Money makers: hail the new evangelists of veganism

Matthew and Ella Mills
Matthew and Ella Mills: luxuriously glowy

Having worked up a sweat climbing the stairs at the offices of Deliciously Ella in Soho, London, it is impossible, says Helen Rumbelow in The Times, not to feast your eyes on the 27-year-old star and founder, Ella Mills, and wonder, “if I ate more granola, bought her new, fifth, cookbook, Deliciously Ella: The Plant-Based Cookbook, and followed her on social media, could I be as luxuriously glowy as her?”.

In her late teens, Mills recovered from a rare illness that had left her bloated. When she evangelised on her blog about how renouncing gluten, dairy, meat and refined sugar had been her salvation, millions of young women laid down their burger buns to follow her.

“I was incredibly young when my first book came out,” she says. “It was exciting, but it was overwhelming.” At 23, she met her husband, Matthew, who became chief executive of their firm, and today, their 14 products are sold in 6,000 stores – a feat achieved “all through the power of social media”, says Mills.

They opened three cafés in London, but scaled back to one, preferring to focus on books and products. (The Times reported in March that the closures came after the business ran up losses of £720,000.) This year, they hired their first marketing executive, adding to their staff of 40, but Mills still spends three to four hours a day managing the social-media side of the business. After all, she says, “it’s been instrumental in our success”.

Artificial intelligence hunts for new drugs

It takes an average of 15 years and £2.1bn to bring a new drug to market, says Matthew Green in Wired magazine. Noor Shaker, a computer scientist, and theoretical physicist Vid Stojevic, think they can halve those figures. Shaker became interested in machine learning (a branch of artificial intelligence) while studying at Damascus University.

She left Syria in 2008 for academic posts in Belgium and Denmark. As civil war engulfed her homeland, she felt called to harness her expertise to help people. “My measure of succeeding was: ‘If I die tomorrow, how many people would remember me?’” she says. “I really wanted something that would make a contribution.”

In 2016, at the London-based start-up accelerator Entrepreneur First, Shaker met Croatian Stojevic. They decided to combine their skills to build computer models capable of discovering new drugs exponentially faster than humans. The start-up they founded last year, GTN, has so far raised £2.1m in venture capital. “Ultimately, we want machine learning to be able to propose compounds that the chemist wouldn’t have thought of,” says Shaker.

The cinema you can roll up and put in your pocket

Bill Liu, 35, was lounging on the lawn at Stanford University, California, as an electrical engineering student, when he hit upon the idea of creating, in his words, “big screens that we can roll up and put in our pocket”, says Blake Schmidt on Bloomberg.

Following a stint at IBM, Liu (pictured) moved to Shenzhen, China, and co-founded Royole with Peng Wei and Xiaojun Yu – two engineers who had also studied at Stanford. “People really want to see beautiful, high-resolution big screens, which is why TVs… keep getting bigger,” says Liu. “But it’s at conflict with portability. If we can make something that combines both in one device, it can be amazing.”

Royole’s answer is a headset, or “theatre” as he calls it, with built-in headphones that allows the wearer to watch videos in privacy. The latest funding round valued the six-year-old start-up at $5bn, backed by Knight Capital among others. That values Liu’s 42% stake at $2.1bn. (His co-founders hold smaller stakes.) The company is now working on potential deals with smartphone and car makers, and on a partnership with Chinese sportswear brand Li-Ning.

Sacré bleu, it’s blue wine

Gik Live!For purists, wine comes in two colours: white and red, says Jamie Johnson in The Daily Telegraph. And for British barbecuing season, there’s rosé. But this summer, there is another colour: “a bright, brash, Instagram-poolside-selfie-friendly… blue”. The brainchild of six friends, Gik Live was developed with chemical engineers from the University of the Basque Country, who discovered that by fermenting different varieties of grapes with two pigments (one found in the skins of red grapes, the other from a secret flower), the wine turns blue.

“We wanted to innovate in the most traditional industry out there,” says co-founder Aritz López. But what matters is the taste, and Gik Live, which costs about £10 a bottle, is so sweet, it “leaves you feeling like you’ve just consumed an entire family-sized bag of Haribo”, says Johnson.

Another colourful entrepreneur, Frenchman René Le Bail, has had no problems selling all 35,000 bottles of his turquoise-hued “Vindigo” at €12 a pop, says Charles Bremner in The Times. Le Bail expects to sell a further 600,000 after a favourable public response to the light “festive” drink, produced in southern Spain. Cynics abound (mostly in France), but Le Bail swears that his wine is 100% chardonnay.