From start-up to scale-up: The Startups Awards Winners’ Dinner

They may have built fast-growth companies, but what did Startups Awards winners face when they first started out? Nine entrepreneurs tell all

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality.
Written and reviewed by:

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, a truism that applies so neatly to the growth of every successful business.

Since 2004 has been picking winners for the Startups Awards and while not every one of those companies has become a proverbial mighty oak, many have or will do in time.

Which was why, to mark the start of our annual quest to recognise the very best new businesses emerging in the UK today, we decided to get some of our outstanding former winners to share their journeys from start-up to scale-up.

The group we assembled at exclusive London restaurant Avenue share more than their award wins in common – they all grew their humble start-ups into multi-million pound businesses.

So who are they?

You can read their brief biographies below or go straight to the article From start-up to scale-up: The biggest challenges here.

James Brown, Beer52

JAMES BROWN cropJames is the founder of Beer52, which launched in September 2013 after securing investment from the founders of Secret Escapes and SuperJam. UK’s no.1 craft beer with over 10,000 members. Each month it delivers a case of handpicked craft beers from the best independent microbreweries, brewed exclusively – Beer52 members get access to the freshest beer available.

Brett Akker, LOVESPACE

BRETTLOVESPACE cropBrett is the former co-founder and CEO of Streetcar, the UK’s largest car sharing business when it was sold to Zipcar in 2010. Since then, he has launched LOVESPACE – the UK’s first storage-by-the-box business where he is now chairman. Brett is also an investor/non-executive director in numerous other early-stage businesses.


Matt McNeil,

matt mcneill cropWearer of many hats. Interested in tech, marketing, fitness, travel and photography – not necessarily in that order. Matt founded, which was acquired by Europe’s largest cloud hosting group HEG. He is now the brand director and head of professional services there. Matt is also the co-founder of Andzen, and, as well as being an occasional angel investor and adviser.

Mitesh Soma, Chemist Direct

Mitesh-Soma cropFounder of Chemist Direct, Europe’s leading online chemist and winner of the Retailer of the Year Award at the Startups Awards in 2008. A former management consultant for Deloitte, UBS and SAP, Mitesh exited Chemist Direct in June 2013, following a $10m investment from Atomico, DMG Media and Lepe Partners. He launched ecomfactor, an internet group specialising in creating, acquiring and partnering with businesses to boost their e-commerce presence.


Julien Callède,

Julien Callede cropAlongside Ning Li and Chloé Macintosh, Julien is part of the founding team behind – the design, retail and manufacturing platform for great-looking furniture backed by founder Brent Hoberman. With a background in the sourcing industry, Julien has helped Made achieve revenues of £42.8m in 2014 and has just raised a $60M funding round to accelerate its European expansion.

Luke Lang,

Luke Lang cropA pioneer of alternative finance, Luke is the co-founder of Crowdcube. The UK’s first equity crowdfunding platform has now facilitated more than £100m of deals in over 280 of the country’s most exciting, fledgling businesses and has a community of around 200,000 investors. Recently added mini-bonds to its offering with successful campaigns for Chilango and River Cottage.


Adam Sopher, Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn

Adam Sopher cropLaunched in 2010, Adam is the co-founder and director of Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn with parents Joe and Jackie Sopher. A former consultant at Deloitte he held managerial roles at Dixons before launching the Joe & Seph’s after noticing the market potential of his father’s uniquely flavoured popcorn. The firm exports to 15 countries worldwide and over 1,000 UK stores.

Steve Folwell, LOVESPACE

Steve folwell cropManaging director of LOVESPACE, founded by Streetcar’s Brett Akker, a UK-wide storage-by-the-box business. Steve is the former business development and brand extensions director at Guardian News and Media, was director of strategy at Guardian Media Group and has previously held positions at ITV and McKinsey & Co.


Dr. Carey Bunks, Senscraft

Carey Bunks cropCarey was the CEO and co-founder of mobile marketing platform Senscraft, which he launched in 2012 with fellow veterans of Yell Group and European Directories. The company provides marketing tools to help business owners commercialise their mobile platforms and was sold earlier this year. Following a PhD at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Carey held several senior management positions in start-ups and larger internet businesses including hibu and Webraska. He is now managing director of Catalysis Digital.


The Startups Awards is sponsored by Simply Business, the UK’s largest online insurance broker, with award categories sponsored by haysmacintyre, Big Red Cloud, .uk, RBS and Experian. About our sponsors:

Written by:

Leave a comment

We value your comments but kindly requests all posts are on topic, constructive and respectful. Please review our commenting policy.

Back to Top