Money makers: From dreams to reality

Kristina Karlsson, a Swede living in Australia, woke up early one morning and turned an epiphany into a stationery empire.


Kristina Karlsson: improving the world's stationery

Self-confessed "stationery freak" Kristina Karlsson had an epiphany at 3am one morning nearly 20 years ago, says Kate Stanton on the BBC. Worried about her future and unable to sleep, she got out of bed to make a to-do list of her hopes and dreams. The then-24-year-old from Falkenberg, Sweden, had moved to Australia to be with her partner, Paul Lacy. "As a Swedish person, I grew up with really beautiful stationery and notepads around me," says Karlsson. "But I found that everything [in Australia] was price-driven, badly designed and boring."

In 2001 Karlsson opened her first homeware and stationery outlet in a Melbourne shopping centre, funded with money that came from Lacy selling his house. The brand, kikki.K, has since become a household name in Australia, thanks to its simple and functional Swedish designs and the motivational messaging on its products. Today there are over 100 kikki.K boutiques around the world, even though expansion into new markets has come with a A$8.4m (£4.8m) loss this year. But Karlsson is undeterred, having aimed to take her idea overseas from "day one".

A £46m experiment with human nature

What would happen if you paid people upfront for their used goods online, with no guarantee that they would hand them over? Yusuke Mitsumoto, 36, set out to answer that question last June when he launched his smartphone app, Cash, says Pavel Alpeyev on Bloomberg. Within 16 hours, he was on the hook for 360m (£2.4m). He promptly shut down the service. But the next day, lorry-loads of clothes and electronics started to arrive at his cramped Tokyo office.

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Fewer than one in ten people failed to deliver a result good enough to justify relaunching Cash in August, with the venture making money by reselling the goods. "Of course, I believed that good people would outnumber the bad, but the question was by how much," says Mitsumoto. "That's not something you can find out without trying."

Then at the start of October he got a message from Keishi Kameyama, one of Japan's richest people and the founder of DMM, a media and technology empire, asking him to sell Cash. "For people doing internet businesses in Japan, DMM is a scary presence," Mitsumoto explains. "I figured it's best to at least meet." That meeting led to Mitsumoto pocketing 7bn (£46.3m).

Challenging men with electric motorcycles

"The automotive industry, including motorcycles, is mainly male-dominated. But, it's changing," Livia Cevolini, the founder and boss of Energica Motor Company, tells Shivaune Field in Forbes. Aged 36, she started the high-performance electric-motorbike maker in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, known as "Motor Valley", and home to Lamborghini and Ferrari.

"There are more and more women who are passionate about motors, and who are demonstrating that they can be very good at the business," says Cevolini, who says the sexism she encountered while studying engineering at the University of Modena just made her all the more determined. After graduating, Cevolini became the director of sales and marketing at an Italian engineering firm that specialised in Formula One racing. But motorbikes were her real passion.

In 2014, she founded Energica, opening an outlet in California two years later. The firm is now worth €40m. "What we are fighting now is what Elon Musk [the founder of electric-car brand Tesla] was fighting in 2008," says Cevolini, who is determined to emulate Tesla's breakthrough.

The British start-ups fighting fake news

As consumers, we have a right to know when a news item "is based on facts, speculation or out-and-out falsehoods", says Trevor Clawson in Forbes. To that end, natural language researchers Dhruv Ghulati, Sebastian Riedel, and Andreas Vlachos (and later Robert Stojnic) founded Factmata in London. For now, the start-up relies on a community of fact-checkers. But over time it aims to create an artificial-intelligence-driven platform that will check the accuracy of online content.

It has already secured a €50,000 grant from Google's Digital News Initiative, and raised seed capital from US billionaire and TV network owner Mark Cuban, among others, in September. "Because of an influx of misleading information, trust in the validity of the web is at an all-time low," says Ghulati.

It's a problem that has opened the door to start-ups "looking for ways to help clients willing to pay for extra help fighting fake news", says Hannah Kuchler in the Financial Times. Crisp Thinking is a case in point. The Leeds-based start-up uses an algorithm to trawl the internet, including the so-called "dark web" (used for illicit activities) to understand where online content is coming from. "It is the opposite of a search engine," its founder, Adam Hildreth, explains. "It graphs all the places you don't want to visit."

Alec Saelens, Adam Cantwell-Corn and Alon Aviram, three friends who met at the University of Sussex, also took the fight against "fake news" to the source but in another sense. Three years ago, they started The Bristol Cable, "a media cooperative and quarterly print publication created, owned and run by Bristolians", says Hazel Sheffield on

It costs £1 a month to join and stretches "the notion of journalism" by training its 1,900 members to be its "eyes and ears" on the street. It also gives them a say in how the publication is structured and run. In August, the Reva & David Logan Foundation handed The Cable £45,000 to help it secure a "robust and unfettered press".

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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