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Opinion > OakNorth

Supporting the UK's young entrepreneurs

Joel Perlman, CSO at OakNorth | 16:57 Wednesday 4th July 2018

I recently read an article in which millennials – those born between 1981 and 1996 – were deemed to be “not very entrepreneurial”.

I personally don’t agree with this statement and the research says otherwise. 

In October last year, Moore Stephens found that the number of company directors under the age of 30 had increased from 295,890 in 2015 to 311,550 in 2017. There are plenty of millennials who have entrepreneurial spirit and are determined to succeed – we’ve lent to many of them. 

We have lent almost £12m to tech-driven real estate platform The Collective – £8.2m in 2015 and £3.5m in 2016 – to support its growth ambitions. Reza Merchant, CEO and co-founder of The Collective, started the company while studying at the London School of Economics. Now, at the age of 29, he plans to more than double the size of the portfolio with a huge expansion into the US and Germany. The concept of The Collective is very simple and a great solution for young people – workspaces designed for collaboration and innovation, and en suite apartments where all rent and bills are included in a flat rate. Tenants share living spaces – such as libraries, cinema rooms, gym, spas etc – which encourages them to build friendships and relationships with their ‘neighbours’.

In March 2017, we provided a loan of £600,000 to Notes – a speciality coffee, food and wine chain – to fund its expansion across central London. The millennial co-founders have created a unique dual concept where each site functions as a café by day and a wine bar by night. Co-founder Robert Robinson, now 32, graduated from Oxford University and migrated straight into selling coffee from a cart in Victoria. Shortly after, Rob opened his first site in a former music store. Ed Halfon, 35, who has a background in investment banking, brought his expertise to the business and has helped to grow the chain to 10 sites. 

We’ve done two loans with Gary Linton – the luxury property developer – for various developments in London. He established the Linton Group in 2009, when he was just 23, and has since grown the company from developing single-unit schemes in Kensington and Chelsea to multiple large-scale developments in some of London’s most exclusive areas, with projects totalling over £150m and a development pipeline of £300m. 

Earlier this year, we provided the founders of Inception Group – which operates in 10 of London’s most popular venues, including Bungatini, Mr Fogg’s, Bunga, Cahoots, Barts and Maggie’s – with growth capital to initially fund the roll out of three new sites across London. The group was founded in 2009 by Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling when they were just 24 and 27.  

In May this year, we provided TritonExec – the executive search and talent advisory firm – with growth capital to fund its US expansion. With offices in London and Atlanta, USA, Triton has assisted in the recruitment of candidates all over the globe. Co-founders Ben Graham and Jonathan Morris started the business when they were just 28 years old and now, seven years on, they have successfully attracted multi-million-pound contracts and built an impressive client list, including Capgemini, Accenture, EY, Deloitte and Gryphon Investors and their very first client Genpact.

This is just a snapshot of some of our millennial clients, but demonstrates the breadth of talent, innovation, ambition and entrepreneurial acumen among some of the UK’s under-35s.

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