Opinion

London’s most eligible startup CEOs

13 min read

18 October 2011

Looking to snag an entrepreneur while they’re still in their prime? Milo Yiannopoulos reveals the London tech scene’s hottest fifteen founders.

Regular readers of mine will know that for the last four years I’ve been on a one-man mission to inject some traditional British tabloid values into tech reporting. So, after the extraordinary reception to the Gold-digger’s Guide to London VCs from the investor community last week (and by ‘extraordinary reception’, I mean they bitched about it on Twitter while secretly forwarding it around furiously – no use denying it guys, your colleagues told us!), Real Business asked if I’d repeat the exercise for the real stars of the tech scene: the entrepreneurs.

We selected a panel of five partnered-up founders and asked them to rank a shortlist of their peers according to looks, personality and prospects. Here are the results, starting with numbers 15 to six. The top five are on page two, below. (Plus don’t miss out the “Done Deals”: those that got away!)

15. Simon Prockter, Housebites

Simon Prockter

For those women who want to marry fast and get widowed young, Simon Prockter offered himself for consideration in this list. Simon’s latest venture is Housebites, a food delivery service that offers high quality, professional chef-cooked meals direct to your door. If only love came to order like that! (Follow Simon on Twitter.)

14. Alexandra Chong, Luluvise 

Alexandra Chong

Blonde bombshell Alexandra Chong is yet to unleash her startup on the world, but she makes this list on the strength of the staggering number of nominations she received from lusty boys. If her business plan is anything like as well put together as her beauty regime, this girl will go far. (Follow Alexandra on Twitter.)

13. Charlie Muirhead, Rightster

Charlie Muirhead

When an entrepreneur gets his own Wikipedia page, you know you’ve stumbled upon a keeper. Sure enough, Muirhead has been selected twice as a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer and currently heads up Rightster, a video rights and distribution system. (Follow Charlie on Twitter.)

12. Poppy Dinsey, What I Wore Today

Poppy Dinsey

Poppy Dinsey exploded onto the national radar this year when she turned her successful blog, What I Wore Today, into a business, encouraging others to post their daily ensemble choices. But she’s not as narcissistic as that might imply, preferring to cuddle up at home with a cuppa and an episode of Dr Who. (Follow Poppy on Twitter.)

11. Greg Marsh, onefinestay

Greg Marsh

There’s a whiff of Hugh Grant about ladies’ favourite Greg Marsh, a floppy-haired former venture capitalist. Marsh’s latest venture is something akin to an upmarket airbnb, which allows owners of high-class properties to rent them out for a bit of extra cash. (Follow Greg on Twitter.)

10. Aléna Dundas, Gymdeck

Aléna Dundas

Aléna Dundas was described by the chair of our panel as “sex on legs”. More demure than the photograph above suggests, Dundas is a sophisticated dame who enjoys Balearic beats and plenty of exercise as she promotes her start-up, a fitness-related time management app. This is the girl plunging summer dresses are made for. (Follow Aléna on Twitter.)

9. Rich Martell, Floxx

Rich Martell

Founder of Floxx (formerly FitFinder), Rich Martell is a model rugby-playing beefcake. Fortunately for his backers, who include Doug Richard, Martell is a smart cookie too. With a great nose for PR and an impressive team around him, something tells us Rich’s media appearances and professional success are only going to get more impressive. (Follow Rich on Twitter.)

8. Malcolm Scovil, LeapCR

Malcolm Scovil

Carolinian crumpet Malcolm Scovil, in addition to founding red-hot startup LeapCR, possesses an achingly dreamy American drawl. We defy you to hear it and not be smitten. Now based in London, Scovil is one of life’s givers: his platform facilitates corporate social responsibility and rarely a day goes by without our Mal finding a way to have fun while doing good. As we went to press there were whispers of a lady on the horizon, so prospective suitors should probably act fast. (Follow Malcolm on Twitter.)

7. David Langer, GroupSpaces 

David Langer

Pictured here posing for a nude charity calendar – organised, as it happens, by your humble correspondent – on a Soho rooftop in 2009, David Langer is by a considerable margin the most perky entrepreneur on our list. Headed up by a keen triathlete, David’s company GroupSpaces has amassed an all-star roster of investors. The flame-haired hunk notoriously keeps his troops, including mischievous co-founder Andy Young, in a line as firm as those around his sculpted abs. (Follow David on Twitter.)

6. Emi Gal, Brainient

Emi Gal

Former child TV star Emi Gal escaped from what looked to be an inevitable career in Romanian reality television to start video monetisation company Brainient. Straight out of the Red Shoe Diaries, Emi has adjusted remarkably well to life in western civilisation, scooping investment from some top Silicon Valley names and hosting upmarket drinks parties at his well-appointed Mayfair home.  (Follow Emi on Twitter.)

Who made the top five? Read on…

We’ve seen numbers 15-6 of the list… but who made the top five?

5. Jason Trost, Smarkets

Jason Trost

Jason Trost is an American college jock straight out of central casting, but underneath that meathead exterior is an endearingly sensitive soul. For girls who like their men testosterone-soaked, you can’t do much better than Mr Trost. A refugee from the States, who came to the UK to start his social betting platform, Smarkets, Jason is as comfortable wining and dining the ladies as he is knocking back the Bud and watching NFL. (Follow Jason on Twitter.)

4. Alicia Navarro, Skimlinks

Alicia Navarro

Officially a resident of San Francisco but spending much of her time at her company’s Old Street headquarters, half-Australian and half-Spanish Alicia Navarro has an enviably international lifestyle. When she’s not catching up on email in airport lounges, Alicia enjoys eating, drinking, dancing and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But don’t let that put you off: she’s quite the modish vixen. (Follow Alicia on Twitter.)

3. Constantin Bjerke, Crane.tv

Constantin Bjerke

Constantin Bjerke’s refined good looks and impeccable manners make him the connoisseur’s choice. Blue-blooded Bjerke runs online video magazine Crane.tv and is stupendously well connected in the high fashion and art worlds. Looking for discount on those slingbacks, or VIP access to that hip club you’ve heard so much about? Delicately patrician Constantin is your man. (Follow Constantin on Twitter.)

2. Richard Moross, MOO

Richard Moross

A strong showing from the enigmatic Richard Moross, whose famously dry wit leaves women everywhere weak at the knees. Sarcastic, west London-based Moross is the founder of MOO, one of the most successful businesses to come out of the London tech scene. He combines an acid tongue with a fierce intellect and a bulging contacts book, but is yet to find the woman of his dreams. Could it be you? (Follow Richard on Twitter.)

1. Michael Acton Smith, Mind Candy

Michael Acton Smith

Undisputed first choice among our panel was rock star entrepreneur Michael Acton Smith, so called not only because his company, Mind Candy, is doing so stupendously well, but also because he shows up at networking events looking more like the lead singer in a hip Shoreditch screamo band than the CEO of a tech company. Charismatic, quirky and intimidatingly brilliant, we’re stumped as to why the inventor of Moshi Monsters isn’t already shacked up with a supermodel. Maybe it’s that unruly mop of hair. Either way, in the words of one of our panelists, “I’d give him a monstering alright!” (Follow Michael on Twitter.)

DONE DEALS: founders who’ve already closed their rounds

A selection of nominees who weren’t as eligible as their proposers were hoping.

Joshua March, Kieran O’Neill and Sam Mathews; Conversocial, Playfire and Neverbland

Josh March

This troublemaking triumvirate are the best of friends and rarely seen apart. The trio are all roguishly handsome – perhaps that’s why they all have long-term girlfriends. Maybe next year… (Follow JoshKieran and Sam on Twitter.) (Update: As of, err, today – nothing to do with this article, promise – the UK’s answer to Zoolander, Sam Mathews, is on the market again. Get ’em while they’re hot!)

Pete Ward and Jerome Touze, WAYN

Pete Ward

Where are they now? At home with their loved ones. One recently married in a beautiful ceremony in Montenegro, the other settled with a foxy girlfriend, this tech power couple are off the market for the foreseeable. (Follow Pete and Jerome on Twitter.)

Joe Stepniewski, Skimlinks

Joe Stepniewski

Metrosexual male model-alike Joe Stepniewski recently became father to what the maternity mags call a beautiful bouncing baby boy. So don’t even think about it, ladies. (Follow Joe on Twitter.)

Nick Thain and Irra Khi

Irra Khi

Soccer-playing sexpot Nick Thain and his glowing better half, model and entrepreneur Irra Khi, are currently expecting their first child. Real Business understands the couple is aiming for “the pop group”, three girls and two boys. Good luck, Nick! (Follow Nick and Irra on Twitter.)

Sam Barnett

Sam Barnett

Off the scale in terms of eligibility but sadly attached to a charming teacher called Aaron (it’s a she), Struq CEO Sam Barnett isn’t about to risk detention! (Follow Sam on Twitter.)

Coming soon:

  • Punching above their weight: which entrepreneurs have struck gold with their partners
  • Startup Matchmaker: who should be with whom, and what would their kids found?
  • The Deadpool: reckon the people above are a bit out of your league? Pick up a cut-price founder who’s burnt out early. Featuring legendary king of vapourware Paul Walsh and the FT’s “Hugh Hefner of London 2.0”, Robert Loch