Money makers: The hippy cashing in on the vegan craze

Vegan Egg boxes © Follow Your Heart / Facebook

Bob Goldberg has come a long way since first selling vegetarian food out of the Los Angeles café he ran with three friends in 1970. Back then, being a vegetarian was seen as a hippy, counterculture move, says the BBC’s Regan Morris. Not so anymore.

Today, the 71-year-old presides over Follow Your Heart, the vegan food company he set up, which is on course to turn over between $40m and $50m this year. The firm makes, sells and distributes millions of jars of its egg-free mayonnaise, called Vegenaise, along with vegan cheeses, and a host of other vegan and gluten-free produce. Despite turning over millions, Goldberg has stayed true to his roots.

“His founding ideals also included ‘not spending half my life on an airplane’, so opening dozens of other shops was not going to be on the agenda,” says Morris. Wholesaling still forms the backbone of the business, which employs 225 people and sells its products to 17 countries outside America, including Britain. For now, Goldberg, who believes companies should be given time to grow, isn’t interested in cashing in off the back of the vegan craze, despite frequent offers from venture capitalists. “It’s very difficult for companies to grow and maintain their values,” he says.

In from the code

When the 12-year-old James Proud started receiving envelopes of money sent to his home in Sutton, south London, his parents feared he was selling drugs, says Nick Rufford in The Sunday Times. It wasn’t coke, he assured them, but code. Proud had taught himself programming, and by the time he was 17, he had created his first website, GigLocator – later sold to American music entrepreneur Peter Shapiro for $1m.

Still aged only 25, Proud has based his latest venture, Hello, in the hip San Francisco district of Mission, where he has been signing up some of the best brains in Silicon Valley, such as Jon Rubinstein, who earned the moniker the Podfather from his work on Apple’s iMac and iPod. Proud’s newest product is a £149 bedside orb called Sense. Two wireless coin-sized sensors attach to your pillow allowing the orb to inform you on how you are sleeping, and advise you on whether your room is too hot, cold or noisy.

Proud has received backing from tech stars such as David Marcus, former head of PayPal, Dan Rose of Facebook, Hugo Barra of Xiaomi, and Spotify’s Shakil Khan, along with $2.4m raised on business start-up website Kickstarter. Only time will tell if those investors “have backed a useful addition to our lives”, says Rufford, “or merely another toy for restless hipsters”.

The grapevine app

Kathleen Stetson, the founder of “what’s on” app Trill, is about as far away from your stereotypical Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur as you can get, says Christina Wallace on Forbes.com. For starters, she has a master of music degree in opera performance, and a master of science degree in architectural acoustics, as well as the more usual MBA. So, it’s safe to say she knows a thing or two about live music.

It was while studying for her MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that Stetson set out to “make a difference in the arts industry”, as she puts it. “I knew that meant starting a company to further the arts industry through technology.” Stetson co-founded Hacking Arts, America’s “first festival and hackathon exploring the intersection of arts, technology, and entrepreneurship”, now in its fourth year, says Wallace.

Then she created Trill, an app that collates what’s on in cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Boston. “When it comes down to it, people take action and spend their limited time at an arts event because they heard from their friends that it was awesome”, Stetson tells Wallace. “Trill just makes it easier for friends to share their arts experiences with each other… We can’t wait to expand to other cities soon.”

George Michael © Getty images

The MoneyWeek audit: George Michael

How did he start out?

George Michael, the genre-defining singer-songwriter who died on Christmas Day, was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou to an English dancer mother and a Greek-Cypriot restaurateur father in East Finchley, north London, in 1963. On his first day at Bushey Meads School, aged 11, he met his future co-star Andrew Ridgeley. The two formed their first band, The Executive, in 1979, inspired by the ska revival then in fashion. They reformed as pop-dance duo Wham! in 1981.

What was his big break?

The first Wham! album, Fantastic, went to number one in the British charts in 1983. Wham! repeated the feat the following year with Make It Big, which featured hits Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Freedom and Careless Whisper. The duo disbanded in 1985 and Michael’s subsequent solo career was marked by mixed success, with the notable exception of the album Faith in 1987, which sold 20 million copies worldwide. A dispute with his record label, Sony, that ended in Michael suing the firm for “restraint of trade”, backfired in 1994 when the court found in Sony’s favour. Michael was forced to pay £3m in costs.

How much money did he earn?

The following years were more notable for minor scandals, such as arrests for drug possession, than new music: his last album, Patience, was released in 2004. But between 2006 and 2008, Michael still made an estimated £48.5m from touring. In 2007, he earned $3m from performing at a Russian billionaire’s New Year’s Eve party and also charged retailer Philip Green £1.5m to sing at his 55th birthday party the same year. His estate is estimated to be worth £105m, including properties in Britain, Los Angeles and a £3.5m beach house in Sydney. After his death, it emerged that he had been a generous philanthropist, quietly giving many millions to charities.