Money makers: A determined racer gets back in the driving seat

Having sold to GlaxoSmithKline in 2011, fitness and motorcycle enthusiast Zef Eisenberg is looking to get back behind the wheel of Maximuscle, the firm he founded.


Zef Eisenberg: the man behind Maximuscle
(Image credit: John Fitzgerald)

This time last year, Zef Eisenberg, 44, was in hospital with several broken bones, having crashed his motorbike in a race while riding at more than 200mph, says the BBC's Lucy Hooker. The founder of sports nutritional supplements group Maximuscle was determined to eat and train himself back to health, and return to the business he founded (he sold out to pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline for £162m in 2011).

As a teenager in north London, Eisenberg worked in a health-food shop, and spent hours in the British Medical Library, researching the science behind sports nutrition. By the time he was 18, he was publishing a book and monthly newsletters, and supplying whey-based protein supplements to bodybuilders. This evolved into Maximuscle just as gym culture was taking off in Britain. By 2010, 15 years after it was founded, Maximuscle had annual sales of £80m.

After selling up, Eisenberg focused on his £210m property portfolio and set up Maxicorp Autosports, building high-speed vehicles for customers prepared to pay £250,000-plus. Now GSK is slimming down and Maximuscle is back up for sale. Eisenberg is in talks to get back in the driving seat, and in more ways than one he recently made another attempt to break his land-speed record. He didn't this time but plans to keep trying.

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Leaving the uncanny valley

Samer Al Moubayed, a 35-year-old from Sweden, wants to put an end to the "zombie effect" holding back robotics, he tells James Hurley in The Times. "If something looks too human but doesn't live up to that in its behaviour, you have this problem of [dashed] expectations", which feels "creepy" it's known as the "uncanny valley" in the industry. His start-up, Furhat Robotics, aims to give artificial intelligence an acceptable face.

Furhat's software projects a human likeness onto a blank piece of hardware, and uses algorithms to control facial movements, demonstrate realistic emotions and interact fluently with people. The company, spun out of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm in 2014, is already profitable, and has secured $2.5m in venture-capital backing. Customers include the London Metropolitan Police "we're programming the robot to look potentially criminal and deceptive", says Al Moubayed to help train officers to deal with suspects.

Those who want to play around with the application can buy a development kit for $15,000, as long as they don't commercialise their creations without Furhat's agreement. "Within the next 12 months we'll see where it's being deployed, and then business models will be built around that."

Profiting from the art of mingling

"I haven't been a guest at a really good party in 15 years," moans professional hostess Rachel Fay, 58. "But I've been to plenty of bad ones people looking at their mobiles, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot, and stuck talking to the same person they were chatting to an hour ago. We're simply not mingling any more," she tells the Daily Mail's Rachel Carlyle.

At one such event in 2010, Fay had an "aha" moment: party-planners would pay for her services (she charged £250 to £2,500) to keep guests happy. She's hosted more than 100 parties since, and has never been more busy, even overseeing introductions for Prince Charles. The problem, says Fay, is that we no longer introduce our guests to one another. "It's the hostess's job to allow people to sparkle. [Guests] can't shine if they feel anxious about not knowing people It's like that first day at school where you worry: Who's going to play with me?'"

Forget unicorns cultivate the zebras

Anyone with a rounded view of business knows it's not all about the money there are many enterprises that try to make a difference while attaining self-sufficiency. Take Chris Tidmarsh, who graduated in 2010 with degrees in chemistry, French and environmental studies, and yet struggled to hold down a job, says Clare Ansberry in The Wall Street Journal. Tidmarsh, now 30, has autism, which makes completing tasks an everyday challenge.

So in 2012, Tidmarsh set up a non-profit farm in Michigan with his mother, Jan Pilarski, supplying produce to local firms. As his father, Jay, explains: "It was hard for us to have this young man with a lot of ability unable to use it... [Work is] a part of who you are." Tidmarsh won $10,000 in a competition aimed at budding entrepreneurs and raised extra funds to match it. Now, Green Bridge Growers trains others with autism. It expects to make $30,000 next year. "It does provide hope, not just for me, but others," says Tidmarsh. "I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life."

Another not-for-profit, California-based FreeFrom, helps women escaping abusive relations to achieve financial security by starting their own businesses. "There's a common misconception that such women are weak, emotionally fragile, bad decision-makers, but they are resilient, resourceful and talented," founder Sonya Passi, a lawyer and ex-banker, tells Olivia Solon in The Guardian. She is currently working with 30 female entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland, one of whom now runs her own Tex-Mex food truck selling vegan nachos.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, four female tech entrepreneurs, frustrated by Silicon Valley's lust for "unicorns" start-ups with a valuation above $1bn created the "zebra movement", says the BBC's Regan Morris. Not only do they believe that super-fast growth is bad for society, they also want more investors to back firms with frequently-neglected female and ethnic minority founders the "zebras" "instead of chasing mythical unicorns".

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

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