It’s been a while since I’ve told you about someone interesting I’ve encountered in my travels so this blog is all about Sherry Coutu, award winning entrepreneur and a successful angel investor. She has the smarts (MSc with Distinction in Economics from the London School of Economics & an MBA from Harvard), the track record as a practising CEO (her first start up was acquired by Euromoney plc and her second was floated via an IPO in 2000 when Sherry was five months pregnant and it was later valued at $1 billion), a successful investment track record (she’s invested so far in over 35 companies, one of the most recent being Artfinder) and the network (she sits on the boards of LinkedIn and Zoopla.com as well as being an investor in two VC firms). Are you impressed yet? There’s a lot more. Sherry also has 3 young children and aims to spend one day per week putting something back via philanthropic pursuits (she’s on the board of Cancer Research UK, a trustee at NESTA, a non exec at Cambridge & Harvard universities and she works with NSPCC on a programme for disadvantaged teenagers). I suspect on the philanthropic front there’s probably a lot more. I know for a fact on the professional front there’s an awful lot more. Wired Magazine voted Sherry one of the 25 most influential people in the wired world in May 2011.
I hate to tell you this but Sherry Coutu is also very understated, very cool and very nice. I met her first a couple of months ago when Learning Pool was selected as one of the 9 SME finalists in the Cabinet Office’s Innovation Launchpad competition. Sherry has been the driving force behind this initiative which seeks to improve in a practical way government engagement with SMEs. I snapped the pic accompanying this blog when Sherry was delivering her presentation last Tuesday to the 120+ civil servants gathered at BIS. We’ve been lucky to have her input and insight into our Big Society School idea as part of the Launchpad process.
My favourite Sherry Coutu quotes that I’ve come across so far are “I think the most important question for any startup is “Is what they’re aiming for going to change the world somehow? Is it going to make it a better place?”” and about working in the technology space “it’s a great industry that we’re a part of … being able to peer into the future and to invest in things that are likely to change our world. … It’s a huge privilege”. In one video interview she tells how her father waved a bunch of fibre optic cable at her when she was 5 years old & told her it was going to change the world. Life is all about those moments, isn’t it?
I’ve always thought I was a decent enough plate spinner and until I met Sherry, I’d never been envious of another person’s career. I now realise I can surely do more. Sherry’s tutor at the LSE talked to her about considering becoming an entrepreneur…I turned down my place at the LSE when I was 17 because I didn’t feel ready to move to London. I wasn’t brave enough. I’ve wondered over the past few days about how different my life may have been if I’d grasped that particular nettle – but then I also got to thinking about all the good things I might have missed and I’ve concluded that life really is too short for regrets. It’s only in Kurt Vonnegut novels that we should visit those forks in the road & examine different outcomes.
I’ll leave you today with another great Sherry Coutu quote “As entrepreneurs you’re either seeking to disrupt something, or as a dominant market player, you’re seeking to retain your position. You know, you have to ask yourself, “Where’s the puck going to be in 25 years?” Yep – the gal’s still a Canadian! Sherry – it’s been a privilege to get to know you.