Moneymakers: airbag in a helmet is a lifesaver

The Hövding airbag bike helmet is worn as a collar and inflates into a hood around your head in a fraction of a second when its sophisticated algorithm detects an accident.

920-MM-Hovding

Helmets are an obviously sensible safety precaution for cyclists, yet there is a reluctance among some to wear them, says Katherine Denham in City AM. "It's vanity," Fredrik Carling, chief executive of Hvding, a Swedish maker of "airbag" helmets, tells Denham, and "a sense that you lose some freedom by having headgear clogged on your head" or a reluctance to have to carry around a helmet all day.

The Hvding gets around such objections. Instead of sitting on the head, it is worn as a collar. When its sophisticated algorithm detects an accident, the airbag in the collar inflates into a hood around your head in a fraction of a second. The vital question is whether it will work at the critical moment. More than 110,000 cyclists use Hvding, says Carling, and of the 2,600 accidents registered since 2011, the £219 airbag has activated and done its job every time. It also provides eight times more protection than a conventional helmet, almost completely eliminating the risk of fracturing your skull, according to research from Stanford University.

The idea came in 2005 from two design students, Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin. The following year, the Hvding won a competition for young entrepreneurs to turn their design into a business. Seven years later, the concept had become a certified product. In 2015, the Malm-based firm was listed on the Nasdaq First North index in Stockholm. Revenues came to SEK69.6m (£6m) last year. "Some people have written letters thanking us for saving their lives," says Carling. "Hvding is no longer just a concept it's a product that's been proven to work."

How a £1 bet at Christmas became a £542m fortune

On Christmas Eve 1999, a friend bet John Roberts £1 he wouldn't follow through on his boast that he could use the

920-MM-AO-World-John-Roberts

internet to "flog gear", says Andrew Hill in the Financial Times. So Roberts (pictured) set up website AO, short for Appliances Online. Together with his colleagues, Roberts brainstormed how to re-engineer the supply chain to deliver more quickly to online customers. In 2014, the business was listed on the London Stock Exchange. After the first 15 minutes of trading, Roberts and Steve Caunce (now CEO) left the trading floor following a surge in the share price. They returned to Bolton, where AO is based, in a daze Roberts was worth £542m on paper. A profit warning a year later knocked confidence. "Who gives a s**t whether we make £16.5m or £17.5m," said Roberts. "It makes no difference at all to what we're doing." But "it turns out, it does actually" the group made an operating loss of £16.2m in 2017 on revenues of £797m.

The data pipeline that funnels profits to Segment

920-MM-Peter-Reinhardt-Segment2

While developing ideas for a tech business that ultimately failed, Peter Reinhardt, Calvin French-Owen, Ilya Volodarsky and Ian Storm Taylor wrote a small piece of computer code, says Tom Espiner on the BBC. The code acted as a pipeline connecting customer data from different websites. "We'd built it for ourselves to solve our own data pipeline problems," says Reinhardt (pictured). The problem was the open-source code had been made available to other developers, and Reinhardt disagreed with the others that a business could be built around it. To prove his point, he made a website explaining the code and offering a product (that didn't exist) based on it, believing it wouldn't catch on. The "product", however, proved a hit. So, over five sleepless days and nights, the team built it, selling it as a service that became Segment. Segment is popular because it lets companies untangle customer data coming from different pieces of analytics software, as well as data about what customers are buying. Forbes estimates revenue for last year at $45m.

A role model for bankers

Since Sam Smith created FinnCap in 2007 through a management buyout of the corporate division of wealth manager JM Finn, the stockbroker has grown to become the biggest on Aim, the London Stock Exchange's junior market, says Liam Kelly in The Sunday Times. Last week FinnCap announced a deal to buy the adviser Cavendish

920-MM-Sam-Smith-FinnCap

Corporate Finance and list the combined group on Aim, with a valuation of £47m. It would be a chance for FinnCap's 90 staff, who between them own the majority of the business, to cash in their shares, says Smith.

Smith (pictured) was 23 when she joined JM Finn to help set up the corporate-finance unit. She built up the division over the next decade before leading the buyout with 17 staff. Initially, it was a joint venture with JM Finn, but after three years Smith bought out the wealth manager outright with help from venture capitalist Jon Moulton. At first the omens seemed bad. Weeks after Smith and her partners had raised £500,000 to buy their first stakes, the run on Northern Rock began.

"There was a branch opposite our office and we could see a queue out of the door," says Smith. "We had to hold our nerve." It turned out that the credit crunch was actually an opportunity. With so many bankers being laid off, "we could go out and hire everybody that we wanted", says Smith. More than a third of FinnCap's staff are women, and Smith says she sees herself as a role model for the industry: "It's something that should be done". Pre-tax profits came to £3m for the year to the end of April on sales of £22.1m.

Recommended

Will Shu: Deliveroo CEO and its first delivery rider
People

Will Shu: Deliveroo CEO and its first delivery rider

City analyst Will Shu was sick of working long hours at Canary Wharf and having to make do with what was left on the shelf in Tesco for dinner. So he …
10 Apr 2021
John and Patrick Collison: the nerds who conquered Silicon Valley
People

John and Patrick Collison: the nerds who conquered Silicon Valley

John and Patrick Collison, a genial pair of young Irish brothers from a humble background, had a simple idea – to launch the next PayPal. Just ten yea…
3 Apr 2021
Jay Z: the urban Shakespeare who became hip-hop’s first billionaire
People

Jay Z: the urban Shakespeare who became hip-hop’s first billionaire

Shawn Carter, aka Jay-Z, has always displayed a talent not just for rhyme, but for making money too – he was hip-hop’s first billionaire. He hasn’t lo…
13 Mar 2021
Elon Musk: the space oddity seeking world domination
People

Elon Musk: the space oddity seeking world domination

Elon Musk, the electric-car and space-travel pioneer who wants to move to Mars is now the world’s richest man. If he seems delusional, that’s all part…
16 Jan 2021

Most Popular

Central banks are rushing to build digital currencies. What are they, and what do they mean for you?
Bitcoin

Central banks are rushing to build digital currencies. What are they, and what do they mean for you?

As bitcoin continues to soar in value, many of the world’s central banks are looking to emulate it by issuing their own digital currencies. But centra…
8 Apr 2021
Nuclear power might never be popular – but now looks a good time to invest
Commodities

Nuclear power might never be popular – but now looks a good time to invest

Nuclear power gets a very bad press, but it is the ultimate renewable energy source. Interest in it is perking up again, says John Stepek. Which means…
9 Apr 2021
House prices: from boom to even bigger boom
House prices

House prices: from boom to even bigger boom

UK house prices have risen to new to record highs, says Nicole Garcia Merida. Demand continues to outpace supply, but continued low interest rates, th…
9 Apr 2021