Who is Martha Lane Fox?
Co-founder of lastminute.com, Lane Fox has hit the headlines for backing a campaign to stay in the EU. Here are eight need-to-know facts about her
Name: Baroness Martha Lane Fox CBE
Businesses: Co-founder of travel company lastminute.com and karaoke brand Lucky Voice. Founder and chairman of digital skills charity Go ON UK.
Why you should know about her: A dotcom pioneer having started lastminute.com in 1997 with fellow business mogul Brent Hoberman CBE which the duo later sold for £577m, Lane Fox is a hugely successful businesswoman, philanthropist and public servant. She sits on the board of some of the country’s most prominent brands, including Marks & Spencer and Channel 4, and has made significant contribution’s to the government’s digital agenda.
One of the, if not the, most famous female entrepreneurs in the tech space, Lane Fox is a name that any budding business owner should be aware of. Not only is she hugely influential and inspirational but she also spearheads a number of initiatives to support start-ups and small businesses across the country.
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Here are eight quick facts to help you get to know her better…
1. She was the youngest female member of the House of Lords
In March 2013, Lane Fox became a life peer in the House of Lords as a crossbencher (someone who is not party political); becoming its youngest female member at the time, aged 40. The appointment saw her gain the title of Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho in the City of Westminster. In her inaugural debate, she highlighted the lack of skills at the top of corporate, public and political life and called on demand for greater skills and understanding of digital in all parts of the UK economy.
In the same year, Lane Fox was appointed Commander of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for her “services to the digital economy and charity”.
2. She is a champion of human rights, women’s rights and social justice
Lane Fox advocates for a number of charities and social campaigns. In 2007 she founded Antigone, a grant-making trust to support UK charities and she is a patron of Camdfed; a charity which fights poverty, HIV, and AIDS in rural Africa through the education of girls and young women.
She also previously chaired the Women’s Prize for Fiction, alongside Cherie Blair and Joanne Trollope, until another sponsor (Bailey’s) was found.
3. She is pro-EU
Lane Fox was among 50 leading female entrepreneurs and business women to sign an anti-Brexit letter this week urging Britons to opt to stay in the EU. Organised by Women IN, the letter highlighted the many benefits that staying in the EU has on trade, e-commerce, exporting and employment for the UK.
On backing the campaign, Lane Fox said “leaving the EU would be a disaster for the next generation of Britain’s entrepreneurs”. She continued: “Being in Europe means we can trade without tariffs and there are a common set of regulations across 28 countries. And as a mammoth market of 500 million consumers, we can negotiate free trade agreements with countries like the US, China and Australia.”
Lane Fox was also one of 200 signatories that signed a letter opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to the September 2014 referendum.
4. She believes education and internet access should be available to everyone
Lane Fox has been chancellor of the Open University since March 2014, and is an active supporter of them. At this month’s Ed Tech Forum in London, she stated that “the Open University is all about opening up new avenues to education, it’s about education for everyone”. This sentiment is evident in her role within the aptly-named new national organisation Doteveryone which has an ambition to ensure that all of Britain is “brilliant in the network age”.
A former UK Digital Champion for goverment, Lane Fox has a integral focus on making the UK the world’s most digitally skilled nation. In April 2012, she launched digital skills charity Go ON UK which has a goal to ensure that every individual, small business and charity has the skills and confidence to benefit from new digital services.
5. She is one of the 100 “most powerful” women in the UK
Lane Fox is hugely influential in the business and enterprise space. Named one of Startups.co.uk’s top 10 UK female entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter with over 186,000 followers and counting, the serial entrepreneur is backed by an army of business owners, leaders, investors and government officials who believe in what she stands for.
In 2013, BBC Radio 4 named her one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK and in 2015, Business Insider agreed and named her as one of the 20 most powerful people in technology today.
6. She has a talent for predicting start-up success
While she sits on the board of established brands such as Marks & Spencers and Channel 4, Lane Fox has a keen eye for start-up companies and appears to always be one step ahead of the curve in knowing which start-ups will take off.
In an interview with Growingbusiness.co.uk in 2010, Lane Fox named then little-known online furniture business MADE.com as ‘one to watch’. Fast forward six years and MADE has raised over $60m investment, opened a Soho showroom, and there’s now rumours that the company is set for a £100m IPO.
7. She has overcome personal trauma
In 2004, Lane Fox was involved in a major car accident in Morocco and was then flown to England from treatment. She was severely injured with a smashed pelvis and internal bleeding, and suffered a stroke. She was discharged from hospital in December 2005 after having skin grafts, and internal metal supports inserted to keep her fractured bones in position. In an interview with the Daily Mail in June 2014, Lane Fox said she still faces “massive physical challenges every day, something that’s a constant and ever-present factor of my life that I have to manage.”
8. Enterprise runs in her family
Entrepreneurialism must be in her family’s blood as Martha Lane Fox’s brother Henry has achieved similar business success to his sister. A co-founder of holiday website lastminute.com alongside Martha, Henry – dubbed the ‘Silicon Sibling‘ – has launched a number of ventures; from champagne bars to newspaper websites. His current, and arguably most successful, venture is Founders Forum; the tech entrepreneur network founded by Brent Hoberman and Jonny Goodwin which Henry took over running in 2012. On his relationship with Martha, Henry has previously commented:
“My sister has been a much more vocal force in the media, and one Lane Fox has been enough for people over the past 15 years — her success is a wonderful thing to see.”
You can get the lowdown on other influential entrepreneurs in this series, such as: