Shaw said that progress depends on the unreasonable man (or woman) – the person who persists in shaping the world rather than letting it shape them.
This award is for an individual who has shown enormous tenacity and stubbornness in pursuing an idea, despite the difficulties encountered along the way.
Early in Anne McNamara's career, she experienced gender inequality in the UK's construction and engineering sectors. A series of chance encounters landed her in the bidding world and she realised there was a business in bid management. Refusing to "work for the man", McNamara recognised how companies' competitive tenders and bids were often poorly constructed, chaotically orchestrated and restricted by old-fashioned thinking. Identifying a lucrative gap in the market and undeterred, McNamara founded ShineBid, a consultancy that helps companies win competitive business tenders.
Driven by McNamara’s unique skills, ShineBid has helped clients win an incredible £8.9bn in bids, averaging an 80% win rate. Remarkably, this has been achieved against the odds. Many of the sectors McNamara consulted in were restrictive on equality and opportunities for women, but the respect her success has earned has allowed her to help raise the bar in many industries – and greatly increase opportunities, equality and remuneration for women.
Follow Shinebid on Twitter: @ShineThinks
At the immigration office, Charles Khairallah was asked what he’d do if he couldn’t find a job in Canada. He answered: “Don’t worry about me, I will invent it.” It was no idle boast. By the time he had finished his first master’s degree in Lebanon, he had already invented 12 products. But, once in Montreal, his ideas for a second master’s to research modular robotics weren’t well received – they were too ambitious, and too costly, for the many universities he approached. However, Professor Ouassima Akhrif at L’École de technologie supérieure, saw the potential in Khairallah’s ideas and his vision was at last given free rein.
In 1997, Khairallah founded Robotics Design, only to encounter familiar challenges at every step: industry didn’t understand the technology (or feared it) and the market wasn’t ready. As George Bernard Shaw once said: “People who say it cannot be done, should not interrupt those who are doing it” – a maxim Khairallah lived by when tirelessly trying to convince companies to adopt modular robotics. His efforts eventually paid off.
Khairallah’s technology, ANAT (Articulated Nimble Adaptable Trunk), has expanded across the world and is a market leader in many industrial applications, from inspection to restoration to cleaning to manufacturing. Ever ambitious “to build machines to serve humanity”, Khairallah’s plans include expanding into aerospace, starting with breakthrough technology for the first modular flying car.
Follow Robotics Design on Twitter: @RoboticsDesign
Daniel Flynn was just 19 years old when he discovered that the Australian bottled water industry was worth AUD$600 million (£341 million) a year. At that time, some 900 million people around the globe were without access to safe drinking water. Inspired to do something, Flynn pulled together a group of friends and came up with the idea to launch a bottled water that would fund water projects around the world.
Despite being told that they would need AUD$250,000 (£142,000) in start-up costs (they had a combined net worth of AUD$1,000 - £568) Flynn and the team dug their heels in, eventually scoring a major distributor and a zero up-front cost agreement with a bottling company. But the turning point for their business, Thankyou, came in 2013 when they launched a disruptive marketing campaign, asking their customers to tell the two major supermarkets that if they stocked Thankyou products, they would buy it.
Backed by celebrity endorsements and a high-impact stunt in which helicopters flew over the retail giants’ headquarters with signs saying, “Together we can change the world (if you say yes)”, the supermarkets agreed to stock Thankyou products. In 2016, Flynn wrote a book on the Thankyou journey called Chapter One and sold it at a pay-what-you-want price, raising more than AUD$2.5 million (£1.4 million).
To date, Chapter One has funded the launch of the Thankyou baby range and Thankyou New Zealand, the company’s first foray overseas. Since opening its doors in 2008, Thankyou has given more than AUD$5.8 (£3.31) million to fund life-changing projects to hundreds and thousands of people in need.
Follow Daniel Flynn on Twitter: @Thankyou_AUS
There is nothing unreasonable about Noon Academy, a tutoring platform co-founded by Saudi Arabian entrepreneur Mohammed Aldhalaan and Abdulaziz Alsaeed that matches tutors and students. Nor is the ambition unreasonable: to replace the tutoring market – riddled as it is with quality problems, old-fashioned and even on occasion unsafe – with a quality-assured, on-demand, online platform that matches demand and supply.
What is unreasonable is the sheer determination it took Aldhalaan and lifelong friend Alsaeed to overcome numerous unsuccessful pitches to many people in many places, meeting rejection after rejection. But the duo didn’t give up. Putting many failed attempts behind them, they put everything they had and borrowed more from family to launch Noon Academy in 2013 with just two tutors – but less than 30 students actually tried the tutoring.
All monetisation attempts having failed miserably, it was their sheer passion and student engagement that kept them going. Now, having finally attracted funding from angel investors three years after launch, they have well over one million students and 1,500 certified tutors in Saudi Arabia alone, with plans to enrol 50 million students in five years.
After conducting extensive research with students and tutors into product, design, content, technology and marketing, the founders are making Noon more of a social learning platform where students study with their friends in groups, compete with each other and request tutors on demand. If, as Nelson Mandela said, education is the most powerful weapon to change the world, determination must be a close second.
Follow Noon Academy on Twitter: @NoonEdu
By the time he was 50, Nikos Drandakis had already experienced bankruptcy with his family firm and two other failed companies he’d founded before launching Taxibeat in Athens in 2010. Demand for the app connecting drivers and customers was enormous, becoming number one on iTunes on day one of its launch. And that’s when Drandakis’ problems really began.
The first obstacle was the low smartphone penetration among drivers – so Drandakis footslogged around Athens, personally convincing 80 drivers to sign up. Then technical, union, mobile network and liquidity problems hit, almost bankrupting him. Still Drandakis persevered, expanding successfully into Peru and eventually doing so well that Daimler acquired Taxibeat in February 2017 (for a reported $43 million – or £33.5 million), rebranding the service “Beat”.
Then Drandakis’ problems really began. In November 2017 the taxi unions lobbied the government to ban Beat. But Drandakis fought them off and today is CEO of possibly the most successful start-up in Greek history.
Follow Nikos Drandakis on Twitter : @drandakis