Thanks to some advice from her grandfather, Martha Lane-Fox may have been destined to be a serial entrepreneur. She founded a dating agency while at school that crashed when other students didn’t want to share the personal information she needed to make the business work. After graduating from Oxford, she joined a consulting firm where she worked with several IT and media companies.
In 1998, she co-founded Lastminute.com which ended up being far more successful than her match-making idea—today the company claims to book a holiday (or vacation as we say on this side of the pond) every 15 minutes, a theatre ticket every 26 seconds, and a spa break every three minutes. Not bad. In March of 2000, she helped take the company public, raising £571 million. That was two weeks before the dot.com crash. (Though it was rough going, the company survived and was later acquired by the owners of Travelocity.)
In 2005, Lane-Fox co-founded Lucky Voice, a chain of private karaoke bars in London. She also serves on the boards of Marks & Spencer, Channel 4, and mydeco.com. In 2012, she launched Go ON UK, a charity that works to bring digital technologies to everyone in Britain. A year later she was appointed to the House of Lords, where she advocates for sharing the benefits of technology with all classes. Last year she was made the Chancellor of Open University.
Martha Lane-Fox has been the “face” (or at least one of them) of Britain’s Internet for almost two decades. As such she uses her position to advocate for her favorite charities, and a bigger investment in online access for Britain’s subjects. Here are a few things she has said that we think startup owners will find inspiring:
“I think this notion that it’s the individual and the cult of the entrepreneur troubles me somewhat. I don’t know many entrepreneurs that don’t have an amazing team around them and I was incredibly lucky that I have always had a great team around me.”
“Brands that respect you as a person and make you feel like you are you, and that you, rather than they, have control over you, will be the ones who are successful.”
“Everyone battles inner demons and confidence can sometimes be one of these. I might appear confident with all that I have accomplished, but I just wake up and switch my brain on to confident daily… no matter who you are, you have something valuable to contribute so make sure you believe in yourself.”
“I can’t imagine anything worse than giving up. My energy comes from people around me, doing things, creating a business and working with various charities through my foundation. These are the things that make me feel better.”
“Creative people around the world are eulogising about the importance of learning to code. The geeks truly have inherited the earth.”
“‘For goodness sake Martha, just don’t be an accountant—at least be a bookie, then you will be your own boss and you get to work outside’. This brilliant advice was given to me by my grandfather when I was fifteen and pondering what to do with my life.”
“What’s the point of having a plan if it’s not ambitious?”
“Don’t worry too much about planning every moment of your life if you’re just starting out. Everything that happened to me happened serendipitously. It’s about building networks of people and using that for the basis of working hard and building your experiences.”
“I am constantly struck by how the traditional definition of an entrepreneur falls short. If you look in the charitable sector there are thousands of extraordinary entrepreneurs who face many of the same challenges as their commercial counterparts—constantly raising money, working on shoe string budgets, obsessed with the quality of the product for their users.”
“…I think the one thing I have tried to keep in my head all the time is ‘JUST ASK’. It sounds so easy but it can be hard to do… No one has screamed with laughter or rolled their eyes even when I think I have sounded dumb… I realise that I am in a very lucky position but I urge you to just ask over anything in your life that feels scary or unlikely—if you ask with politeness and humour I am pretty sure the worst that will happen is someone says ‘no’.”
—Lady Martha Lane-Fox, Co-founder of Lastminute.com
Photo credit: The Times.