start thinking about their internal equality now. To that end, Richards noted that startups should incorporate inclusiveness into their values from day one to ultimately prevent upset and unfair treatment further down the line when a culture is already embedded. He reckons the issue is that startups often recruit on a ‘who you know’ basis before a proper employment procedure and guidelines are enforced, which are essential as the company grows. Something that should be eliminated altogether from the employment procedure is the question: ‘what’s your current salary?’ according to Adrian O’Connor, founding director of Global Accounting Network, the specialist recruitment business. Although it provides bosses with a benchmarking opportunity to prevent deterring

RYANAIR IS PARTICULARLY SHOCKING, WITH MEDIAN HOURLY PAY SITTING AT 71.8% LOWER FOR WOMEN THAN MEN APRIL 2018 ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK

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Gend er pay g a p r epo rti n g

candidates by aiming too low, it also means they’re able to get away with paying less even if their budgets can allocate higher wages. So perhaps it’s time the UK takes inspiration from the US. “Talking pay can be a minefield,” O’Connor says. “Interviewees who rapidly spill the beans on their existing take-home pay risk either undervaluing themselves or pricing themselves out of the role before they’ve had the chance to sell themselves. The practice means that existing pay gaps can persist as individuals move roles – and if employers continue to ask about current salary the cycle will never be broken. Even companies that are nondiscriminatory can be unconsciously perpetuating the gap. There is certainly an argument for following in the footsteps of New York City, New Orleans and Oregon and banning the question to help narrow the gender pay gap.” As a business not in the gender pay reporting territory, Global Accounting Network has a method in place structured around employee experience to prevent gender as a factor entirely. “Base salaries should be set in line with internal and external benchmarks, not on historical pay,” O’Connor says. “We have several clients who routinely offer a 10% increase on existing pay when hiring and this is a practice that will impact the ability to address the pay gap issues.” Missive, the PR agency, is another small business without a gender pay gap favouring men. In fact, the needle would lean towards women instead but this is solely because eight of the 11 full-time staff employed are actually female, explains CEO Emma Ross. Like O’Connor, Ross agrees pre-defined salary bands across roles are the way forward but there’s more to the picture than just evening out money. “Parental leave and truly flexible working should be granted and equal for all employees, regardless of who they are and what their personal circumstances might be. I would expect this to be true of both startups and large organisations,” she says. Commenting on some of the results revealed from the gender pay reporting, Ross adds: “Ryanair is particularly shocking, with median hourly pay sitting at 71.8% lower for women than men. On the other side of the coin, looking a mean hourly pay, Channel 5 has a gender pay gap of only 2.9% in favour of women; Ocado has a gender pay gap of 1.4% in favour of women; and the British Museum pays male and female staff exactly the same amount. These positive examples show that an equal footing is possible.” FDM Group, the IT services business, has 3,000 employees and is proud to have reported a 0% gender pay gap. Sheila Flavell, COO, admits that tackling gender pay can be particularly challenging, especially when many women take time out or adapt working hours for family commitments. But in her experience, the first step should be to admit there is a problem and lay out a clear strategy to manage it. “We’ve launched a dedicated women returners programme, 70

People.indd 3

It’s not just a moral issue – businesses which are complacent around diversity will struggle to thrive provided mentoring and support and worked hard to recruit a highly diverse workforce to attract women into the business,” says Flavell, declaring that it’s “unacceptable” women are often in lower-paid roles compared to men who can be found in higher-paid senior positions. “It’s not just a moral issue – businesses which are complacent around diversity will struggle to thrive in an increasingly competitive, global marketplace,” she continues. “Women bring so many skills and insights into the workforce, so they must be incentivised to enjoy all the benefits of employment, safe in the knowledge that they are being paid properly for the job they do.” It’s encouraging that there are companies out there doing the right thing by removing gender from the equation for pay. And for those businesses that haven’t, it’s more than apparent there’s nowhere for them to hide, which could be just the motivation needed to create positive change and workplace equality that are sorely needed.

ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK APRIL 2018

09/04/2018 22:38


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A I IN HE A LT H C A R E

TECHING

CARE BY ERIC JOHANSSON

USING AI TO BOOST HEALTHCARE HAS RECENTLY BECOME A POPULAR FIELD FOR ENTREPRENEURS. BUT AS STARTUPS CREATE MORE ALGORITHMS TO INFLUENCE MORE ASPECTS OF HEALTHCARE, WILL THERE BE ANY ROOM LEFT FOR HUMAN DOCTORS?

FROM ACCURATELY DIAGNOSING PATIENTS TO SLASHING rehabilitation times, artificial intelligence (AI) has revolutionised modern medicine. Now multitudes of startups are using machine-learning to improve healthcare around the world. One of them is led by Virgilio Bento, CEO and founder of SWORD Health, the AI-powered physical-therapy startup, and he makes no secret as to where the inspiration for his company comes from. “When I was ten-years old my brother had a car accident, which led to an intensive need

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A I IN HEA LTHC A RE

for physical therapy,” he says. Having seen his sibling being forced to go to Cuba to receive cheap healthcare, he knows exactly how huge the gap between supply and demand is when it come to physical therapy. “Nothing beats a human therapist but the fact is that it requires about an hour of your time, which is highly costly and highly scarce,” he says. “And diminished exposure to treatment leads to depleted recovery for the patient.” Now, almost three decades later, bridging that gap is exactly what he’s set out to do. “I saw that technology was being used in so many fields but that this one, which is such a huge part of society and has so many problems, had no existing technology,” Bento says. SWORD Health’s tech enables patients to do their physical therapy at home whenever it’s convenient to them. Not only does the device track and log the wearer’s progress but it’s AI also accurately predicts how much recovery time will be needed. “There’s a huge demand for these services because we have an increasingly ageing population but don’t have the supply of physical therapists to meet it,” he says. Bento is hardly alone. The last few years have seen an explosion in new ways that AI improves healthcare around the world including using machine-learning to predict potential health-issues by analysing patients’ medical records, developing drugs, surgery robots and wearables that track your health on the go. “It’s a huge realm really,” says James Barlow, chair in technology and innovation management at Imperial College Business School. But the idea of using AI in healthcare is nothing new. “People have been talking about it for the last 30, 40, 50 years,” says Barlow. Indeed, machine-learning has been used in medicine ever since 1965 when researchers at Stanford University first fired up Dendral, a software program used to identify organic molecules. However, while there were efforts in the 1970s and after to use AI to help with diagnostics, these attempts weren’t really accepted by the medical profession until recently. The reason was that the technology only caught up over the past two decades, which paved the way for modern startups in the field. “You’ve got storage capacity and cost on the one hand and the ability to access different large scale databases on the other, that’s probably what’s driving it,” Barlow says. And business is booming. “More and more institutional investors are opening up to healthcare and to health companies,” says Andreas Cleve Lohmann, CEO and co-founder of Corti, the startup that has created an AI that analyses subtle cues like breathing patterns in emergency phone calls to better diagnose patients. In 2017, VCs around the world invested over $7bn into healthtech startups, according to CB Insights, the VC database. Moreover, these investments don’t show any signs of slowing down. With this interest, there has also been an explosion in accelerators and incubators catering to this field. “Personal health and e-health have created a boom,” Corti Lohmann says. No doubt, the usage of AI in health by tech giants like IBM Watson Health and DeepMind has helped raise the awareness of the opportunities in this space. “Every thought leader in the

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A I i n h e a lt h c a r e

interspace between healthcare and AI has a hugely important role as they are paving the way forward for building the ideas and concepts for how we manage data,” says Cleve Lohmann. These big businesses are showing the way forward for raising cash but also setting the bar for how transparent these companies should be. “They are not only looking at their own corporate success,” says Cleve Lohmann. “I really respect DeepMind for trying to be really open about what they are doing. They are still publishing a lot of research to further the field and to make sure they keep things open and commutative as the machine-learning space can be quite an introverted discipline.” These tech titans are also important for further developments in this field. “This year we expect to see tech companies go from vaguely talking about healthcare to taking tangible steps,” said Nikhil Krishnan, senior analyst at CB Insights, during a webinar about the trends in the sector in 2018. For instance, not only are more behemoths like Amazon and Google launching their own healthtech divisions but they’re also investing in startups, which gives the entrepreneurs they invest in better access to tech and big data. Which leads us to one of the big challenges for startups in this space: unless you’re one of the lucky founders backed by the likes of Jeff Bezos or Sundar Pichai then accessing reliable data is more than a little bit tricky as is launching a successful AI-powered healthcare startup. “If you don’t control how data is harvested and processed then you have a big challenge,” says Bento. If you don’t have a partnership with the NHS or a Silicon Valley colossus, then you’re faced with the costly and timeconsuming task of collecting these vital data points yourself. “If there is one thing every single machinelearning algorithm needs it’s high volumes of data with a high quality and this is hard to get if you don’t control the complete ecosystem,” says Bento. But the difficulties don’t end once the data is collected. Startups also have to make sure they

The human touch is very important and we’re not replacing that with technology

Virgilio Bento, SWORD Health

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conform to regulations about storing data and ones aimed at protecting people’s health.“It’s not like in Silicon Valley where you can just move fast and break things,” says Bento. “Here you have to be consistent with regulations because this is serious stuff.” Navigating these regulatory waters is far from easy, which was something DeepMind discovered in July 2017 when the Information Commissioner’s Office found that the firm and the NHS had failed to conform to data-protection laws over the handling of 1.6 million NHS patients’ medical records. “That clearly had a damaging effect on the whole trend towards data-sharing in the UK,” says Barlow. Additionally, startups in this field will soon face even more scrutiny with the General Data Protection Regulation coming into effect on Friday May 25. “I can’t imagine it won’t have an impact,” he says. And similarly to the self-driving car industry, healthcare startups that have AI at their core also have to fight back against healthcare professionals fearing for their jobs. “Honestly, that is the biggest problem that we have, the perception that artificial intelligence is evil and that it is going to take away all the jobs,” says Bento. While he argues that these solutions will help doctors, nurses and physical therapists do their jobs better, Bento believes there’s always going to be a need for professionals in this field. “The human touch is very important and we’re not replacing that with technology,” he says. While doctors may be able to breath more easily knowing they won’t be replaced by a robot a la Baymax from the Disney film Big Hero 6 any time soon, we personally don’t have anything against the idea of a huge inflatable robot doctor that’s very prone to hugging.

ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK APRIL 2018

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Untitled-4 2 pages 10-11.indd 2

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IDE A THE F T

LIGHT-BULB MOMENT THERE’S A VERY FINE LINE BETWEEN INSPIRATION AND IDEA THEFT AND THERE’S NO SHORTAGE OF CASES TO SPOOK LEADERS BY ZEN TERRELONGE

TRANGER THINGS, the Netflix show, has garnered a cult following worldwide thanks to its unique tribute to 1980s sci-fi films. However, Matt and Ross Duffer, creators of the show, had allegations of idea theft thrown at them in April by Charlie Kessler, a director who claims the inspiration for the smash show was snatched from an idea he pitched to them. The Duffers have denied this. But it’s true ideas that appear to have taken inspiration from one another can be found everywhere, including the business space. If one brand doesn’t hit the spot, you can guarantee a similar alternative will be available – from Coca-Cola and Pepsi to McDonald’s and Burger King. And when it comes to the tech sector, it gets even trickier as products and services aren’t necessarily tangible. Look at the blue tick verification badge of

S

78

ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK APRIL 2018

honour seen on social networks. It’s been a fixture on Twitter for some time but you can also find the seal of approval on Instagram and Facebook now. Idea theft or inspiration? Perhaps coincidence? In 2017, Waymo, an autonomous vehicle business owned by Google parent firm Alphabet, filed a lawsuit against Uber, the often-controversial on-demand car service. With the latter acquiring a startup launched by an ex-Waymo employee, it was suggested that an exchange of sensitive information was secured as part of the deal. The court battle was settled in February this year as Uber reportedly paid out $245m to Waymo but CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has maintained that the company is innocent and that its self-driving technology was developed independently. “We do not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber, nor do we believe that Uber has used any of Waymo’s


IDE A THE F T

proprietary information in its self-driving technology,” said Khosrowshahi in a statement. So where do you draw the line in situations such as this? It just highlights the minefield tech businesses are navigating during the search to make change and impact. Files, drawings and audio being taken from one business to another by departing members of staff isn’t unheard of. However, England and Wales have copyright and legislation in place to ensure any hard done by businesses are protected in such events – mostly. There’s a caveat to this. “‘Knowing information’, where that information isn’t reduced to a permanent format can be impossible to protect,” says Elizabeth Ward, founder of Virtuoso Legal, the intellectual-property-law firm. “So quite commonly what employees may take is information stored in their head – and as a result, it can’t always be identified, quantified or protected.” In the case of an engineer developing software for specific tasks by creating a database from certain sources, the final product is able to be protected, Ward notes. But the details and knowledge within one’s mind is difficult. “This information is called ‘know-how’ and this broad classification of knowledge is often the source of major controversy,” Ward explains. “Where a key employee has years of expertise and an insight into how and why things work, this knowledge isn’t a protectable right and even though it is of huge value to the business, it can be taken and reused by the employee in a new position.” In terms of protectable rights, that’s where things get even more complex. Copyright protects specific works, such as literary material, sound recordings or art. In the

case of developing a driverless car because you think it’s a good idea, you’re well within your rights to develop your own technology and team to get the job done – using source code from an existing business, however, not so much. Furthermore, copyright it is not to be confused with obtaining patents. “In terms of the difference between being inspired and stealing ideas, copyright does not protect an idea, it only protects the way in which the idea is expressed,” says Martin Noble, partner at Shakespeare Martineau, the law firm. “That’s why you’ve got that distinction between copyright and patents. Getting a patent would protect the idea for something if it’s an invention – copyright can’t do that.” That’s not to write off the power of copyright entirely. For example, the Berne Convention is an international copyright agreement that allows creators to protect their materials at home and abroad. And for further protection, as long as ideas conjured up by entrepreneurs are documented with a paper trail, their work will be granted copyright by default. “One of the great things about copyright for startups is, if they’re creating new inventions or ways of doing things, such as a new technology, copyright is created and enforceable as soon as it arises,” says Kate O’Rourke, senior counsel at Charles Russell Speechlys, the law firm. “So if I write a poem, I automatically have copyright on that poem because I’ve written it down. If I think about it and don’t write it down there’s no copyright.” This in itself should act as some comfort to innovators getting those light-bulb moments. For whether you’re a first-mover or think you can do better than an existing entity, there’s always room for fresh innovation – just be ready to face competition when the time comes. After all, as the saying goes, ‘great minds think alike’.

QUITE COMMONLY WHAT EMPLOYEES MAY TAKE IS INFORMATION STORED IN THEIR HEAD – AND AS A RESULT, IT CAN’T ALWAYS BE IDENTIFIED, QUANTIFIED OR PROTECTED APRIL 2018 ELITEBUSINESSMAGAZINE.CO.UK

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Elite Business April 2018  
Elite Business April 2018