It’s time to meet our Advisors

These insights have been compiled and written by Liz Choonara, Head of Entrepreneurship at Crisis.

I am delighted to be sharing with you today the amazing network of Advisors who have agreed to join the Venture Studio from Crisis. These Advisors will be working to challenge and drive us to create the strongest possible offer to scale ventures to end homelessness. This international and cross-sector group includes investors, experienced entrepreneurs, scientists, campaigners, charity leaders, and most importantly those with lived experience of homelessness.

Our drive to apply the power of entrepreneurship to homelessness has been consistently affirmed since launching the Studio in September last year, but no more so than when each one of these individuals agreed to work with us in our mission. From the introductions below I’m sure you will see why we are so excited and I hope it will encourage you, the startup founder or funder reading this, to join us on our journey.

Over the last year, we have been working hard to build a Board that can help us meet the challenges and realise the opportunities ahead of us. What has been both inspiring and fuel for us is that each Advisor the team met made it explicitly clear that they want their expertise to be used as much as possible. They are all motivated to tackle the injustice of homelessness and want to mentor the startups created by our members, introduce investors to our venture portfolio, and work with the Venture Studio team in making our offer as robust as possible.

Our Advisory Board includes:

  • Chenelle Ansah, Fintech Consultant, Investor & Advisor
    Chenelle is an Investor, Consultant, and Advisor. A Partner at Cornerstone Partners, MD of Nell Consulting, and Board Advisor. She is passionate about access to space and capital for underrepresented groups.
  • Sue Siddall, Managing Partner, IDEO
    Sue is a highly motivated and empathic business leader with a strong track record of growing businesses with a combination of purpose and pragmatism. A global citizen having lived and been educated in multiple countries including Pakistan, Belgium, U.S, UK, and France, creating a strong foundation of empathy for cultural differences from an early age.
  • Ezechi Britton, Serial Entrepreneur & Investor
    Ezechi was founding Chief Technology Officer of Neyber, a UK-based FinTech company that raised over £200 million. He also started Code Untapped to train the next generation of underrepresented technologists. Ezechi is currently working with innovative founders to provide guidance and advice on how to build great technology companies.
  • Dr. Vivienne Ming, Professional Mad Scientist
    Frequently featured for her research and inventions in The Financial Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Quartz, and the New York Times, Vivienne is a theoretical neuroscientist, entrepreneur, and author. She co-founded Socos Labs, her fifth company, an independent institute exploring the future of human potential. In her free time, Vivienne has invented AI systems to help treat her diabetic son, predict manic episodes in bipolar sufferers weeks in advance, and reunite orphan refugees with extended family members.
  • Julie Devonshire OBE, Director, Entrepreneurship Institute, King’s College London
    Julie is an award-winning social entrepreneur and business-scaling expert; she currently supports students, alumni, and staff to learn entrepreneurial skills, have entrepreneurial experiences, and, perhaps, start a venture of their own at King’s College London. Previously scaling One Water to £8.2m profit, and contributing to hundreds of water pumps across sub-Saharan Africa, and as Director of Ventures at UnLtd supporting exceptional, early-stage social entrepreneurs to scale and fundraise.
  • Jouja Maamri, Climate Philanthropy Manager, Impatience Earth
    Jouja is experienced in working across the philanthropic and non-profit sectors, including with the US-UK Fulbright Commission and the Synergos Institute, and currently volunteers as the Community Partnerships Lead at Migrant Leaders. She is the UK’s Delegate to the 2021 G7 Youth Summit and is a Young Europe Ambassador, working with the 27 Ministers of European Affairs to shape discussions on the future of Europe.
  • James Gow, Chief Client Officer, Aztec Group
    James has an international background in professional services and joined the Aztec Group in 2020 from leading global real estate firm JLL, where he held senior roles including Head of Consulting and Head of Marketing, Sales, and Business Development for the UK. He worked at PwC in roles across the UK and Australia, prior.
  • Rosie Ferguson, Chief Executive Officer, House of St Barnabas
    Rosie is CEO of House of St Barnabas, a social purpose members’ club breaking the cycle of homelessness. She is Chair of ACEVO and formerly CEO of Gingerbread and London Youth.
Rosie delivering a speech at the Venture Studio Summer Social 2021, outlining the impact that the House of St Barnabas is having on ending homelessness
  • Damien Régent, Professional Board Member
    Damien works as a non-executive director across sectors. His contribution covers mostly audit/risk, finance, funding/fundraising, governance/regulation, and investments. He’s been a charity trustee for ten years and has worked as a hands-on investor in internet start-ups.
  • Sarah Kerruish, Chief Strategy Officer, Kheiron Medical
    Before moving to London, Sarah lived in Silicon Valley for 15 years where she worked with some of the great inventors of our age. Sarah is currently Chief Strategy Officer at Kheiron Medical, working with an incredibly talented deep learning team to improve the detection and treatment of breast cancer. As a filmmaker, her productions have been distributed worldwide and won many awards. Sarah’s latest film, General Magic, was the #1 documentary on iTunes in 2020. She is just completing a short film about the last few days of the tech team at the White House under President Obama.
  • Simon Ford, Managing Director, Positive Change Partners
    Simon is a creative and strategic thinker with an extensive track record in leadership and entrepreneurship. His unusual broad and flexible range of skills developed over 20 years of growing/developing successful businesses has led to his proven track record of training and negotiating across cultural, geographic, and organisational boundaries and getting people to ‘buy into’ a joint solution.
  • Sarah Farquhar, Director of Organisational Development & People, Crisis (Chair of the Advisory Board)
    As Director at Crisis for the last 7 years, Sarah has responsibility for People, Culture, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. She’s passionate about social justice and has previously worked in social enterprise and trading in the International Development sector.
  • Sujata McNab, Director of Corporate Services, Crisis
    Su joined Crisis in 2021. She’s a chartered accountant and has previously held senior leadership roles at other charities, most recently Sustrans, in the NHS, and in education. Su is a Lay Member of Council at the University of Bath, and trustee at We The Curious, a science centre in Bristol.

Each one of the individuals above is exceptional and as a collective, they are truly powerful. When designing the Venture Studio Advisory Board to be truly effective we knew that it had to be diverse, embed lived experience of homelessness, grounded in in-depth entrepreneurial and investor knowledge with a cross-sector approach. Tackling homelessness requires the creation of a movement — Crisis will not end homelessness alone. To support a broad range of startups in homelessness prevention, ensure access to housing, sustaining individuals out of homelessness for good, and many more critical areas we need to unite not only the knowledge and resources of the wider charitable sector, but those from industry, academia, and civil society at large too. Placed at the heart of our work, I have no doubt this Board will make this possible for us.

Our first year has been brilliant, we have invested in external ventures, built propositions for internal venture concepts, ran multiple hackathons, secured new funding for the Studio, given grants to those experiencing homelessness to start a business, and created new opportunities to get those businesses to the best start possible.

We’ve highlighted below a few snapshots from our journey so far:

One of the brilliant teams at our #HackathonforHomelessness that we ran with Deen Developers in Spring 2021
Hosting Office Hours with the wonderful YSYS community of founders
Speaking at Global Entrepreneurship Week UK alongside other thought leaders in startup-third sector collaboration

As a Venture Studio, in 5-years we want to:

  • Demonstrate that a different model of venturing is possible in the social enterprise space through convening a cross-sector approach
  • Build a broad investment portfolio of ventures with solutions to end homelessness
  • Significantly increased the proportion of impact investment in the UK being directed at ventures to end homelessness
  • Ensure that anyone with lived experience of homelessness has just as much chance of creating a sustainable and successful venture as anyone in society, with our Changing Lives programme being recognised as a leading model for ending individuals’ homelessness through entrepreneurship
  • To have built a range of Crisis-owned ventures to deliver on mission and money for Crisis as we look to diversify our income streams

If you want to help us get there — whether you’re a startup with a product or service that could end homelessness or a funder who can help us widen the impact of our work — get in touch.

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