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Successful UK entrepreneurs reveal their business heroes

Not all heroes wear capes as proven by this eclectic list of business role models who provided the inspiration for Startups 100-listed companies…

Who is your business hero? For the entrepreneurs featured in the Startups 100 2016 – the index of the UK’s most disruptive new businesses launched in the last three years – business inspiration comes from many places, in many forms.

To find out more about the motivation for starting a business, we asked founders from our Startups 100 index to share the names of the people that have inspired them; their business role models.

Whether it’s taking inspiration from hip hop stars, technology moguls, inventors, or even film directors, their list of business heroes is extremely varied but they all share the same entrepreneurial qualities – drive, passion, creativity and the ability to change the status quo.

Read on to find out who their business heroes are or, if you think you’ve got what it takes to be in the Startups 100 2017 index, click here.

Kanye_WestKanye West

“My entrepreneurial hero is Kanye West. It may sound like an odd choice, but if you follow his career he's been a true disruptor of the status quo, a creator and someone with grand ambitions to change the world.

“I admire anyone who has the vision and gumption to create and challenge the establishment.”

Tushar Agarwal,  Hubble

Martha Lane FoxMartha Lane Fox

“There are many people who I admire, and several I am lucky enough to call a mentor. One ‘entrepreneurial hero’ would be Martha Lane Fox, not just for her early career success with but for her new focus on Doteveryone: connecting the UK’s public and private sectors, improving the gender balance in the Internet industry, building prototypes for public services, and embedding digital skills.”

Sarah Tierney,  We are Colony

Sherry CoutuSherry-Coutu

“Entrepreneurial heroes to me are those who either, (i) combine profit with purpose, or (ii) feel a sense of duty to make a difference to the wider entrepreneurial ecosystem. I get to work closely with Sherry Coutu, who is devoting her time to the ScaleUp Institute and Founders4Schools to firmly make sure the UK is focusing on scaling companies as well as starting them so that entrepreneurship can be a bedrock of our economy, and that the next generation is the pipeline to feed this.”

Tamara Rajah, Live Better With  

Duncan-BannatyneDuncan Bannatyne

“I admire Duncan Bannatyne’s perseverance and adventurous entrepreneurial spirit. Starting small at the beginning, and identifying opportunities for growth and fearlessly taking advantage of these. He started later in life and became a highly successful entrepreneur, proving you don’t have to be a child prodigy to succeed and it’s never too late to follow your dreams.”

Joseph Munns, Bakedin

Drew HoustonDrew Houston

“The founder of Dropbox, who saw a change in the way people were using data and then defined a new industry on the back of it.”

Alastair Campbell, Carsnip

Sarah CurranSarah Curran MBE

“Sarah Curran, founder of and now MD of, has been a long-time mentor during my time at and presenting as the first client for Aisle 8, consulting on the launch of the etailer, and managing the launch.

“As a self-appointed CEO, Curran openly faced many challenges throughout her career and she invested in people and created a unique culture, which created two exceptional businesses.”

Lauren Stevenson and Virginia Norris, Aisle 8

Malcolm WalkerMalcolm Walker

“The founder of Iceland. Having read his autobiography, I was inspired by how he built an empire based on a simple idea and starting with one small shop.”

Darren Thomas, PedalCover

James_Cameron_2010James Cameron

“I’m a big fan of the filmmaker James Cameron. I love watching and making films myself – and he, for me, is the definition of an innovator. He is living a truly creative life – sometimes contributing to innovating entire technologies to make one film. What’s admirable is his endless curiosity; you can’t limit the man.

Nelson Sivalingam, Hownow/Wonderush

Sarah WoodSarah Wood

“I think Sarah Wood who founded Unruly is phenomenal as a hero. Her vision to adapt, react and grow the business is outstanding, she is always kind and a huge champion to bringing more women into the industry.”

Emily Forbes, Seenit

Tom_Cruise_by_Gage_SkidmoreTom Cruise

“My inspiration to run my own business started at 16 when I was inspired by Tom Cruise firstly in “Risky Business” and then again in “Jerry Maguire”!

Andrew Needham, HeadBox

James_DysonSir James Dyson

“James Dyson – we take huge heart from how long it took him to convince the world that his vacuum cleaner was revolutionary, even though he could already prove it.

“Our journey has been something the same, with a lot of people openly doubting we could bring our vision to life… that are now celebrating the idea and our hugely successful year one!”

Kenny Ewan, WeFarm

Dame Shirley SteveDame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley

“I've always been inspired by self-made business people who have overcome adversity and have found unique ways around problems. My favourite of this ilk is Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley, a Jewish refugee who created Xansa PLC (nee the FI Group) a £400m pound services business.

“Legend has it that in order to win contract she would organise meetings as “Steve” to break the male hegemony or large IT contracts.”

Alec Dobbie, FanFinders

Elon MuskElon Musk

“The founder of Tesla. He is reinventing the way we live in the world. He is working towards ground-breaking, long term challenges whilst being able to generate profit and high value.”

Christian Lane, Smarter

Eric RiesEric Ries

“By launching the ‘lean start-up’ movement, Eric Ries has made a huge impact on the way startups launch their business around the world. At Lexoo we are heavily indebted to his ideas and would not have been able to achieve the results we’ve had so far without rigorously applying the ‘lean’ approach set out by him in his book The Lean Startup.”

Daniel van Binsbergen, Lexoo

Want to become a member of the illustrious Startups 100 alumni? Register your interest for the Startups 100 2017 index here.


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