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1. Jon Reynolds

29, SwiftKey, British

Jon Reynolds’ mission at SwiftKey, the London-based start-up he founded with fellow Cambridge student Ben Medlock, has been to make technology adapt to human needs, not the other way round.

After completing a physics degree and working in the civil service, Reynolds observed that people were hammering out an increasing amount of work on their mobiles but struggling with the limitations of a shrunken keyboard. He and Medlock set about solving the problem — not as a matter of typing but of language — by developing a predictive algorithm that allows users to swipe fluidly across the screen instead of jabbing.

The technology works by analysing the context of what you are typing and anticipating your words according to your language patterns. It is in use on more than 250 million devices worldwide — including the computer attached to Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, for which the company developed a special language model to assist him in speaking and writing his lectures and articles.

“Mobile phones are set to evolve from being the most ubiquitous technology in our lives — always with us, always switched on — to the most human technology — always understanding, always pre-empting,” Reynolds told the FT last year.

“This is the change we’re part of and, in some ways, leading.”

2. Nikita Fahrenholz

30, Delivery Hero, German

After working at McKinsey and Citigroup, the German Fahrenholz co-founded Delivery Hero, the worldwide network of online food-ordering sites, in 2011. The group now operates in 34 markets with more than 100,000 restaurant partners. Fahrenholz is also co-founder and chief executive of start-up Book A Tiger, launched last year to connect cleaners with homeowners and businesses.

3. Nick D’Aloisio

19, Summly, British

While many students are forlornly counting their pennies, D’Aloisio, an undergraduate at Oxford university, is already sitting on a self-made fortune. In 2011, when he was just 16, he founded Summly, an app that algorithmically summarises the news for the smartphone generation. It was snapped up by Yahoo for $30m in 2013.

Today, D’Aloisio splits his time between his studies in the UK and working in California as a project manager at Yahoo.

4. Emily Brooke

29, Blaze, British

The greatest cause of cyclist fatalities is being caught in the “blind spot” as a vehicle cuts across an unseen bike. Blaze’s “Laserlight” device aims to prevent this by projecting a beam of light up to six metres in front of the bike. Brooke developed the idea during a product design degree at the University of Brighton.

Blaze has raised $500,000 from, among others, serial entrepreneur Richard Branson and Index Ventures, one of Europe’s leading tech investors.

5. Carl Waldekranz

29, Tictail, Swedish

The Swede is chief executive of Tictail, a platform that simplifies the process of selling online for small retailers. Previously, Waldekranz founded an advertising agency — with no prior experience — at the age of 19. For a year, he and his co-founders worked from his family’s kitchen table, before launching Tictail in 2012.

6. Rob Bishop

25, Magic Pony, British

Bishop is co-founder of Magic Pony Technology, which offers state-of-the-art computer vision to achieve high-resolution video content. He studied at Imperial College London and formerly worked for the Raspberry Pi Foundation. In January, he sold his earlier start-up, Intelligent Spatial Positioning, which developed an indoor geolocation system.

7. Kate Unsworth

27, Kovert Designs, British

Unsworth is the founder of Kovert Designs, based in Shoreditch, London. The company produces jewellery with inbuilt technology that allows wearers to receive emergency notifications when their phone is out of reach, so they can “disconnect” from the 24/7 digital world while maintaining peace of mind.

8. Ross Bailey

23, Appear Here, British

In 2012, Bailey decided to cash in on the Queen’s diamond jubilee by opening a pop-up shop selling limited-edition souvenir T-shirts. From these entrepreneurial roots grew his business Appear Here, which aims to make renting retail space “as easy as booking a hotel room” through its online site.

9. Kieran O’Neill

27, Thread, British

An alumnus of elite Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator, British entrepreneur O’Neill returned to London to found Thread, a site that allocates users a personal stylist. In his teens he created a YouTube-style video site that sold for $1.25m, then dropped out of university and co-founded Playfire, a social network for gamers, which also sold for millions.

10. Jay Radia

30, Yieldify, British

Radia is the chief executive of Yieldify, founded in 2012 with his brother Meelan. With offices in London, Berlin and New York, the company provides tools to help ecommerce sites ensure that consumers don’t abandon their online shopping baskets before buying goods. Prior to Yieldify, Radia studied at UCL and worked in investment banking.

Photographs: Max Threlfall; Moses Hoyt; Bloomberg

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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