While studying in Antwerp, Dutch twins Joyce and Raissa de Haas, 27, struck a deal with their friends, says Ayesha Javed in The Daily Telegraph. Every Sunday they would make innovative mixers from the ingredients in their fridge, coming up with concoctions such as mint and strawberry soda, and their friends would bring the spirits to accompany them.
While the sisters were studying for their second masters degree in technology entrepreneurship at University College London, they came up with the idea of making their hobby a business. The university was impressed enough to name their concept “most promising start-up” and, despite the idea having nothing much to do with technology, handed them £10,000 and office space to get going. The business, named Double Dutch, then raised a further £1.5m from angel investors.
Those investors helped with networking and strategy, says Raissa. Today, Double Dutch employs 16 staff, and it is already making waves in the beverage industry. Its cranberry-and-ginger-flavoured tonic water, and cucumber-and-watermelon mixer, are on the shelves in Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, as well as in luxury hotel chains and on the Eurostar cross-channel rail service.
“We’ve been growing about 300% year-on-year and that’s what we’re forecasting for the next five years,” says Raissa. After that, “we need to look at an exit plan”, they say, for the sake of their investors, but the sisters would like to remain involved. “We’d probably have to.… We did call it Double Dutch.”
How a late starter became a billionaire
Britain’s richest individual, Jim Ratcliffe, 65, has a globe-spanning chemicals empire, Ineos, that generated Ebitda of $6.6bn on sales of $60bn in 2017, says Chris Bryant on Bloomberg. His personal fortune has been put at $14.5bn. How did he get to be so rich?
Being a late starter seems to have done him no harm. He became an entrepreneur aged 40 in 1992, and founded Ineos 20 years ago. He has a knack for expanding quickly by buying unfashionable assets cast off by big oil and chemicals groups with borrowed money, slashing fixed costs and generating lots of cash. The strategy has made Ineos a major player. A thick skin helps too. Ratcliffe has fought unions and forced through pension cuts, is disliked by environmentalists for wanting to frack in the UK, and has drawn criticism for moving to the tax haven Monaco – a safe spot from which to watch the Brexit he supported.
A £50,000 bet on childcare vouchers
In 2000, Joanne Whittaker, then a 23-year-old computer programmer, went to run the fledgling IT operations of Betfred, the bookmaker, says Liam Kelly in The Sunday Times. The firm’s co-founder, Fred Done, was so impressed he told her he would back her if she ever wanted to set up on her own.
When she came back to work after giving birth in 2005 she took him up on his offer. She had asked about child-care vouchers, but the firm had not heard of the scheme. She spotted her chance. With £50,000 from Done in return for a 25% stake, Whittaker founded Fideliti, which takes on the administration and acts as a middleman for a fee. The firm now runs the scheme for more than 50,000 parents and 3,000 organisations including NHS trusts, local councils and listed firms such as Capita. In the year to March 2017, it made sales of £99m and pre-tax profits of £1.7m.
A £2.5bn head start for Britain
Stephen Welton is a very busy man, says Oliver Smith for Forbes. Having cut his teeth founding JP Morgan’s $10bn private-equity arm, CCMP, Welton, 57, knows a thing or two about investing in businesses.
In 2011 he raised “billions” from banks Barclays, Lloyds, Standard Chartered, RBS and HSBC to launch the Business Growth Fund (now simply BGF). So far in 2018, BGF has invested on average in a business every week, ploughing more than half of a £2.5bn war chest into 220 British companies in the last eight years. Investments have included food delivery giant Gousto, children’s luggage maker Trunki and advertising technology group Unruly (bought by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for £115m in 2015).
More recently the fund has invested £6.3m in construction group Molson and a further £10m in holiday-park operator Coppergreen Developments. According to data company PitchBook, at its current rate of investment BGF is the world’s most prolific growth investor by volume of deals. And because BGF reinvests returns instead of paying dividends, Welton can afford to take a long-term view on his investments.
To operate at this scale, BGF has “reengineered”, not “over-engineered”, how it invests in order to meet 2,000 companies a year, resulting in around 200 proposals and 50 deals. “We don’t need to understand everything about a company, we don’t need a full-blown accountants report,” says Welton. “It’s easy to generate lots of paperwork, but the hardest thing to do, and I remember this from school, is to write a short essay.”