Innovation centre launches entrepreneur accelerator programme

Coworking space and innovation centre Plexal has announced the launch of a new accelerator programme.

Plexal’s OpenDoor initiative will support products, services and projects that make work more inclusive and enable under-represented groups to access better business and economic opportunities.

The accelerator programme will give entrepreneurs access to marketing and messaging support, business model development, tailored introductions to partners, investors and corporates, as well as access to the Plexal Community and coworking space.

Russell Gundry, head of innovation strategy at Plexal, explained: “By supporting ventures that create better inclusion with the level of focus and drive usually given to start-ups and scaleups, we can make an enormous difference.

“We can’t wait to start working with first cohort on building more socially inclusive businesses, workspaces and policies.”

If you would like to find out more information, please visit


Business Excellence: Michael G. Rubin Billionaire Entrepreneur

Michael G. Rubin is an American businessman. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Kynetic, a direct-to-consumer e-commerce company he founded in 2011. He is also Executive Chairman at each of Kynetic’s three businesses: Fanatics, the world’s leading online seller of licensed sports merchandise; Rue La La, a flash sales site; and ShopRunner, a members-only service for online shoppers. He previously founded GSI Commerce in 1998, selling it on eBay in 2011 for $2.4 billion (USD).

Rubin also is a co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team and the New Jersey Devils hockey team.

Rubin has been included in the Forbes 400: The Richest People in America and the Forbes: The World’s Billionaireslist. His networth, as of January 2019, is estimated to be $2.9 billion (USD).


20 great career tips from successful entrepreneurs

Being an entrepreneur is about the journey, not the destination. For those who have an entrepreneurial spirit, the following career tips are a reminder that it’s okay to fail—it’s all about learning from your mistakes and moving forward. Here are 20 great tips from successful entrepreneurs.

1. Elon Musk – Co-Founder of PayPal, CEO of Tesla & Founder of SpaceX

Elon Musk is a South African-born American entrepreneur, inventor, and investor. He is best known as CEO of electric-car manufacturer Tesla, co-founder of PayPal, and founder of commercial space program SpaceX. For an article in Time magazine, Musk was asked whether he had ever doubted his chances of success:

“I always knew that there was a chance of failure in all my endeavors,” he said. “But I felt that they were important enough that I had to try, even if I thought the probability of success was less than 50%.”

2. J.K. Rowling – Author of the Harry Potter Series

Known for her bestselling Harry Potter novels that have sold 450 million copies and won numerous awards, J.K. Rowling has a net worth of about US$850 million. Rowling has risen from rags to riches, and as she discussed in her 2008 commencement speech at Harvard University, knows that failure is not a bad thing:

“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.”

3. Stewart Butterfield – Co-Founder of Flickr & Slack

Canadian Stewart Butterfield is an entrepreneur and businessman, best known for being a co-founder of the photo sharing website Flickr and team messaging application Slack.

He recently shared some advice for young people with Adam Bryant of the New York Times: “Some people will know exactly what they want to do at a very young age, but the odds are low. I feel like people in their early- to mid-20s are very earnest. They’re very serious, and they want to feel like they’ve accomplished a lot at a very young age rather than just trying to figure stuff out. So I try to push them toward a more experimental attitude.”

4. Mark Cuban – Shark Tank Investor & Owner of the Dallas Mavericks

Known for his appearances on the ABC show Shark Tank, Cuban made his fortune through the sale of startups MicroSolutions and in the 1990s, and later became known as the enthusiastic owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

Cuban has made some controversial statements, but he does also give some pretty good advice. “One thing we can all control is effort. Put in the time to become an expert in whatever you’re doing. It will give you an advantage because most people don’t do this.”

5. Sheryl Sandberg – COO of Facebook

As the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg juggles the tasks of monetizing the world’s largest social networking site while keeping its users happy and engaged. It’s a huge responsibility, but one well suited to Sandberg, who earlier in her career developed Google’s successful online advertising programs, but also worked as an economist at the World Bank and as chief of staff to then-U.S. treasury secretary Larry Summers.

Here’s her take on how to be yourself at work, no matter what. “I don’t believe we have a professional self from Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time. That kind of division probably never worked, but in today’s world … it makes even less sense. I’ve cried at work … I talk about my hopes and fears and ask people about theirs. I try to be myself. Honest about my strengths and weaknesses and I encourage others to do the same.”

6. Bill Gates – Founder of Microsoft

Bill Gates is an American business leader, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, best known as the co-founder of Microsoft. Famous for being one of the richest people in the world, Bill Gates tweeted the following career advice to new college graduates: “AI, energy, and biosciences are promising fields where you can make a huge impact. It’s what I would do if starting out today.” He also encouraged grads to “surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self.”

7. Simon Sinek – Leadership Expert & Author

Simon Sinek describes himself as someone who tries to “find, celebrate, and teach leaders how to build platforms that will inspire others.” He is a trained ethnographer and the author of the book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. In 2012, Sinek tweeted the following advice: “Dream big. Start small. But most of all, start.”

8. Steve Jobs – Co-Founder of Apple

As the co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs was known for his relentless pursuit of excellence in everything the company did. At the root of his exacting standards was a deep passion for his work. In his commencement address at Stanford University in 2005, Jobs said: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

9. Jeff Bezos – Founder & CEO of Amazon.Com

Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of online retailer and founder of space company Blue Origin, is currently the world’s richest person, with a total net worth of $134 billion as of May 2018. At a forum on leadership in April 2018, Bezos explained that space travel is his calling, and offered this advice: “You can have a job, or you can have a career, or you can have a calling. And if you can somehow figure out how to have a calling, you have hit the jackpot, ’cause that’s the big deal.”

10. Mark Zuckerberg – Co-Founder & CEO of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg is the co-founder and CEO of Facebook and one of the richest people in the world. Back in 2011, he offered this advice to entrepreneurs during an interview at Y Combinator’s Start-up School in Palo Alto, California: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

11. Tobias Lütke – Founder & CEO of Shopify

Tobias Lütke is the founder and CEO of Shopify, a Canadian e-commerce company that went public in 2015. In an interview with Canadian Business, he said: “I really encourage people to find a place that sort of culturally aligns with what they’re trying to accomplish, and then just go for it.”

12. Marla Malcolm Beck – Co-Founder & CEO of Bluemercury

Marla Malcolm Beck is the co-founder and CEO of Bluemercury, a luxury beauty retailer and spa that was sold to Macy’s for $210 million in 2015. In an interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times, Beck offered the following advice to graduating college students: “Bring an expertise or skill set into an organization, or be the expert at something that nobody else is doing.”

13. Chip Wilson – Founder & Former CEO of Lululemon Athletica

Chip Wilson, the founder and former CEO of athletic apparel company Lululemon Athletica, now manages a portfolio of companies under the name Hold It All. Back in 2013, Wilson shared the best advice he had ever received with Business Insider: “It took me a long time to understand it, but [the advice was] to ask for help and that I don’t know it all. People love to help. I don’t have to be insecure and know it all.”

14. Brian Chesky – Co-Founder & CEO of Airbnb

Brian Chesky, the co-founder and CEO of peer-to-peer apartment rental service Airbnb, told the New York Times’ Adam Bryant that recent grads shouldn’t listen to their parents.

“They’re the most important relationships in your life, but you should never take your parents’ career advice, and I’m using parents as a proxy for all the pressures in the world,” Chesky said. “I also say that whatever career you’re in, assume it’s going to be a massive failure. That way, you’re not making decisions based on success, money and career. You’re only making it based on doing what you love.”

15. Tony Robbins – Inspirational Speaker

Tony Robbins is a life and business strategist, bestselling author, and philanthropist. In a 2016 Facebook Live discussion hosted by Business Insider, Robbins shared the advice given to him early in his career by his mentor, the late motivational speaker Jim Rohn:

“Your worth in the marketplace is based on your ability to add more value than anyone else. If you can find a way to do more for others in your company, more for the employees, more for the clients, than anybody else, your gifts will make room for you. But in order to do that, you’ve got to build skills.”

16. Maya Angelou – Author & Activist

The many inspiring quotes from the late Maya Angelou are evidence of the celebrated writer and civil rights activist’s entrepreneurial spirit. Take this piece of advice, for example: “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

17. Melanie Whelan – CEO of SoulCycle

Melanie Whelan, the CEO of fitness chain SoulCycle, believes that new college graduates should focus on the present and not get hung up on what they feel they “should” be doing. In an interview with the New York Times’ Adam Bryant, she said: “The first thing I say is to get a job and work hard. You are going to learn a ton in whatever that job is, so don’t stress too much about what it is or where it is. Just take a job and put your head down, work hard, raise your hand for anything anybody asks you to do.”

18. Rick Goings – CEO of Tupperware Brands

Rick Goings, the CEO of Tupperware Brands, began his career as a door-to-door salesman of encyclopedias—a job at which he was not successful. In an interview with Business Insider in 2015, Goings explained why failure is an important step on the road to success: “The experiences you get in failure are some of the best lessons you can apply in life. I truly believe you need to fail in order to succeed. It’s never a straight line to success, and it’s the bumps and pivots that help you get there.”

19. Salli Setta – President of Red Lobster

Salli Setta, the president of popular restaurant chain Red Lobster, told Business Insider that she sees lunchtime as a prime networking opportunity.

“It isn’t about saying ‘hi, what are we going to talk about, let’s talk about sports.’ It’s about identifying the object of this lunch in your mind.” Setta recommends preparing questions and ideas ahead of time for a more productive discussion.

20. Henry Ford – Founder of Ford Motor Company

Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company and the man who revolutionized the automobile industry by developing assembly line production, reportedly once said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do”—a helpful reminder for those who have entrepreneurial aspirations but have yet to take action!


How two strangers set up Dropbox and made billions

The BBC’s weekly The Boss series profiles a different business leader from around the world. This week we spoke to Drew Houston, founder and chief executive of US cloud storage company Dropbox.

Drew Houston says it felt as if he had just two weeks to find a complete stranger to marry.

Back in 2007 the then 24-year-old was desperate to secure funding to get his idea for a cloud storage business up and running.

One of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious backers of new start-ups – Y Combinator – were prepared to take a gamble on Mr Houston and Dropbox, but there was one catch – they demanded that he get a business partner.

Their argument is that new companies are far more likely to succeed if they have more than one founder, more than one person to make decisions and cope with the workload.

Mr Houston’s problem was that he was a one man band at the time, and for various reasons none of his friends were able to join the business. So he had just two weeks to find a complete stranger to become his co-founder.

“It was like getting an email from the dean of admissions to your favourite college, but the application deadline was in the next couple of weeks, and you need to get married in that time, not just find a date.”

Moving very quickly Mr Houston managed – after a chat lasting just two hours – to persuade a 22-year-old student called Arash Ferdowsi to quit university and join him. Mr Ferdowsi was a friend of a friend, but he and Mr Houston had never met before.

That was 11 years ago. Fast forward to today and San Francisco-based Dropbox is valued at more than $12bn (£9bn). while Mr Houston’s net worth is calculated at $3bn, and Mr Ferdowsi’s at $1.3bn.

Not bad at all for a company that many said would never be successful, and one that Apple’s late Steve Jobs is widely reported to have said he would destroy.

Inspiration for a new business can come from anywhere, and for Mr Houston it was on a bus between Boston and New York in late 2006.

As a recent computer science graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) he was intending to use the six or so hours long journey to work on some earlier business ideas. But as he sat down in his seat, Mr Houston realised that he had forgotten the memory stick that contained all the files.

“I was so frustrated because I felt like this kept happening,” he says. “I never wanted to have the problem again, so having nothing else to do… I started writing some code [to find a solution], having no idea what it would become.”

What Mr Houston came up with was the idea for Dropbox – remote storage that users can access online wherever they may be. Within two weeks he had created the prototype, and come up with the name.

Just a few months later Y Combinator expressed an interest, and Mr Houston went back to MIT to meet Mr Ferdowsi, who was studying electrical engineering and computer science at his old university.

Mr Houston, who is now 35, says: “We met in the student centre for an hour or two, then Arash dropped out of school the next week.

“In retrospect this was pretty crazy… I’m sure his parents had a different plan for him, one that involved finishing college.

“But he was really excited to do it. And I don’t know if either of us knew quite what we were getting into.”

Moving into Y Combinator’s base in Silicon Valley, Dropbox launched in 2008.

To attract its first customers Dropbox made promotional videos that it put up on discussion websites such as Reddit and Slashdot. The aim was to get technology sector influencers to start using the service in the hope that they would speak positively about the product, and user numbers would then grow thanks to this word of mouth.

This indeed proved successful, and from 5,000 users on a waiting list, within a few days Dropbox had 75,000 sign ups. Then it went from 100,000 users to 200,000 users “in something like 10 days”.

User numbers rocketed even further and faster when Mr Houston and his team came up with an incentivised referral scheme. This offered existing Dropbox customers more free storage space if they could get a friend to sign up. The other person would also get more free space, and so on.

It attracted millions of new customers, and caught the attention of the late Steve Jobs who made an offer for the business in 2011.

While Mr Houston declined to talk about this, in numerous previous interviews he has inferred that Jobs didn’t take it well when he turned down the offer. Website Business Insider last year quoted Mr Houston saying that Jobs had threatened to “kill” Dropbox following the rejection.

Apple launched its own cloud storage service later in 2011, iCloud, but this didn’t hold back Dropbox’s growth.

Today Dropbox has more than 500 million registered users, of whom 11.5 million pay an annual subscription fee for more storage than you get for free. This includes more than 300,000 paying business customers.

The company floated on the New York Stock Exchange earlier this year, and its market capitalisation – the total value of all its shares – currently stands at more than $12bn. Its annual revenues exceed $1bn, and it has a global workforce of more than 2,000 people.

Technology analyst Ben Wood of research group CCS Insight says there are numerous reasons for Dropbox’s success, such as its overall ease of use and “very importantly the fact it allows people to easily save and share photos, videos, and other big files that email servers are still unable to cope with”.

Mr Houston says that he and Mr Ferdowsi, who remains on the senior management team, continue to work well together.

Regarding his specific role as chief executive, Mr Houston says his current main focus is making sure that staff ignore the success of the recent share flotation, and instead “stay focused on why we are here – making customers happy”.

Stewart PHOTO

Meet the $5bn tech boss who grew up without electricity

The BBC’s weekly The Boss series profiles a different business leader from around the world. This week we spoke to Stewart Butterfield, the founder of technology companies Flickr and Slack.

It is not the sort of upbringing you’d associate with one of Silicon Valley’s heavyweights.

But Stewart Butterfield spent the first five years of his life living on a commune in remote Canada after his father fled the US to avoid serving in the Vietnam War.

The young Mr Butterfield and his parents lived in a log cabin in a forest in British Columbia, and for three years they had no running water or electricity.

“My parents were definitely hippies,” says Mr Butterfield, whose mother and father had named him Dharma. “They wanted to live off the land, but it turns out there was a lot of work involved, so we moved back to the city.”

After the family relocated to Victoria, the capital of British Colombia, Mr Butterfield saw his first computer when he was seven, and taught himself to programme from that very young age.

Fast-forward to today and 46-year-old Stewart Butterfield – who founded both photo-sharing website Flickr, and business messaging service Slack – has an estimated personal fortune of $650m (£500m).

But perhaps in part due to his unusual upbringing he says he tries to live frugally.

“In truth I feel guilty spending too much money,” he says. “As a Canadian that world seems very strange and alien to me.”

Mr Butterfield also puts much of his success down to luck.

Mr Butterfield says that his seven-year-old self was fascinated by the first wave of personal computers.

“I was around seven in 1980, it must have been an Apple II or IIE that my parents bought,” he says. “I taught myself to code using computer magazines.”

Mr Butterfield – who changed his first name to Stewart when he was 12 – learned to make basic computer games.

However, he lost interest in computers while at high school, and ended up going on to study philosophy at the University of Victoria. From there he did a masters in the subject at Cambridge University in the UK.

In 1997 he was about to try to become a professor of philosophy when the internet “really started to take off”.

“People who knew how to make websites were moving to San Francisco, and I had a bunch of friends who were making twice as much, or three times as much, as what professors were making,” he says. “It was new and exciting.”

So Mr Stewart decided to give up academia and move to Silicon Valley.

After working as a web designer for several years he launched an online game in 2002 with future Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake, Mr Butterfield’s then-wife.

The game – called Game Neverending – failed to take off, and the pair were running out of cash. Frantically looking for a plan B they hit upon the idea of Flickr, going on to build the photo-sharing platform in just three months.

“The first camera phones were also coming out, and more and more households were getting internet connectivity, and then stuff happened so fast,” says Mr Butterfield.

Launched in 2004, Flickr was the one of the first websites to allow people to upload, share, tag and comment on photos.

Just a year later the founders sold the firm to internet giant Yahoo for $25m – although Mr Butterfield has since said this was the “wrong decision” as waiting longer could have meant a much bigger deal.

Nevertheless he moved on to bigger things with Slack.

It was 2009 and he and some partners had set up another online game, and again it failed. It did, however, spark a brainwave.

“As we were working on the game we developed a system for internal communication that we really loved,” says Mr Butterfield. “We didn’t think about it, it was very much in the background. But after a few years we thought maybe other people would like it too.”

It formed the basis for Slack, a service that today boasts eight million daily users, three million of whom pay for the more advanced features, and more than 70,000 corporate clients.

Slack enables employees to communicate and collaborate with each other in groups at work, and it has grown rapidly. IBM, Samsung, 21st Century Fox and Marks & Spencer are just a few big names to have signed up. Following a number of investment rounds Slack is now valued at $5.1bn.

Chris Green, a technology analyst at consultancy Bright Bee, says it is rare for an entrepreneur to create something successful out of the ashes of a failed project, and “almost unheard of to do it twice”.

“But if you look at Stewart’s career, it’s not just luck, he’s always been innovating in the background and looking for ways to bring order to chaos,” says Mr Green.

“That’s what Flickr and Slack have both done in their own ways.”

Slack does have competitors, though. Microsoft now offers a rival service for free with its Office 365 package, and start-up Zoom boasts a more expansive offering for about the same price.

“There is immense competition from some big well-funded companies so Slack will need to keep evolving,” Mr Green says.

Big tech firms have found themselves in the firing line for not paying enough tax – but Mr Butterfield says he would be happy for Slack to pay more taxes.

“I’d also like to see a more equitable tax policy. I have no problem paying tax. I don’t think companies are taxed enough, or critically, in the right way.”

Regarding the future, Mr Butterfield says that, unlike Flickr, he has no intention of leaving Slack.

“So many things had to go right get to this position – amazing luck was involved – and I am not so smart that I can just make it happen again,” he says.

“So if I ever wanted to see how far I could take it, this would definitely be the time to do that.”

Entrepeneur PHOTO

Monday Motivation: Meet the self-starters

Ever fancied yourself as an digital entrepreneur? To get you inspired, we’ve taken a look at some of the most successful digital self-starters who, armed with a laptop and a great idea, grew their start-ups into global household names.

1. Daniel Ek, Spotify

The first time Martin Lorentzon met his Spotify co-founder, Daniel Ek was sleeping on a bare mattress in his apartment with just a laptop to keep him company. This is where the pair coined the name of the Swedish music streaming company, which they went on to launch in beta-form in 2007. The platform is now available in 60 countries worldwide with a catalogue of 30 million songs.

2. Pierre Omidyar, eBay

Originally called ‘Auction Web’, Pierre Omidyar launched the first iteration of eBay from his front room with only a few small items for sale. His girlfriend (now wife) was a Pez collector and he even set up an area of the site dedicated to finding other Pez enthusiasts. Now you can sell almost anything on the auction site and there have been some standout purchases over the years – including a grilled cheese sandwich with a likeness to Jesus, and a superyacht that sold for US$168 million.

3. Evan Sharp, Pinterest

Before Pinterest was Pinterest, Ben Silbermann and Paul Sciarra’s business idea wasn’t the success story they’d been dreaming of. Their first start-up was called ‘Tote’ and aggregated shopping results and sale information. After countless investment rejections, they finally had a taker and brought Evan Sharp in to help move the company towards the content saving and storing site we know today.

4. Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, Snapchat

Snapchat started as a university project for students at Stanford and was first called Picaboo. Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown wanted to send pictures to friends that would then disappear. After a bit of a fall-out between the three guys working on the media-sharing app, it was renamed Snapchat and released to the public in the autumn of 2011.

5. Naveen Salvadurai, Foursquare

There’s no denying that coffee gets our cerebral juices flowing and that’s how Dennis Crowley and Naveen Salvadurai came up with Foursquare. The pair spent loads of time laptop-bound in New York coffee shops building the first iteration of the location-based recommendation site, so much so that friends began poking fun and thus, Foursquare’s ‘mayor’ feature was born.

6. Brian Chesky, Airbnb

All the best start-ups come from some good old-fashioned problem solving and that’s how Airbnb came about. Co-founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were broke and needed to pay their rent. They set up and advertised three spare air mattresses in their San Francisco loft apartment, with people paying US$80 each, including breakfast. It took a further four years, countless rejections and a simplification of the company name to get big money investors interested.

7. Garrett Camp, Uber

Serial entrepreneurs Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanik were attending the LeWeb tech conference in Paris together and wanted something new to work on. They locked themselves in a hotel room with good music and good drinks until 5am and came up with the idea of making taxi ordering more reliable and affordable. Uber was born. Today, you can find an on-demand driver in over 600 cities worldwide and get food delivered with the service too.

8. Reed Hastings, Netflix

Sick of late fees and driving back and forth to the rental store, Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings started Netflix for an easier way to watch their favourite movies. Today, the video behemoth is available in 190 countries and now has a substantial production arm that’s doing pretty well. Netflix’s home-grown titles have won a slew of Emmys, including Best Supporting Actress for Orange is the New Black and Best Director of a Drama Series for House of Cards.

9. Drew Houston, Dropbox

Possibly one of the humblest beginnings of all on our list, Drew Houston had a brainwave for Dropbox in a bus station. He was waiting to catch his ride home, when he realised he’d forgotten his USB drive. Right there and then he whipped out his trusty laptop and started writing the code for the file storing and sharing service.

10. Stewart Butterfield, Slack

You may have come across this start-up in your office. Slack is the messaging and productivity service taking our workplaces by storm. Stewart Butterfield’s start-up actually began as an internal tool, created for his team at games developer Tiny Speck to better communicate with each other. The name is an acronym for ‘Searchable Log of All Conversations and Knowledge’, as it allows users to search all messages and files sent on the platform.