Start her up

A journey from international relations to the shared economy.

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After earning her degree in the Division’s Committee on International Relations in order to pursue an interest in politics, British entrepreneur Alex Depledge, AM’05, returned to the United Kingdom to work as a consultant for Accenture. In 2013 she entered the start-up world by cofounding Hassle.com, a site that matches consumers with house cleaners. That year, the group Silicon Valley Comes to the UK included Depledge on its “Scale-Up Top 100,” a list highlighting British entrepreneurs expected to lead their firms to £100 million in revenue in three to five years.

What are the differences between US and UK start-ups?

We’re still a ways behind Silicon Valley. Our financial markets are not that deep, and we don’t have access to the same big, ready-made talent pool. But we’ve made some strides forward.

I don’t think London should become the next Silicon Valley, but we have unique opportunities because of our geography: we are positioned between the East and West, making it geographically easier to do business. Our historical position as the center of finance gives us a unique opportunity in financial technology. Plus, we are an island, so we have to look internationally from day one.

What should aspiring entrepreneurs know about start-up life?

Every entrepreneur I’ve met has not been in it for the money; they wanted to build something tangible. The money is just a happy by-product. Aspiring entrepreneurs need to take a hard look at what they like in their lives. If what they like are friends and holidays and having some sort of balance, then entrepreneurship is not for you. It’s a freaking slog.

You’re described as being outspoken on women in technology and the shared economy.

You must have seen the stereotypes about British people being reserved. The best thing about being in the US is that it knocked it out of me. You either speak up or you die. I really embrace that. I credit my success over here with that.

You announced earlier this year that you and one of your cofounders will step into advisory roles at Hassle. What are your plans?

Jules Coleman and I both need to get perspective. Whatever we see, we’ll do it together. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be another business. I’m concentrating on my daughter and taking a cooking course. It’s a phenomenally exciting time that I don’t think I’ll get again, but it’s really hard when people keep coming to me with exciting opportunities and I have to say no

Any plans to pursue your original dream to work in politics?

My husband made me sign a piece of paper that said I’d never go into politics. He might be disappointed at some point. I think there’s so much that needs fixing.

Interview edited and adapted.

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