Top 100 young British entrepreneurs shaping future of UK economy

The Hurun Research Institute has released the Hurun UK Under 30s 2022, a list of the 100 leading young entrepreneurs aged 30 or under in the UK. The inaugural UK list includes high-profile business founders such as Gymshark’s Ben Francis, pictured above, and tech billionaire Johnny Boufarhat of Hopin, as well as less well-known entrepreneurs already generating annual sales of more than £1m or raising substantial investment. 

The fashion sector has the highest proportion of represented entrepreneurs in the UK Under 30s, followed by the food and drink sector. 29 women make the list. There is also a strong showing for young business leaders from ethnic minority backgrounds, reflecting Britain’s increasingly diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem. The average age of the 100 entrepreneurs featured is 28 years and six months. Edward Beccle, the co-founder of the religious app Glorify, is the youngest at just 23 years old.

Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun Report Chairman and Chief Researcher, said: “The Hurun UK Under 30s is a celebration of the most successful young entrepreneurs in the country, the most likely to build the homegrown billion-dollar businesses of the future. I hope the Hurun UK Under 30s can inspire the next generation of ambitious entrepreneurs.

“The Hurun UK Under 30s have built businesses worth an average of £100mn, remarkable for such young entrepreneurs. Although this is distorted by the likes of Hopin, Gymshark and Marshmallow, there are probably a dozen or more with valuations of over £100mn. If they can build a business this big by the age of 30, imagine how big they could get when they get to the age of Jeff Bezos, James Dyson or Warren Buffett. You can safely say they are the most likely billionaires of the future, especially as founder teams and investors are becoming more experienced at knowing how to focus on value creation over sales.”

Oxford University’s alumni produced the most Hurun UK Under 30s, followed by the universities of Bath and Warwick. World-class universities are of critical importance to a successful start-up ecosystem. The UK has one of the best start-up ecosystems in the world, coming in fourth after the US, China and India, with 46 known unicorns (billion-dollar start-ups from the 2000s not yet publicly traded) and 30 gazelles (US$500mn dollar start-ups from the 2000s, not yet publicly traded and most likely to ‘go unicorn’ within three years).

Hoogewerf added: “A successful start-up ecosystem requires role models. If a city or country can attract the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and companies to set up shop there, that will have a roll-on effect. Entrepreneurship is infectious and cities with lots of role models are likely to attract the brightest and best young entrepreneurs. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

“The role of investors is evolving to mentorship and scale-up opportunities, rather than just providers of cash. The world’s leading venture capitalists are building ecosystems with their portfolios, hugely attractive to the world’s fastest-growing start-ups. Being able to say you have one of the top venture capitalist brands as an investor adds significant credibility to a start-up.”

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Brothers Reiss and Kristian Edgerton set up fast-growing women’s gymwear brand AYBL. With girlfriend Alice Cross, Reiss set up Because of Alice. Notably, the Edgerton brothers were at school with Gymshark founders Ben Francis and Lewis Morgan, making South Bromsgrove High School in Worcestershire the school with the highest number of alumni on the Hurun UK Under 30s. Grace Beverley established gym clothing brand TALA, which has generated sales of more than £10 million since its launch in 2019.

Natalie Glaze and Zanna van Dyke together set up Stay Wild Swimmaking swimwear from recycled plastic. Alexander and Oliver Kent-Braham are the first black British brothers to set up a unicorn, fintech Marshmallow. Harry Stebbings made his name with his “Twenty Minute VC” podcast, before becoming a tech investor in his own right. The university dropout has raised more than £100 million to back UK start-ups. Husband and wife team Dan and Melanie Marsden of lingerie retailer Lounge Underwear have shown the enormous potential of social media, as they have grown sales to £55 million last year.

Stephen Bartlett became the youngest entrepreneur panellist on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den. At the age of 22 he launched Social Chain with Dominic McGregor, growing revenues to around £150 million before merging the digital media business with a German firm. Bartlett has now launched his private equity operation, Catena Capital.

Four pairs of siblings appear – the Edgerton brothers, the Kerr sisters, the Kent-Braham brothers and the Holmes-Darby brothers. Evie and Oliver Bristowe, the pair behind the animal products brand Pets Purest, also feature in the Hurun UK Under 30s.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024