Money makers: The man who hacked the Olympics
Serial entrepreneur Paul Bragiel had already made his fortune, says Chris Carter. So he set his sights on an altogether different challenge.
Five years ago, serial entrepreneur Paul Bragiel woke up to the realisation that he had never competed in the Olympics, says Matias Grez on CNN. Most of us might let that waking revelation slip out of our minds without adding it to our "to-do" lists, but not Bragiel. The 41-year-old American had made his fortune as the founder of Bragiel Brothers, an early-stage technology fund in Silicon Valley, and a first-round investor in ride-sharing app Uber. Now, he set about studying every Olympic event in both the winter and summer Games, looking for a potential event that would suit him.
Thanks to "flexible" qualification rules, Bragiel settled on cross-country skiing, and moved to Finland to practise every day. Yet with just nine months to go until the 2014 Winter Olympics opened in Sochi, Russia, his chances of making Team USA were next to nil not least because, as Bragiel admits, "I'd never actually touched skis before that moment". Bragiel turned to Colombia, despite the fact that he had "no connections" and spoke no Spanish.
"But I'd helped the government in the past with technology," says Bragiel and citizenship was duly bestowed. Bragiel became Colombia's national cross-country-skiing champion by default, and as a result, he automatically qualified for Olympic trials. Alas, he failed to make the grade. So, instead, Bragiel paid to send Mexican and Tongan skiers German Madrazo and Pita Taufatofua to the Games held this year.
The firm that reinvented film
Director Alfonso Cuaron may have conceived of the thrilling first 17 minutes of Gravity, the Oscar-winning 2013 film starring Sandra Bullock as an astronaut. But it was London-based visual-effects company Framestore that did the hard graft of turning his vision involving a pair of astronauts who find themselves stranded after a routine spacewalk that goes horribly wrong into reality, says Daniel Thomas on the BBC.
"No one had ever really successfully portrayed zero gravity in a film, so we had to reinvent the filmmaking process," says William Sargent, who founded Framestore in 1986. Since then, the company has worked on a host of films, including the Harry Potter series, The Dark Knight, Blade Runner 2049 and the Paddington films.
Sargent was born in Ireland. In his early career, he rented out musical equipment to Irish bands such as the Boomtown Rats, Thin Lizzy and U2, all while studying at Dublin's Trinity College in the 1970s. He then moved to London to write film scripts, but realised that "the writer is the bottom of the food chain... If you want to progress there's nothing like being the producer as well," he says.
With that in mind, Sargent set up Framestore with two friends, with whom he had worked on the iconic music video to Take On Me by Norwegian pop group A-ha. Framestore now has 2,500 staff globally, 1,000 of which are based at the group's London head office. Annual revenues now exceed £129m.
A new era of meaning and good food
"I had a truck selling chocolate that I drove up and down the UK to markets and events," KERB founder Petra Barran tells The Daily Telegraph's Matthew Caines. Then, in 2008, a festival folded just days before its doors were to open. "Having already paid the pitch fees, I asked for the money back, but the organisers said no; they didn't have anything left."
Feeling cheated, Barran determined to never let it happen again. Her answer was to set up a 32-strong collective of traders, called Eat St, with two other street food business owners. Barran then decided to turn the community concept into a full-time business so, in 2012, she set up KERB.
KERB's customers are corporate-event organisers, and foodies who attend its six London markets. "It's about serving amazing dishes and improving the quality of food services in the capital; we want to make the city more interesting and exciting through food," says Barran. With its 24 staff and 90 traders, KERB has an annual turnover of £3m, up from £1.3m in 2016. For Barran, passion is as important as the money: "We've moved beyond the age of people thinking that money is what gives work and life meaning, and into a new era."
Britney wins gong at perfume Oscars
Celebrity-endorsed scents are big business. Entertainment news site TMZ recently reported that reality TV star Kim Kardashian made $10m from her new Kimoji Hearts line, which sold out in four days. But the Queen of Smells is Britney Spears.
The pop star released her debut fragrance, Curious, developed with cosmetics house Elizabeth Arden, in 2004. Since then, she has released a further 22 scents, one of which, Fantasy in Bloom, was just named fragrance of the year at the Hollywood Beauty Awards (the Oscars of the perfume world). Spears is thought to make $50m from her fragrances every year. "Celebrities today are entrepreneurs, they're looking at ways to monetise their fame", Jo Fairley, co-founder of the Perfume Society, tells the BBC's Steven McIntosh. "A successful fragrance, it's the gift that keeps on giving", says Fairley. "Britney is a smart cookie."