Ben Clark works to convert great ideas into high growth businesses that change the world. He is helping unlock the potential of entrepreneurs as Director of Growth Shack, which builds on his experience accelerating early stage growth to support ambitious startups.
His business catalogue ranges from enterprise software as a service (SaaS), to radioisotope identifiers for the US Department of Homeland Security and even supporting nomadic pastoralists in East Africa. He is currently providing extra strategic oversight for Future Worlds as an Interim Director.
Ben was raised near Wimbledon in London and pushed against convention as he pursued an eclectic mix of employment and education choices in his youth. “My instinct is to go against the tide so I chose to be a dustman briefly after college,” he explains. “I learned a huge amount from interacting with people in that workplace before going on to grapple with the big questions of life in my undergraduate degree at the London School of Theology.”
Inspired by his faith, Ben was driven to see business as a force for good in the world and enrolled in an MBA at the University of Southampton’s School of Management. “Businesses can transform people’s lives, though they often get a bad name because of stories reflecting only the negatives,” he adds. “I really enjoyed my time at the University and threw myself into Southampton as a city. It was an intense course which taught me how to think critically and analyse business problems.”
Ben developed an interest in the challenges facing smaller businesses and soon joined innovative waste management startup HIPPO as it sought to scale nationwide. “I went back to my dustman roots,” he jokes, “and spent five years driving the national rollout of HIPPOBAGs. We went through multiple rounds of external investment, got the bags stocked in every major DIY retailer and developed a B2B offering as we established a national waste infrastructure. It really opened my eyes to the difference that venture capital funding can make.”
Ben and his wife relocated to Kenya in 2008, presenting a unique opportunity to use business to help people earn their way out of poverty. Based in Nairobi, he was involved in a venture capital fund, delivered a business planning consultancy and served as East Africa Director for Hand in Hand trading, developing joint ventures with local entrepreneurs. “There were a whole range of really interesting businesses I was able to help – it was a fascinating time,” he says.
Re-energised to support Southampton startups, and with a larger family in tow, Ben returned to the UK in 2012 and set up his own consultancy to help structure the growth of expanding ventures. “At the most basic level the thing that motivates me is hope,” he explains. “I believe that things can get better and am optimistic that ideas can become something that enrich people’s lives and make the world better.”
As Chief Operating Officer at SaaS startup iPresent, Ben secured an international contract with the Oracle corporation – the first worldwide Master Services Agreement Oracle had signed for SaaS offering. He saw first-hand the vast commercial potential of the digital scene as he was able to rapidly scale to a multi-million pound business with very limited investment. “It was intoxicating to realise the ease of scaling the infrastructure and the infinite potential to make an enormous impact with a small team,” he explains.
Ben’s expertise next supported University spinout Symetrica as it built an international reputation as a leader in radiation detection and identification. Most recently, Ben has been working with Southampton-based Snowflake Software, promoting its increased accessibility of aviation data as Interim Head of Marketing.
“There is an incredible wealth of talent coming through the doors of the University that can produce fantastic businesses to make real impact in the world,” Ben says. “I want to work with founders to help them shape their ideas – and ultimately their companies – to make them ready for investment and help them scale quickly and effectively.” You can reach Ben using the contact form on this page.
Ben would encourage University innovators to experiment and take risks during their time in Southampton. “Paralysis by analysis cripples so many good ideas,” he says. “Get out there and try things while you’re young.
“The greatest support that Future Worlds has to offer entrepreneurs is its network. This ecosystem can help you turn your idea into something really special. All too often startups struggle to break through because they don’t know people who can introduce them to the right opportunities to make it a success.”