The Pi Man

Raspberry Pi co-founder, Eben Upton, is helping kids find their inner coder with a microcomputer that costs just £20

Not Pie Man

Photograph by Catherine Hyland

What sparked your interest in computer science?

Games. In the 1980s, PCs were programmable and games weren’t that sophisticated. You could write something in your bedroom that was pretty much comparable to what you could buy. So I spent most of my time between the ages of eight and 17 fiddling about with computers.

Did you have ambitions to be an entrepreneur?

Business did always interest me. I remember going to the station in Leeds as a child and seeing commuters rushing about in their suits with their briefcases. It was something I aspired to. I don’t know why – I very seldom wear a suit and I’ve never owned a briefcase!

Tell us about your career before Raspberry Pi.

After I finished my PhD in Computer Science, I went to work for a microchip company, where recruiting people with the right skills proved difficult. I also spent three years as Director of Studies in Computer Science at St. John’s College, Cambridge, at a time when there was a big decline in the number of applicants for the subject.

What was the catalyst for Raspberry Pi?

Mass market products in the 1990s, like mobile phones and games consoles, weren’t programmable like the computers I grew up with in the 1980s. That robbed people of the easy way of learning about programming that I’d had. I had a hobbyist’s interest in building things, and I could also see a need for a simple computer that could be used to teach programming skills. Raspberry Pi was the coming together of those two strands.

Where did your initial funding come from?

My co-founders and I raised £250,000, mostly from friends and family, and from a few high-networth benefactors in the Cambridge area.

How did you arrive at the name and the price?

There’s a tradition of calling computers after fruit in the UK: Acorn, Apricot, Tangerine are just some examples. And ‘Pi’ was a reference to ‘Python’, a programming language. The £20 price came from the idea that you should try to make a computer for roughly the same price as a text book.

How did you develop the concept?

There were really three generations: ‘home brew’ stuff made with a soldering iron; a middle, kind of lost generation that tried to push the performance up to play video and 3D graphics, and the final generation, when we re-emerged into the daylight in 2011, holding something in our hand that felt more like a PC. That was the basis for the 2012 launch of Raspberry Pi.

How did you test the prototypes? Did you let children loose on them?

The first time we let children near them was the week before we put the product on the market, because we needed to do some promotional filming! We just built things that we found exciting and interesting. And we’ve discovered there’s a large community of people with similar tastes – some are educators and some are children.

Which projects are you most impressed by?

I’m a child of the 1980s, so I love the space projects. There are a couple of primary schools that have attached Raspberry Pis to weather balloons to take pictures of Earth from 40km up in the stratosphere. Tim Peake took two Astro Pis that schoolchildren had programmed to the International Space Station. And there’s a kid in Japan who built a device to classify cucumbers, based on their colour, knobbliness etc.

Did Raspberry Pi’s success surprise you?

Definitely! To start with, we thought that by making 1,000 units and getting them into the hands of the right kids, we might eventually end up with 100 more computer science students. We scaled up production to 10,000, then 100,000, and by the end of our first year, we’d produced a million units. We’ve sold 17 million units to date, and supported more than 10,000 code clubs around the world. We’re particularly proud of the fact that 41% of our young coders are girls – it’s a step towards redressing the shocking gender imbalance in computing.


Karren Brady

Best known as one of Lord Sugar’s right-hand business advisors on BBC1’s The Apprentice, she’s been a high achiever since childhood. We chart the career of the formidable Baroness Brady of Knightsbridge CBE

Karre Brady

Photograph by Jon Enoch

There are simpler paths to business success than storming out of an apprenticeship at Saatchi and Saatchi when you’re still a teenager. Convincing someone to buy a football team for £700,000 when it’s in receivership – and then give it to you to run – is a risky move too, when you’re only 23. Karren Brady knew what she was doing, however. Birmingham City FC was floated on the Stock Exchange four years later. In 2009, it was sold for £82 million. The plucky North Londoner, who was made a Baroness in 2014, has forged her career in her own way from day one, and with spectacular success.

Born into relative wealth in Edmonton, London, in 1969 (her father Terry Brady made his fortune in printing, and they had a swimming pool and a Rolls-Royce at home), she was offering beauty treatments for pocket money at six. Later gaining four A-levels, she worked in advertising after school before getting bored, and grabbed a job selling advertising at LBC Radio instead. Desperate to fill empty slots during the long night-time hours, she had the idea of getting Daily Sport editor David Sullivan to use the slots for his paper. She tracked him down to his home in Essex, and convinced him to spend £2m. A year later, impressed by her results, he gave her a director’s role at his company – she was still only 20.

In 1993, Brady also encouraged the Birmingham City FC purchase, after spotting an advert for its sale in the Financial Times. Sullivan is reported to have said that she would have to be “twice as good as a man” to become its managing director. She replied: “Well, that’s not difficult.” Soon after, she got the job.

Brady has never put her status as a woman on the back-burner. She knew that a woman being in charge of Birmingham City FC would bring publicity to the club, which it did. Fur coats and leather trousers are part of her fashion arsenal without apology. She’s also always been a flagwaver for female business leaders throughout her career. Today, she is the chairman of Mentore, which works with businesses to harness the ambitions and talents of their female employees, helping to ensure they pursue higher roles. She also supports the LifeSkills initiative’s Interview Pod campaign, that suggests that twice as many young women (35%) rate themselves as unconfident when compared to men (18%). (“It may well be that girls are just more honest in answering the questions,” she said of the survey, in her typical no-nonsense style.)

Brady has always waved the flag for female business leaders throughout her career

CV

1969
Born in Edmonton, North London

1990
Becomes a director of Sports Newspapers Ltd

1993
Appointed Managing Director of Birmingham City Football Club

2009
Sells club for £82m

2010
Joins the board of West Ham United

2013
David Cameron makes her the Government’s Small Business Ambassador

2014
Made a Life Peer

She’s also been refreshingly honest about women’s struggles in the workplace. She told the Independent in 2010: “If you don’t have a woman on your board, you should write to your shareholders and explain why.” She also retrospectively slammed her decision to only take three days maternity leave after the birth of her daughter, Sophia, in 2003. “It’s shameful, really,” she told Hello! Magazine earlier this year. “It was a mistake and most people would look at it with shock, as they should. When you’re young and in a career you don’t realise it will last a lifetime.”

As she’s got older, Brady’s career has blossomed. At Birmingham City FC, she named Lord Sugar as the football boss she most admired; in 2009, a few months after leaving that club, she was sitting next to him on BBC1, where she has received rave reviews. A few months after that, she became vice-chairman of West Ham United, negotiating the club’s tricky move to the Olympic Stadium after the London Games. She’s also been a non-executive director of Mothercare and Channel 4, and now sits on the board of Syco Entertainment (if anyone can deal with the bravado of Simon Cowell, it’s her). She has also published four business books, and became the Small Business Ambassador to the UK under David Cameron in 2013, before entering the House of Lords a year later.

The moral of Karren Brady’s story is this: if you know an impetuous teenager with high-rolling ideas, don’t dismiss them. They may know more than you know, including that boldness in business can reap rich rewards. One day, they might even get themselves a seat in the House of Lords, as well as in the country’s best boardrooms. Arise, all future apprentices of Karren Brady: you’re hired.


Ben Branson

Non-alcoholic drinks whizz

Ben Branson

What to drink when you’re not drinking? Water is too dull, soft drinks too sweet and tomato juice only tastes good on planes… It’s a conundrum that non-drinker Ben Branson was all too familiar with. Fed up with the lack of grown-up non-alcholic alternatives to a cocktail or a G&T when he was out with friends, Ben decided to invent his own. A brand strategist, with experience of the drinks industry, Ben also collected old cookery books. Experimenting with ancient herbal recipes and remedies he stumbled across a book called The Art of Distillation written in 1651 by a physician called John French. It ignited the idea of drink made in the same kind of copper stills, but without the alcoholic content. And so Seedlip, (named after the baskets that farmers keep seeds in) the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit flavoured with botanicals, was born. It was a runaway success: the first handlabelled batch of 1,000 bottles in Selfridges sold out.

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