Money makers: Make-up with a touch of venom

Snake Serum isn't a name you would usually associate with a cosmetic, says Chris Carter. But then again, this is no ordinary beauty product.


Maria Hatzistefanis's products flew off the shelves
(Image credit: Roy Rochlin)

Snake Serum and Dragon's Blood are not names that you would normally associate with a high-end skincare range, says the BBC's Suzanne Bearne. But Rodial and Nip + Fab's Greek founder, Maria Hatzistefanis, wanted to give her beauty products more eye-catching names a decision that paid off. Her products flew off the shelves.

The names take their inspiration from syn-ake peptide, a key ingredient in her products, which replicates the reaction of a snake bite, resulting in a mild freeze-like effect in facial muscles. "One day, I brainstormed with my team and, as one of the ingredients mimicked the effect of snake venom, I said, let's go crazy and see what happens'," she says. "We were selling out within a few weeks."

Hatzistefanis, 47, founded Rodial in London in 1999 with £20,000 in savings following a stint in investment banking. Back then, cosmetics were "basically cleansers, toners and moisturisers", she says. "I... thought there should be specific products." Today, 10,000 stockists worldwide carry Rodial and Nip + Fab's range, with annual sales of around £20m. "Rodial and Nip + Fab are my day-to-day work," says Hatzistefanis, "but speaking and mentoring makes me feel good in being able to give something back."

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A tour guide that pays for lunch

In 2005, Greg Le Tocq, 35, moved from London to his parents' home in Bristol to recover after breaking his foot. "I knew nothing about Bristol and when you move to a new city, it's hard to understand where the good places are," he tells Liam Kelly in The Sunday Times. So Le Tocq started an online guide, with the assistance of a £2,000 grant from the Prince's Trust.

Le Tocq teamed up with Scott Davidson and Dougal Templeton, two local entrepreneurs who ran a directory of paper money-off vouchers, and launched Vouchercloud in 2010 a free smartphone app and website that dishes out vouchers and discount codes for leading chains, such as restaurant brands Pizza Hut and Caf Rouge. Since then more than nine million people in Europe have downloaded the app, which now promotes some 12,000 brands.

Last year Vouchercloud's parent company, Invitation Digital, made £15.3m in sales and achieved a pre-tax profit of £2.4m. Brands use Vouchercloud to gather data on their customers, as well as to tempt more through their doors, Le Tocq explains. There is a herd effect too: "Once you get one big brand, all the others follow."

The geek taking taxis to the skies

"Plane geek" Martin Warner wants to transform air travel in London, says Russell Lynch in the Evening Standard. "His vision is an airborne armada for the city a point network zipping passengers between places such as Charing Cross and Heathrow at up to 70mph, using electrically powered vertical take-off and landing aircraft." Hence his start-up Autonomous Flight.

It seems like an ambitious possibly foolhardy idea for a business, but the 46-year-old is no neophyte entrepreneur. He made his first fortune selling his 3D-printing business, Bot Objects, three years ago, and he has also founded Flix Premiere, a streaming and distribution service for independent films, which he still runs.

Warner, who splits his time between Britain and America, has ploughed $1m into Autonomous Flight, alongside other investors. Soon he will unveil his first passenger "drone", the Y6S, which he says he can produce for just $25,000. Two other models are also planned a four-seater Y6S Plus, and an eight-seater air shuttle, the AS1. To begin with vehicles will be piloted, with pilotless shuttles appearing in the next ten years or so, Warner reckons. A ride will eventually cost closer to £25, not hundreds of pounds. Transportation "has tons of innovation" ahead of it, says Warner. It is the "next gold rush".

Branson's Hyperloop project picks up speed

The Hyperloop is coming to India. That's what Richard Branson promised on Sunday when he signed a preliminary agreement in Mumbai to build a demonstration track in the next two to three years, followed by a working route linking India's largest city with Pune, Bloomberg reports. The concept first proposed by SpaceX founder Elon Musk in 2013 uses magnetic levitation in low-pressure tubes to transport people and goods at aeroplane-like speeds.

The line running through the Indian state of Maharashtra would reduce the journey time between the two cities by around three hours to just 25 minutes, ending at Mumbai's planned new airport. Virgin Hyperloop One estimates the Hyperloop will bring $55bn-worth of benefits over 30 years. "I believe [it] could have the same impact upon India in the 21st century as trains did in the 20th century," said Branson.

"This isn't the first such project announced in India," notes Anwesha Ganguly on Quartz India. In September 2016, US-based research company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies revealed plans to connect Vijayawada and Amaravati in the southeastern coastal state of Andhra Pradesh. But whether either project is successful will depend upon the regulatory framework put in place. "Historically, land acquisition, labour laws, and customs regulations have caused huge delays in infrastructure projects." There is also the question of whether the technology, which has never been tested on a large scale, will work. Nor has Virgin Hyperloop One said how much it will cost.

Yet "the presence of Narendra Modi on stage alongside Richard Branson as he signed the framework agreement is a major signal of intent", says Wired's Chris Stokel-Walker. "Having the Indian prime minister present indicates that this is no longer wide-eyed entrepreneurs making outlandish plans for the future Government involvement of any type gives Virgin Hyperloop One's plans a veneer of legitimacy and would indicate that plans have progressed further than is being publicly shown."

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.

You can follow Chris on Instagram.