Brent Hoberman

Always go further to find brilliant people

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Published: 03/05/2022

Brent Hoberman made his name as half of the dynamic duo that started era superstar but has built on his early success to become one of the UK’s most enduringly successful entrepreneurs.

He repeated his lastminute achievements with interior design group, and then, the online furniture group, which went public at a valuation of $1.1bn in 2021. He is also the co-founder of Founders Forum, Founders Factory and firstminute capital all of which seek to expand the ecosystem for the next generation of entrepreneurs.

You need passion to succeed
Brent Hoberman

Brent had two role key models growing up: his father and his grandfather. His father had been in the early days of the venture capital industry and his grandfather took over his mother’s clothes shop and turned it into a chain of over 600 retail shops across Africa, ultimately expanding into the UK. He admired how much they loved what they did every day in contract with lots of people who didn’t.

Brent had been born in South Africa but came to the UK to go to school and then to Oxford. He had plenty of business ideas and came second in the first ever Oxford University entrepreneurship competition. “The person who came first? I always say his father wrote his business plan,” he jokes.

When he left, he recognised that strategic consultancy would be a good way to be paid to learn about business. However, McKinseys and BCG weren’t keen on modern languages graduates, so he took a job with a smaller group. He was ultimately fired.

“The reason I got fired was I had an entrepreneurial idea and had a key meeting with the public carriage office set up. I told my boss months in advance. He then organised one of the only client meetings I’d ever had for the same time. I told him I couldn’t go. And he and I really couldn't talk to each other after that.” He moved to another consultancy with a far better culture.

It gave me a lesson in delegation, trust and culture. I’d rather have brilliant people who you could give more responsibility to early on and then trust them.
Brent Hoberman

In pursuit of those extraordinary people, he is happy to deal with their idiosyncrasies. Founders are often a little dysfunctional, he admits.

He believes getting amazing people to work for you is the key to the long-term success of any business. “How do you make them want to work for you? It’s a combination of many things: will you stretch them? Will they learn from the environment? Are you going after an exciting enough market? Are you going to build a team of ‘A’ players and not ‘B’ players? Is there an excitement and dynamism about what that team is going to do?”

His other great skill has been to recognise the potential applications of technology. This is the thread that runs through lastminute and, along with his other ventures such as and PROfounders Capital. He says: “In early 2022 I had an interesting meeting with a robotics start-up Karakuri, who make robots to do to food prep. It is something that might be a bit gimmicky today, but should become the norm over time. It’s all about trying to spot those trends early.”

Founders Forum started in 2005, with the aim of helping create the perfect environment for collaboration. What started as a 50-person event in London, has grown into a global community of thousands, as well a family of companies who aim to “support entrepreneurs at every stage of their journey”. Early 2022 they launched a new platform, Framework, which help to provide bite-sized learning for entrepreneurs. Brent explains the idea behind the platform “We want to push that ecosystem, to encourage more entrepreneurs across UK and Europe”

At Founders Factory, a start-up venture studio and accelerator, Brent and his team help fledgling start-ups, through giving them access to capital and operational support, plus access to world-class corporates such as the Guardian Media Group and L’Oréal.

Firstminute capital, a VC seed fund, brings together 120+ unicorn founders to reinvest in the next generation. It has invested in companies such as AI driving start-up, Wayve, digital mortgage lender, Generation Home, and cryptocurrency smart wallet Argent.

Brent is also involved in policy making. He chairs Prince William's cyberbullying task force and was co-chair of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Business Sector Council for Small Business, Scaleups and Entrepreneurs. He has launched a new coding college, 01 Founders, with no teachers, classrooms, tuition fees and a guaranteed job at the end. He continues to do more than anyone else to change the game for entrepreneurs.

Brent says that nothing is more important than recruiting the right people and founders can always go further on finding brilliant people:

We need to ask whether we spend enough time thinking about how to attract and retain top talent
Brent Hoberman

He admits that it is an easy thing to talk about but one of the hardest things to do. “It’s about looking at the prioritisation of time. I spent a lot of time talking to the CEOs of the businesses I’m involved with - we always say we do this, but do we do it enough? So, it's not to say I think we're bad at it. But I think it’s always possible to push a bit harder.”