Alumni stories

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Nick Hughes, SEMBA2001
Co-founder and Chief Product Officer at M-KOPA

Nick Hughes, SEMBA2001, is a man who lives to solve problems. Intractable, socially significant, complex conundrums. “What interests and excites me is change,” he says. “How we find ways to change what is clearly broken.”

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Early in the era of environmental awareness, Hughes was combating climate change and global warming, developing carbon-trading models. As the UN targeted global poverty, Hughes enabled financial inclusion for millions of Africans, creating the highly innovative M-Pesa mobile payments system.

So successful has he been in finding sustainable solutions to those problems that he was awarded an OBE in 2017 for services to innovation in Africa (although, in keeping with a man who lists humility as an important value, you are unlikely to hear it from him).

Now, as Co-founder and Chief Product Officer at M-KOPA, Hughes is not just providing affordable, clean energy, but brightening the lives of millions of people in emerging markets by empowering them with access to financial credit as a means to fulfil their potential. He is also an Executive Fellow at London Business School’s Wheeler Institute for Business and Development, leading on its Digital for Development initiative.

Ella Goldner, MBA2011
Co-founder of Zinc VC

When governments fail to provide solutions to our most pressing social problems, where are we to turn?

In March 2015 Ella Goldner MBA2011, co-founder of the mission-led venture-builder Zinc VC, asked herself the same question. Having twins and taking maternity leave from her job as Strategy Director for IPG Mediabrands sparked a shift in outlook that led her to change direction towards making a positive social impact on the world: “It had to be something that was my own,” says Goldner, “and I didn’t want it to be an app or a digital product. That was my brief to myself.”

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A graduate of London Business School’s MBA programme in 2010, she reached out to LBS’s career coaches and, through “serendipity” and getting to know the right people, met the man who was to become one of her co-founders: Saul Klein, a venture capitalist and Executive Fellow of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at LBS.

Together with third co-founder Paul Kirby, a former partner at KPMG, they started to flesh out what Zinc would look like; they have since raised £3 million from a mixture of venture capitalists and the London School of Economics, enabling them to fund three ‘missions’.

The first, focusing on women’s emotional and mental health, spawned 16 companies, addressing a raft of issues from gauging the likelihood of developing psychological side-effects from using the contraceptive pill to how to navigate through the maze of seeking help for infertility.

“There’s a lot of data available now to help solve these problems,” says Goldner. “It’s just not been tapped into. But with more female founders and investors who care about these issues, we can change that.”

Ismail Ahmed, EMBA2010
CEO of WorldRemit

"LBS was part of my strategy to develop my business. I tapped into the global alumni network that is incredibly valuable for entrepreneurs"


Tara Reddy, MBA2016
CEO of LoveShark

Switching career from successful vet to co-founder of an augmented reality (AR) tech start-up is unconventional to say the least. But the more you discover about Tara Reddy MBA2016, CEO of LoveShark, the less surprising it is.

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After a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery at Edinburgh University, Reddy headed for New Zealand and established a service specifically for exotic pets, the first in the country’s capital. “I often like things that are quite contrarian, that other people don’t like,” she says. “I saw an opportunity in a niche area that was really underserved.”

Six years later, she was heading back to the UK to do an MBA at London Business School, which she finished in 2016, and the next stage of her career. “I always had that real need to innovate, to take risks, to be excited about something and then move as fast as you can to seize the opportunity. I wanted to know what else I could do.

“LBS challenged my thinking on how to build a business. It increased my expectations of what was possible, so now I think bigger and aim higher. It was great to be surrounded by people who think global, who would say yes to crazy ideas because they share the same huge ambition. Knowing I had that network helped me to make some bold decisions.”

Misha Engineer, MBA2012
Co-founder of
Northumbria Pharma

"At LBS I was encouraged  to think about what I was prepared to sacrifice to achieve my goals"

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