Home Business Insights & Advice The key to a good business partnership: As told by London’s top start-ups

The key to a good business partnership: As told by London’s top start-ups

by John Saunders
26th Feb 19 10:47 am

Yin and yang, bacon and eggs, Lennon and McCartney; somethings are just made to go together but each always brings something different to the table. In business it’s no different , or so the team at so-sure found out; they asked the co-founders of the UK’s top startups what their co-founders are like and how those characteristics help to define their roles.

Katie Buckett |OneFifty Consultancy

Katie is a digital brand communications expert, with experience working both in and for global and UK organisations. Katie and her co-founder Alex Pearmain set up OneFifty together in 2015.

I think that we have complimentary skills and opinions. I think the key for both of us was an appreciation for the fact that we work in different ways. The fact that we can challenge each other; there isn’t anyone else to give you meaningful feedback when you’re running a business on your own. And you have to be quite open minded to take feedback onboard. I really enjoy talking to different people and networking and client handling, whereas Alex is strong on the analytical and strategic side, so our natural roles fit into those characteristics.

Pip Wilson | amicable

Pip Wilson is the co-founder of amicable. She is an entrepreneur and technology expert who is passionate about using technology to tackle social issues. She founded amicable with business partner, Kate Daly.

We have totally different skill sets which makes a big, positive difference. Kate’s strength is psychology. She is people focused and has an aptitude to help people to navigate difficult situations and create positive outcomes. Whereas my background is within business/technology. I’m much more interested in creating efficient processes that make people’s lives easier, and I’m implementation orientated, i.e. how do we make it happen. This was important when our roles of founders were defined. I look after the business and finance, technology and strategy side of amicable whereas Kate looks after the customer / product side of things.

Lilia Stoyanov | Transformify

A chief executive officer and angel investor at Transformify. Lilia is A fintech and digital transformation expert, she is also a professor at Zigurat Business School and expert evaluator Horizon 2020 at the European Commission. She founded Transformify in 2015 with her business partner and CTO, Desislav Kamenov.

We were colleagues at our old job and worked together for five years, I was a general manager and CFO and he was in the IT department – we weren’t directly working with each other, but we were in the same circle of friends. So, we knew each other before we started the business. The business idea came to me when I was still employed and finding a business partner wasn’t easy. It took many meetings and conversations with a lot of people until I decided on Desislav.

Tom Gatzen | Ideal Flatmate

Tom is the operations and marketing director of Ideal flatmate which he co-founder with business partner Rob Imonikhe in February 2017.

We have a similar mindset in that we are both determined and completely dedicated to making our business a success, but we also have complimentary skills that act as a break on each other. I am a bit more impulsive for instance and can be impatient to push that bit faster, whereas Rob is often more thoughtful and will balance my desire to rush ahead with something! I don’t think our roles are defined by our characteristics but splitting out our roles into distinct responsibilities has help a lot. In the first year or so as co-founders we did not have defined roles and were both trying to do everything whereas about a year ago, we split the focus so that I was on marketing and operations and Rob was on product and the technical side. This has seen a huge improvement in efficiency.

Rachel Hugh | the Vurger co

Rachel, alongside co-founder Neil Potts, founded The Vurger Co in 2016. The Vurger Co’s mission is to revolutionise fast food forever through the power of plants.

Well I try to remain ultra-positive about everything, even if the roof is falling down, I will always try and find a way out of the problem. Neil is absolutely financially minded, so even if I have a crazy idea, he brings me back down to earth and makes sure it all makes sense financially. We complement each other quite well because we know each other inside and out, which makes for naturally a very kind and transparent working environment.

We’ve never thought about it in that way, but in a way yes, they do. I have tended to lend myself to creative, marketing, company culture and training, as my positivity, natural caring instincts and creative training have really helped me gravitate towards this side of the business naturally. Neil on the other hand, has a very logical brain, and needs to see everything mapped out clearly so therefore his background in Finance has helped define his operational / financial role in the company.

Alex Bodini | Spinbrands

Alex is co-founder of Spin Brands, a social and digital marketing agency specialising in SMEs & Startups. Having previously worked in large agencies, Alex met his co-founder in more entrepreneurial ventures and created Spin Brands to serve a huge gap in the market.

The partnership has been the most natural thing and very easy to make work. Like any sort of relationship, it can either feel right or wrong deep down and we’ve always had a very good way of working. Max is a tad more details oriented, will never let something just ‘be’ if it isn’t working right and is a fantastic relationship builder. I am a tad more future-oriented and am more focused on where we are trying to get, and what we need to in order to get there.

Our skill sets are not vastly different (which a lot of people say should be the case), however we have been able to identify clear roles for ourselves. Max has taken a two-pronged role that suits his characteristics, COO and Sales. COO due to the desire to make things tick, implement process and support the team. Sales because of the ability to build relationships and a lasting impression. I have taken on the role of CEO due to my focus on progress and where want to go. I am a decision-maker and like to have overall control of things (or I get grumpy). We didn’t define these roles early, they formed gradually over time.

Gauthier Van Malderen | Perlego

Gauthier is the co-founder of London-based Perlego which aims to tackle one of the biggest pain points for students with its e-book subscription service for textbooks. Gauthier and his co-founder Matthew Davis set up Perlego in 2016.

In terms of character traits, I’m much more outgoing, I raise the funding, talk to investors, hire non-technical members of the team. Matt is much more inward facing but also much better at working on the bigger picture when it comes to our Tech and aligning everyone to where we are going from a product perspective.

Matthew de la Hey | Inploi

Matthew is co-founder & CEO of inploi, a cutting-edge recruitment/HR-tech platform based in London. He set up inploi with Alex Hanson-Smith, and Chris Mackie in 2015.

Dialogue: we have a very open line of conversation. We started inploi at the same time and we have grown and developed together. We have always maintained open channels of communication. We also have the same unrelenting drive and commitment to the project which, if that wasn’t the case would be extremely frustrating. When there are challenges me or him doubles down and the other does the same.

We both used to do everything when we started out, but we have gradually gravitated towards things that were more interested in or more experienced in. Alex had been in Hong Kong working for Ogilvy doing digital marketing and strategies for brands out there. He’s a great designer so he followed the design-product management path and is now our chief product officer. I’ve been to business school, done an MBA, done accounting, knew about finance and law, and therefore my natural inclination was towards those things, so I became the CEO. But whilst we have those titles, we’re on an equal footing as founders.

Tessa Clarke | OLIO

Tessa and Saasha Celestial-One are the co-founders of OLIO, a free app which harnesses the power of mobile technology and the sharing economy to provide a revolutionary new solution to the problem of food waste.

The relationship that Saasha and I have is absolutely incredible. I think this is because our skill sets and experiences complement each other incredibly well, and so together we’re stronger and so is OLIO. As well as having complementary skill sets, I’d say a critical factor in our relationship is our very open and transparent style of communication with each other, we never let any niggles go undiscussed, and it really helps to keep the relationship productive and healthy.

From day 1 we decided to split our functional responsibilities according to our respective areas of strength and experience. I’m OLIO’s CEO and so responsible for strategy, product, fundraising, PR and partnerships. And Saasha is the COO and responsible for all aspects of the OLIO network, including our 27,000 volunteers (Ambassadors who spread the word about OLIO, and Food Waste Heroes who collect and redistribute unsold food from local businesses), our retailer relationships, our marketing activities, our finances, legal and HR.

Sara Trechman | Well & Truly

Sara and her sister-in-law Maria founded Well & Truly in 2015. It offers a range of delicious but healthy tortilla chips; cheese sticks and gazpacho drinks are all-natural and gluten-free.

Maria has a background in Sales and Sara a background in Marketing, so our skills are very complimentary.

Sara about Maria:

Maria’s attention to detail, passion for building our international clients and commercial focus are a great asset to our partnership.

Maria about Sara:

Sara’s strong execution and delegation skills make for a good partnership, as do her ‘can-do’ attitude and excellent problem-solving skills.

At the start of Well&Truly our skills defined our roles. Maria looked after Sales and Sara looked after marketing, branding and new products. As the company grew our geographical locations defined our roles. Maria lives in Sweden and it was logical for her to launch and drive Well&Truly internationally. Sara looks after the UK and the team based in our office in Angel, London.

Alice Holden | Attollo Lingerie

Alice is this director and co-founder of Attollo Lingerie which caters for D+ cupped figures. She runs the business with co-founder, Fleurette Mulcahy.

It actually took us a really long time to realise what our different roles were. Naturally Fleurette is quite detail focused. She wanted to train to be a lawyer, as that’s where her passion was. She’s into the fine details whereas I’m more creative, into the ‘big vision’ and generating ideas. That means within role division Fleurette became much more about finance, the legal and technical side of things. I do more of the marketing, the branding, the website, the PR, the customers. My role is more outward facing, while hers is more inward.

Jasmine Eilfield | Expocart


Jasmine is the co-founder of ExpoCart which she set up with Ryan Farquson. The startup is on a one-way mission to reinvent the way people discover, hire and buy products for their exhibitions.

With Ryan being very analytical and numbers driven it has meant his focus has always been on sales, customer acquisition, finance and the investment side of the business – very much the left side of the brain! Whereas I’m very creatively driven with a big focus on product development, creative design, supplier relations and working closely with our dev team to ensure we have all the best products on our platform with our partners!

So our characteristic and personality traits definitely play a big part in defining our roles – we have even got the team and ourselves included, to do personality tests which go into detail about which personality type you are and the different traits which is definitely a great exercise to do.

Original question: Which of your respective characteristics help you as partners work well together?

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