Upstarts fronting start-ups: Five British entrepreneurs under 20

At an age when some of us were still dreaming of being footballers or rock-stars, this lot have taken the bull by the horns and started to make hay: meet the young upstarts running their own start-ups.

They used to say one of the surest signs you were getting older was noticing how young policemen looked. In today’s enterprising landscape it’s business owners and billionaires who now leave us grimly facing our own mortality.

If you can stomach how horribly young and successful these entrepreneurs are, here is a group of incredibly driven young men and women who are putting the rest of us to shame on a daily basis.

Ben Towers – Towers Design & Social Marley

16-year-old Ben Towers is quite simply a phenomenon. Having started his first business at 11 he has subsequently gone on to become an entrepreneur, radio & television speaker, keynote speaker and multiple award winner.

His company Towers Design is a digital media agency that helps SMEs to grow their online presence. Towers clearly has a big future but even he is learning young that fronting a business isn’t all a bed of roses.

His Crowdcube campaign for new SME social media support business Social Marley has fallen well short of its £100,000 target. But if there’s one young man you’d back to bounce back from disappointment it’s Towers.

Nick D’Aloisio – Summly

D’Aloisio didn’t start a business until he was 15 (what were you doing with yourself Nick??) but boy did he make the time up.

His technology uses elements of artificial intelligence to shorten text content to a specific number of words. It also does a whole number of things that we are nowhere near clever enough to understand.

Having raised venture capital funding from Horizon Ventures (and casually becoming the youngest person in the world to do so) he managed a spectacular exit from the company in March 2013.

Yahoo bought the business for a reported $30 million and D’Aloisio instantly became a global tech and entrepreneurship superstar.

He is currently entrepreneur in residence at Airbnb and is studying at Oxford University. Not a bad start to his career all round then.

Nina Devani – DevaniSoft

Davani is just 16 and was first pushed into entrepreneurship two years ago when her father’s Facebook account was hacked. While most children that age would simply laugh at their hapless parents’ misfortune, Devani decided to take action.

The result was mobile app Prompt Me Nina; which improved password security by only requesting partial entry from users.

She has since moved on to DevaniSoft, designed to make IT usage simpler and subsequently decrease IT costs and boost productivity among organisations.

A spot as a finalist in the Natwest Everywoman Awards and interest from Silicon Valley about developing her products commercially mean Devani looks set to make something stick financially very soon indeed. Certainly one to watch.

Sean Spooner – Magnate Media

Despite being called a pillock by Alan Sugar on the Young Apprentice, things have gone pretty well for young Sean Spooner in the past few years.

The young entrepreneur decided that it would be the media in which he would make his fortune; launching Magnate Magazine in 2012. As with so many publications the print product has been discontinued and it is now exclusively online.

But Magnate isn’t even the first publication Spooner has had a big hand in. At just 11 (there’s clearly something about that age that awakens something in these guys) he and Louis Porter launched Corby Magazine.

A less-than-successful stint on the Young Apprentice followed on which he was fired for making a pigs ear of a publishing task, but Spooner appears to have shaken off that slightly embarrassing episode and continues to go from strength to strength.

Ollie Forsyth – Ollie’s Shop

Forsyth’s entrepreneurial career famously began at 8-years-old when he charged his parents 20p for making them cups of tea and coffee.

Luckily for him his mother and father resisted the urge to call him an ungrateful sod and send him packing (our words not theirs – Ed) and his career took off soon after.

His aim is to be a millionaire by the age of 20 but to do that he’ll surely need to curb his lavish spending. Forysthe admits he rarely keeps money in the bank and prefers to treat himself to rare Aston Martins and other classic cars.

However he sees this more as an investment than a personal folly – demonstrating that he brings still a keen eye for value in everything he does.

He is currently enrolled at the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy and has a book coming out in 2016. Another young man with a big future in entrepreneurship you feel.

See also: Lessons from a young angel investor – Adrian Clarke

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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