Who is Mr Vanguard?

For the second edition of 'Who is Mr Vanguard?' we have selected three individuals that exemplify the Vanguard philosophy - inspirational, fearless and self-assured. Each man can be seen making strides in their respective industries, and this cannot go unnoticed.

Ben Francis

Credit: Ben Francis/greatbritishentrepreneurawards.com

First off, we have 26-year-old Ben Francis - founder of sportswear brand Gymshark. As a 19-year-old attending Aston University, while balancing a job as a pizza delivery man, the original idea for Gymshark was launched. For most students, balancing full-time study and part-time work can be challenging. However, Ben took it one step further when he added running a business, to what we're sure was already a pretty busy schedule.

After two years of running Gymshark, which initially sold fitness supplements, Ben decided he would produce gym clothing. The idea was a hit, generating  £250,000 in revenue. What we find to be remarkable is how resourceful Ben was during this period. He purchased a sewing machine and screen printer, manufacturing the clothing in his parent's garage. To expand on the then DIY business, Ben sought out individuals with shared interests, by gifting Gymshark apparel to online fitness enthusiasts. Today, this is commonly known as influencer marketing. Ben was undoubtedly ahead of the curve.

Six years later, the brand has joined forces with seasoned executives, who alongside Ben have built a company that is shaking up the sportswear market. By harnessing the science and art of influencer marketing, Gymshark has cultivated a community unmatched in the new-age fitness world, amassing an Instagram following of 3-million people.

Gymshark is one of the UK's fastest growing companies and in 2018 turned-over £100 million pounds in revenue. Ben has shown fearlessness by taking up the difficult task of entrepreneurship, he has inspired a new generation of fitness lovers and has remained innovative in his mission to build a legacy bigger than himself.

Dan Da Rocha

Credit: Dan Da Rocha/dandarocha.com

Our second Vanguard man is game developer Dan Da Rocha. Dan broke into the games industry in 2011, with his debut game Q.U.B.E. The game was initially designed to act as a portfolio piece, to help Dan secure a job within the games industry after leaving University. However, conversations with lecturers and other industry professionals persuaded Dan to seek out investment and complete the development of the game.

Within a few weeks of attending and pitching Q.U.B.E at gaming events, conversations with Indie Fund, surrounding budgets and schedules to complete the game were well on their way. Out of 200 applicants hoping to win investment, Q.U.B.E was the standout. Dan notes that pitching Q.U.B.E as a playable demo served as a significant advantage. Other applicants failed to produce demos of their own, instead, opting for written and verbal presentations.

Dan states that in his early years he had no business experience and was not expecting to turn Q.U.B.E into a business. However, his technical skills coupled with creativity helped Q.U.B.E recoup £90,000 investment in 4 days, shipping 500,000 units.

Dan has appeared on Forbes under 30 and gone on to develop several commercially successful games. Dan noted that looking back on his career he would tell his younger self the following: go full throttle and learn as much as you can. Put yourself out there as much as possible. And finally, know where you want to be in 5 years.

Silas Adekunle

Credit: Silas Adekunle/Reachrobotics

Our third Vanguard man is Silas Adekunle, Co-founder and CEO of Reach Robotics. Born in Nigeria, to a mother working as a midwife, and a father who taught Biochemistry, Silas was immersed in the world of Science.

At the age of 11, Silas moved to England, becoming enamoured by the Pokemon franchise. Like many children, Silas was no stranger to playing games and thoroughly enjoyed building Lego. Spending time constructing Lego blocks acted as an informal introduction to robotics. It's no surprise that Silas went on to study a STEM-based degree, opting to attend the University of West England, and enrolling onto the Bachelor of Science in Robotics.

While at University Silas visited schools teaching robotics, attempting to work this topic into the curriculum. However, he ran into a few obstacles - the pupils were not as engaged as he would have liked. Silas decided to take the lessons he had learned from playing games, incorporating these gaming concepts into his sessions. And this is when a light bulb moment occurred. Silas realised that he could take gaming principles and combine them with robotics, to make a product that entertained and educated. This realisation led to the beginning stages of the robot Mekamon.

Silas partnered with Chris Beck who has a PhD in robotics and Mechanical Engineer John Rees, and together they further developed Mekamon. The robot is designed to have a personality and specific behaviour movements and is now available in Apple stores in the UK and the US.

At 27, Silas has achieved a slew of accolades. He was featured on Forbes 30 under 30, earned a place on the list for one of the most influential BAME leaders in tech by the Financial Times, and awarded an honorary doctorate. Silas aims to make Reach Robotics a global household brand and continue to entertain and educate with the use of robotics.

We have come to the end of 'Who is Mr Vanguard?' and it's clear to see that the Vanguard man comes from all corners of society. The common thread running through each man is the inspiration they offer, the fearlessness they have displayed, and finally the self-assurance necessary to continue in their endeavours.

Until next time.

Mr Vanguard

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