Oliver Woolley (MBA 1992) is CEO of fintech company Envestors, which connects investors and start-up companies. To date, Envestors' network of 4,000 investor members has invested £126 million into 223 entrepreneurs, empowering early-stage businesses to reach their funding goal and build meaningful relationships with investors. The company was ranked the most active angel network in the UK in November 2020.
Oliver is a Member of Court at Imperial, a Board Member of the UK Crowdfunding Association (UKCFA) and was a Board Member of the UK Business Angel Association from 2008 to 2014. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
We caught up with Oliver about his time at Imperial ahead of his alumni-exclusive talk and Q&A on how to raise investment as an early-stage business in April 2021.
What did you learn during your time at Imperial, in class or out?
Entrepreneurs learn more from failure than from success.
Can you tell us about your studies at Imperial?
I met some great people and shared great times as well as finding the entrepreneurship course fascinating. I had no idea other entrepreneurs experienced similar pains.
Who did you find inspiring at Imperial and why?
Professor Sue Birley, Head of Entrepreneurship, who was an inspiration.
What is your fondest memory of your time here?
Singing at the Leavers' Ball. A memory of fondness and embarrassment.
What is your favourite place at Imperial and why?
53 Prince’s Gate where, at the time, the student café led out to the garden. Halcyon days.
Tell us a bit about the work you’re doing now.
I am the CEO and Co-Founder of Envestors, a digital investment platform with 4,000 sophisticated investor members who have invested £126 million into 223 entrepreneurs.
How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?
It has given me a better understanding of what to do, and what not to do, to become a successful entrepreneur.
What have been your career highlights and lowlights?
Highlights include selling my company in 2010 only to buy it back in 2014 and raising £2 million to invest in developing our online investment platform (Envestors), winning Private Investment Club of the Year for a third time (Envestors), and being invited to become a Member of Court at Imperial College. Lowlights. Plenty. Nearly going bust in 1993 (a year after completing my MBA) is up there.
What does a typical day look like for you now?
I am a slave to emails where others create my to-do list. But I love it really and I try to make time to relax through cooking over-imaginative creations with a 50% success rate of being edible.
What are your plans for the future?
At 58 I am hoping to work full-time for the next year or two, and then I would like to move into helping other young entrepreneurs through education and training.
What would be your advice for current students?
Follow your dreams, not the pay cheque. Quoting Mark Twain: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
What makes you proud to be an Imperial alumnus?
A truly global brand and university with world-leading research.
What one word or phrase would you use to describe Imperial alumni?
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I am deeply proud to be an Imperial alumnus, as well as being a Member of Court, and I enthusiastically wave the flag at every given opportunity.