Who is Oli Barrett MBE?

Host of the Startups Awards 2016, entrepreneur and MC Barrett has founded countless ventures and received recognition from the queen. Find out more...

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Name: Oli Barrett MBE
Businesses: Barrett is co-founder of entrepreneurship campaign StartUp Britain, social action agency Cospa Tenner, and the Make Your Mark with a Tenner campaign – to name a few
Why you should know about him: Barrett’s CV is an enviable and intimidating one; covering the launch of multiple projects and organisations, professional public speaking and social action projects which benefit communities across the UK and abroad. He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2013 for services to business and entrepreneurship.

A 2008 Young Gun and regular contributor to Startups, find out more about the man hosting the prestigious Startups Awards on November 17 with these six facts…

1. He’s amongst the “most connected men in Britain”

Barrett has appeared in GQ’s 100 Most Connected Men list for the last three years running – an index of Britain’s “finest collaborators, alliance-builders and thought-leaders”.

This year, the list included the likes of mayor of London Sadiq Khan, David Beckham and Benedict Cumberbatch, alongside leading lights of the business world such as Second Home co-founder Rohan Silva, Funding Circle founder and Young Gun and SB.TV founder Jamal Edwards.

With GQ claiming to feature 80% new names in the index every year, Barrett’s ongoing inclusion as one of the ‘most connected men’ speaks volumes and is just one of the reasons he makes such an ideal host for the Startups Awards 2016; an annual celebration of the UK’s most exceptional and pioneering businesses and start-up founders.

To see Barrett in action at the Startups Awards, contact elician@startups.co.uk for ticket information.

2. He’s an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur

Most of Barrett’s ideas, campaigns and business ventures have involved the promotion or nurturing of start-ups and Barrett has done much to encourage and foster enterprise throughout the UK and around the world.

In 2011, he co-founded StartUp Britain, an independent and privately funded campaign that gives aspiring entrepreneurs across the UK access to practical support from established businesses and business owners. Every year the campaign rolls out a national bus tour, which visits towns and cities across the country offering on-board support and advice to local entrepreneurs.

3. He’s a former Butlins Redcoat 

Having left his French and Spanish course at Edinburgh University after just one term, Barrett became one of Butlins’ famous Redcoats.

With duties ranging from entertaining adults and children to stewarding, it’s easy to see how the social and public speaking skills he developed here would put him in good stead for a life of making connections and public speaking – skills that will be put to good use when he hosts the Startups Awards next month.

In a recent blog for Startups, the entrepreneur and MC revealed that he speaks at events at least once a week; meeting fascinating people and sharing ideas.

4. He credits musical theatre with giving him a “bug for starting things”

Barrett didn’t jump straight into the world of business – while at Leeds University studying broadcasting, Barrett appeared in, and then produced, a stage musical and spoken-word radio show. It was this, he claims, that gave him the “bug for starting things”.

This bug would lead to the start of his first business whilst still at university: a career fair organised by students for students. Supported by Saatchi and Saatchi, the fair went on to host events in nine cities.

5. A vicar gave him the idea for Make Your Mark with a Tenner 

Having taken his speed-networking concept national and then international, Barrett was approached to speak in schools about starting projects. However, he found himself frustrated by the lack of engagement and passive nature of the relationship between speaker and audience.

It was then that he read about a vicar who had handed out £10 notes to members of his congregation and encouraged them to see what they could turn it into – this story would later lead to the launch of Make Your Mark with a Tenner. Run since 2007, the challenge has provided hundreds of thousands of children with £10 with which to start a business with to get a taste of entrepreneurial life.

6. He’s keen to get UK businesses trading overseas

To date, Barrett has organised 11 trade missions across Brazil, India and the US, taking UK technology start-ups on week-long oversees trips to develop relationships, explore opportunities and to ultimately try and grow their businesses.

Run in partnership with Innovate UK, The Long Run Venture and Barrett’s social action enterprise Cospa, the missions have included Clean and Cool, which took a cohort of clean energy start-ups to San Francisco; Web Mission, 15 tech firms to India; and Future Health Mission, which took early-stage healthcare companies to Boston.

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