Who is Sarah Wood?
Co-founder of Unruly, academic-turned-entrepreneur Wood is behind the Roller Baby and Compare the Meerkat ads. Here are five key facts about her
Name: Sarah Wood
Business: Co-founder of social video marketing platform Unruly; which employs over 200 people across 15 offices worldwide
What you should know about her: Wood is best-known for being behind famous campaigns as Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ – one of the most viewed online video ads of all time – Evian’s Roller Babies, Compare the Market’s ‘Compare the Meerkat’ ads, and T-Mobile’s ‘Life’s For Sharing’. In September 2015, Wood and co-founders Scott Button and Matthew Cooke sold Unruly to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for £114m.
As one of the country’s most successful female tech entrepreneurs and an inspiration for anyone looking to change career paths, we’ve compiled five facts to help you get to know Wood better…
1. She’s originally an academic
Before being bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, Wood worked in academia and lectured in literature at Sussex University. She remembers her time as a lecturer as one of great security and a very comfortable existence. She told The Guardian: “When I think of the biggest risk I’ve ever taken, I think about my decision to leave academia and start up a company. This is a huge risk, because non-one ever leaves academia!”
It was only after the tragic 7/7 bombings that Wood began to re-evaluate her priorities and decided it was time for a change. She has previously said that the bombings were one of those moments in life”when you think, ‘What do I really want to do in this very short time I’m going to be here?’ I realised I wanted to be closer to my kids and to have more of an impact.”
Thankfully for Wood, the jump from academic life to enterprise was worth it and she’s now one of the most famous technology entrepreneurs in the country.
2. She has an honorary doctorate
In recognition of her entrepreneurial leadership and commitment to furthering education in technology, Wood was awarded an honorary doctorate from City University London in January 2016.
Professor Sir Paul Curran said of Wood: “It takes dedication and imagination to launch the first pop-up university to deliver both academic and professional expertise to Tech City and Sarah has demonstrated that she has plenty of both.”
Wood is no stranger to awards and accolades; she’s previously been named one of 15 Women to Watch in Tech by Inc., one of 10 London-Based Entrepreneurs to Watch by Forbes, one of CNBC’s UK tech industry’s top women entrepreneurs, and won Female Entrepreneur of the Year at Startups’ former Fast Growth Business Awards. Quite a list!
3. She thinks advice is somewhat overrated
When asked ‘What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?’, Wood has often remarked that she believes advice is overrated. Speaking to The Huffington Post last year, Wood said that while “it’s good to listen to what other people say, […] ultimately you have to make the call for yourself and have the courage of your own convictions.”
Wood has said that she often reflects back on an incident with a university professor that inspired her. Feeling nervous the night before her university final exams, Wood’s professor gave her a note which merely read “courage!”
4. She thinks women in business are treated differently to their male counterparts
Passionate about getting more women involved in the tech industry, Wood believes female leaders are treated differently to their male counterparts and has cited that female entrepreneurs are held to higher standards:
“We aren’t being judged in the same way. There are many extra layers of judgement that are applied to women that aren’t applied to men. It’s not enough to be smart, driven, successful, people also expect you to look fantastic. So, all these additional layers of expectation can wear you down if you let them.”
Among other boundaries for women in business, Wood believes female founders and entrepreneur often care too much about perception and says that this can hold them back.
She told the Huffington Post:”We’re either perceived to be too nice or too bossy, or both at the same time, in irrational, illogical ways. One person will say “oh it’s because you’re too nice obviously” and then the next will say “Well if you weren’t so bossy and didn’t come down so hard on people” — hang on a minute, I can’t be both of these things!”
5. She is now teaching the “next generation” of entrepreneurs
While still actively involved in the running of Unruly as co-chief executive, Wood also teaches an online video culture course at Cambridge University and has just opened City Unrulyversity; London’s first ‘pop up University’ in Shoreditch which teaches business skills to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Wood is also an ambassador for the International Festival for Business 2016 which is taking place in Liverpool this summer.
You can get the lowdown on other influential entrepreneurs in this series, such as: