From Ben and Jerry, who were grade-school friends to Hewlett and Packard, who were college pals and even Starbucks that was created by a group of college besties, building a business with your bestie has been an idea that has always been around.
And frankly speaking, we have all been there. We all have had the impulse to start a startup with a friend at some point in our lives. The UK startup ecosystem has also witnessed such friendships that have resulted in running successful businesses.
These BFFs have navigated the hurdles and adventures of life together. They have managed to build startups and deepened their friendships to discover how to support each other through all of life’s ebbs and flows, professionally and personally by running the company with their best friends.
Raising a toast to friendship and trust, we track down five such startups that are run by friends and explore what keeps them in business together and what’s the secret to their friendly success.
Friends: Brian Mullins, CEO and Nick Sherman, VP Marketing & Design
Founding year: 2016
Funding raised: $30.8M
An Oxford University spinout, Mind Foundry is on a mission to create a future where humans and AI work together to solve the world’s most important problems. The startup develops AI solutions that help companies and governments tackle high-stakes problems whilst enabling them to consider the ethics and long-term societal impact, performance, and return on investment of the technologies they are implementing.
Brian and Nick met when they were both living and working in Los Angeles, California in the early 2010s. When Brian was the CEO of an Augmented Reality company and Nick was a documentary filmmaker, they had their first chance to work together. Brian brought on Nick to lead the company’s visual storytelling and convey the future of work to a group of stakeholders and customers who had never seen anything like AR before… Nick left the world of Hollywood screenwriting, motion graphics and documentary filmmaking to work with Brian and never looked back.
A decade later, they continue their journey together at Mind Foundry, with the vision of using AI to transform the world for good.
“Working with Nick has taught me so much about storytelling, philosophy, consciousness and myself. I wouldn’t be who I am today if we hadn’t crossed paths,” Brian said.
“We always sparked off of each other’s ideas and found ourselves continuing our conversations long after work ended, as they transformed into late-night brainstorming and plotting of the future of emerging tech. I love working with Brian because he’s fearless and has knocked down any obstacle in his way to get to where he is. He inspires me to do the same. I feel like we actually can achieve our dreams and make this world a better place,” Nick added.
Friends: Rémy Astié and Ulric Musset, co-founders
Founding year: 2018
Funding raised: £1.6M
Vauban is a tech company reshaping the world of private investing. The platform makes it easier, faster and more cost-effective for anyone to co-invest in private companies. Experienced investors can create an online community and invite others to co-invest, lowering the investment threshold for alternative asset investing. Founded by Remy Astie and Ulric Musset with a passion to revolutionise the way that fund structuring and administration worked, the two friends have come a long way since they first met in college.
“Ulric and I met in the first year of university and never stopped building things since then, from an iPhone app to an esports betting platform. However, they always sided projects. Only when we thought of Vauban, we decided the opportunity was interesting, big and immediate enough for us to leave our jobs and work on it full time,” Rémy said.
Friends: Giuseppe Caltabiano and Egi Messito, co-founders
Founding year: 2018
Funding raised: £1.6M
The perfect pair, Giuseppe and Egi are co-founders of prize-linked savings fintech EverUp. Startups are super hard and take a lot of time, persistence is the name of the game. The emotional and social support that comes with friendship is a powerful ally, the EverUp founders feel.
Long-time friends, who have known each other since 2006, they had worked together on a few projects and hence, knew each other’s capabilities well. This close friendship bond helped them to finally run a startup together.
“We have different skillsets and domain expertise and EverUp was indeed born out of the blend of our different backgrounds (financial services vs. lottery and gaming but also willingness to sell vs product expertise),” Giuseppe said.
“From time to time we argue, like all founders, but there aren’t any hard feelings. Inevitably you spend a lot of time with your co-founder, discussing a number of things, from day-to-day operational challenges to long-term strategic decisions. It’s more of a grind than a glamorous conversation,” Egi said.
Friends: Aymi Duignan and Sonya Chatwani, co-founders
Founding year: 2017
Funding raised: £1.6M
Launched in 2017, Easho (which stands for Easy Shopping) aims to disrupt the traditional wholesale shopping sector and take the stress out of bulk buying by moving the shopping online. Taking sisterhood and women friendships to new levels, the co-founder duo Sonya Chatwani and Aymi Duignan, started the platform to use the power of social media to boost their appeal to the younger market.
Aymi and Sonya, claim to be ‘opposites’ and had met about four years ago when Sonja became a consultant for Aymi’s existing business. The talented artist from Worcester, Aymi and former investment banker and management strategy consultant, Sonya from Marylebone, London, is most proud of teaming up with the organisation Beauty Banks, which aims to wipe out hygiene poverty. Easho’s social media commits stand at over 250,000 and they work with influencers, as well as a partnership with Beauty Banks charity initiative.
Friends: Jacob Wedderburn-Day and Anthony Collias
Founding year: 2015
Funding raised: $5.4M
The luggage storage network business, the company was founded by two college roommates from Oxford University. The travel tech startup connects travellers looking to store luggage with shops and hotels providing storage space.
Jacob used to spend hours chatting about business ideas with his co-founder Anthony before they finally created the luggage storage platform. Jacob hit upon the idea when he left university and moved to London. Airbnb was becoming really popular and he noticed that more and more people needed short-term storage, some safe place to keep their luggage after they check out.
“We have known each other nearly 10 years now (crazy) and in that time we’ve been through a lot, with starting a business, growing it to a £10M+ valuation and then seeing the entire thing crash to 0 in the pandemic (it’s picking back up now). Everyone who knows us always comments that we seem to have a high level of trust and I think that’s very true. I’ve always felt like this would be a much lonelier journey without Ant, because at all the various low points (difficult meetings, lost clients or the pandemic crisis), it’s great to know there’s someone else in the same position feeling the same way to support you,” Jacob said.
“I think our relationship has grown stronger the longer we’ve worked together, because we’re so familiar with the way we both work and we have quite different styles that are very complimentary. I know I can rely on Ant for his sales charisma and bringing energy to the office and for his great ideas, he knows he can rely on me to make sure those ideas happen, things get followed up and people in the office have someone to talk to,” he added.
Separately from Stasher, the friends duo has also launched a podcast called ‘The Morality of Everyday Things’.