Welcome to my personal website. My passion is making valuable connections between people and ideas. I’m retained by several organizations to do exactly that and enjoy taking on special projects.
I’m based in the UK at the moment and hope you will be in touch if you think that I can help you in some way or if you think that we could work together. Please have a read about the sort of things I’m up to.
“The man who introduced Speednetworking to the UK is a force to be reckoned with. The “most connected man in Britain” has a passion for creating “quality connections” between people.” The Independent
“The former Butlins redcoat’s raison d’etre is connecting likeminded people – and he does it with a smile and grace second to none.” Elite Business Magazine
“The man who has made it his mission in life to make others think about becoming entrepreneurs…Barrett is almost as well known in tech circles for his absolutely terrible jokes as his endless enthusiasm for inspiring others.” Evening Standard
“A high-energy firecracker of a businessman who thrives on making connections” GQ Magazine (UK)
“A consummate connector” Wired Magazine (UK)
I help to start things, then work with brilliant people to fulfil their potential. A few examples include Tenner (the UK’s largest enterprise competition, run by Young Enterprise), StartUp Britain (launched by the Prime Minister, run by the Centre for Entrepreneurs), WebMission and a series of other privately organised trade missions (to the US and India, run with the Long Run Venture),Volunteer It Yourself (the award-winning project, helping young people fix their own youth clubs, run with a range of partners, including Wickes) and Cospa, the award-winning social innovation agency that created VIY and other campaigns and schemes. I also like to deliver things, so remain involved in several of the ventures I have started. My sideline is in speaking and MCing at events (which helps me to meet great people). Most of all, I love connecting people and ideas to make stuff happen.
Oli Barrett MBE co-founded StartUp Britain, Tenner, social innovation agency Cospa and Speednetwork the Globe. Cospa, helps companies and causes to create and grow ventures which make money and make a difference. A good example of this is by helping over 2,000 young people to fix their own youth clubs, with Wickes, the DIY chain. Speednetwork the Globe connects the international business community to unlock opportunities, increase understanding and encourage collaboration. Tenner (now run by Young Enterprise), is the UK’s largest schools enterprise competition and has challenged over 150,000 school pupils to see what they can achieve in one month, starting with £10. StartUp Britain is the national business funded campaign which supports people to start and grow a company. Oli is a regular MC and speaker at international events. He has led eleven trade missions to the US, India and Brazil helping British companies (in health, clean-tech and web) to explore business opportunities. Oli’s entrepreneurial career started as a student and has included an events business in nine cities, an international language practice website (sold in 2008) and a sock subscription website which continues to ship internationally. He is on the advisory boards of the Centre for Entrepreneurs, Tech London Advocates, One Million Mentors , NewCo in London and Founders 4 Schools.
Speednetwork the Globe (Founder) - welcoming international business travelers to Britain and supporting British companies to grow globally.
Cospa (Co-founder) – UK-based agency, working with brands and causes to develop projects for social and business returns.
NewCo London (Advisory Council, London) - NewCo celebrates “business on a mission” through festivals, media and services. Our mission is to identify, celebrate, and connect the engines of positive change in our society.
StartUp Britain (Co-Founder, Director) – the independent, privately-funded campaigning organisation, supported by the Prime Minister, to inspire and help people to/who start a business)
Tenner (Co-Founder) – the enterprise education challenge which lends school pupils £10.
Volunteer It Yourself (VIY) - giving young people the tools and skills to fix their own youth clubs.
Build-it – bringing empty homes back into use by connecting young people with tradespeople.
Thank you for visiting and please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
( Meeting participants of VIY at Hall Green Boxing Club in Birmingham)
(During WebMission to Bangalore and Delhi)
Please also see above for the more official stuff.
“After college, I worked at Disney World in Florida for six months. It sparked in me a love for meeting people and enjoying work. I went off to Edinburgh University, where I loved the city, but didn’t love the course (French and Spanish). So I left after a term, and in the spirit of taking a few unusual decisions, went to be a Butlins Redcoat and work at a children’s TV company. I then went to Leeds University on a far more practical (BBC-trained) course in Broadcasting.
When I wasn’t studying, I appeared in, and then produced a stage musical and a spoken-word radio show. They gave me the bug for starting things. Also at Leeds, I started my first business, which was a bit of an alternative to the careers fair, organised by students for students. With support from Saatchi and Saatchi, we ran events in nine cities. Ultimately the business didn’t work out, however by that time, I had met someone (Ben Way) who I would go on to found several projects with, including The Rainmakers (a consultancy), SockRush (a sock subscription company) and FriendsAbroad (a language practice webite).
I moved to London and read about a national enterprise campaign, which I offered to help. Enterprise UK became a great partner, and with them, I took the speed-networking events (which I’d been hosting for fun) to a national and then international level. This helped me to meet literally thousands of interesting people, and little by little people started approaching me, to get involved in a range of projects and opportunities. By this time, I had been asked to speak in a few schools about what it was like to start something. Leaving a school one day (and frustrated by how passive the whole ‘speaker-audience’ thing was) I read about a vicar who had handed his congregation ten pounds each, and encouraged them to see what they would turn it into. It gave me the idea for what became Make Your Mark with a Tenner, which launched by handing 10,000 school pupils a tenner.
Tenner (which is still going, run by Young Enterprise) meant that I was invited to join something called the Council on Social Action (chaired by the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown) at Number 10. Essentially, it was about the idea that Governments can’t solve problems on their own. Neither can companies, or charities. The group brought together a diverse cast of characters, from Tim Smit (creator of the Eden Project) to the UK Managing Partner of Accenture. The experience convinced me that this bringing together of ‘unlikely alliances’ was both exciting and important. We hosted an ‘away day’ and each of us brought a guest. My guest was Tim Reading, who went on to be my business partner in Cospa my current business. If Saatchi and Saatchi create great ads, we want to create great projects, funded by brands, which are good for business and also make a difference.
Over the years, I’ve organised a number of overseas ‘missions’, taking British companies on week-long trips to grow their businesses. In 2011, the man who had been the Prime Minister’s enterprise adviser resigned. His name was Lord Young and I wrote to a few colleagues, suggesting that we go and see him for coffee. The eight attendees at that meeting became the founders of StartUp Britain, a national campaign inspired by StartUp America. Lord Young suggested in that first meeting that we meet his colleagues in Downing Street and less than a month later we were presenting our ideas inside Number 10.
On a personal note, I’ve always enjoyed hosting events and often find myself presenting or facilitating. I love great quotations and some of my favourites are here. I want to work on more international projects. I would like to work on more TV-related projects and enjoy interviewing people. I love making useful introductions. I believe that creativity and problem solving are fuelled by connections between often wildly different people and ideas and I want to help create projects which embrace this. Typically, I’m in my element at either end of the creative process. Either right at the start, bringing people and ideas together, or on delivery day, seeing good ideas put into action.
Although I need to get better at keeping in touch,I love meeting new people, especially those who believe, like me, that life is short, that business can make a difference and that work can be great fun.”
For testimonials, please see here.
Please write to me here.