Alistair Jack former founder, Aardvark Self Storage Ltd. Alistair, aged 40, was educated at Glenalmond College. In 1986 he founded Field and Lawn Marquees Ltd, and then sold out in 1996 but remained on the Board of Directors. He then went on to found Aardvark Self Storage Ltd 1996, with its first centre based off Easter Road in Edinburgh. Between April 1999 and May 2002 he opened a further eight centres across the UK and then sold out to Mentmore plc for £30 million in September 2002. Alister then founded Armadillo (www.armadillostorage.co.uk) and so far has opened in Peterborough, Sheffield, Middlesborough and Liverpool and has other deals in the pipeline.
Chris Gorman, Executive Chairman, The Gadget Shop (www.gadgetshop.com). As one of the UK’s most respected and knowledgeable business visionaries, Chris Gorman has made a name for himself as a leading light in both retail and technology businesses over the past 10 years. Looking back, Chris’ first major success was as a founder shareholder in DX Communications. From 1995-1999, the company’s turnover grew from £100,000 to £70 million, employed 900 people, and had 140 retail stores throughout the UK. Ultimately, Chris and the other partners sold the business to BT Cellnet for £42 million, and Chris went on to found a new internet services company, Reality Group. At Reality, Chris developed the core competencies of his team, launching an innovative and dynamic approach to the offerings for e-business in February 1999. Reality was one of the first Internet companies with the prime objective of creating commercially stable business solutions for e-commerce with a positive balance sheet. Chris sold this business in May 2000, to GUS plc for £35 million and received Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Scotland and UK e-business following the deal. His latest venture has been with the Gadget Shop and with Chris at the helm, the company has undergone a massive turnaround and the business is growing at a rapid rate. Taking over as Executive Chairman in May 2002, Chris re-engineered the business in the first year, taking it into substantial profit and has built on his ambitious takeover with vigorous expansion plans and many successful retail initiatives which will take the company to new heights. Epitomising serial entrepreneurship, Chris is widely respected for his sharp commercial focus. He is in high demand for his advice and comment, and is a regular speaker at a wide variety of business events as well as lecturing in schools and universities on the subject of entrepreneurship and motivation. Furthermore, he commits significant time and energy into the Entrepreneurial Exchange, where, as Vice Chairman of this innovative organisation, he actively contributes to the development of entrepreneurship in Scotland’s business community. A regular face on the business pages of the UK press, Chris uses his profile, not only to further his business interests, but also to further some of the ‘good causes’ he actively supports. Charities he supports include Maggie’s Cancer Care Centres, Princess Royal Trust for Carers, and NCH Scotland, to name but a few.
Our Chairman for the evening is Nelson Gray, Chief Executive, GAP Fund Managers. Nelson is a C.A. with a background in the debt recovery industry, he sold his own business to the multinational OTTO Versand GmbH in 1993. Nelson developed a taste for “hands on” investing in technology companies which has found him the managing director of Excell Biotech (recently sold to Qbiogene of Canada) and a non-executive with companies as diverse as a PCB manufacturer, diagnostic platform company and a kitchen designer. Having invested in 14 companies himself, he became a CEO of Gap Fund Managers Ltd, which specialises in the funding and support of Scottish early stage high growth companies. Having made over 45 investments Gap plays a significant role in supporting Scotland’s new entrepreneurial talent. A key element of Gaps work is the day to day assistance given to the entrepreneurs as they learn how to manage their new companies. Nelson is a regular speaker at events organised for University groups, Enterprise companies, and professional groups and firms, notably around the subject of helping young companies to become “investor ready”. A frequent commentator on the managerial and financial issues facing young companies, Nelson is a member of a number of “angel syndicates”. He is a member of Connect, and is a board member of the Scottish Institute for Enterprise and the Entrepreneurial Exchange.