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The story behind Stephen Fry, celebrity investor and entrepreneur
Writer, actor and overall good doer Stephen Fry was born in Hampstead, London in 1957. From an early age he had a passion for innovation, something that's likely to have been initiated by his father Alan Fry, a physicist and inventor.
Having been fortunate financially - something that's provided him with some flexibility with regard to investments - this started in 1981. A prolific writer, he began producing novels in this year, resulting in Footlights revues for Mayweek, Edinburgh Festival and a three month tour of Australia.
Three years later, Stephen was asked to completely rewrite the musical ‘Me and My Girl’, something that helped him become a millionaire by the time he was 30 years old.
Prosperity and wealth - driving investments
With prosperity and wealth Fry has always been at the forefront of cutting edge product launches and describes himself as being "deeply dippy for all things digital".
Claiming to have owned the second Apple Macintosh sold in the UK (after friend Douglas Adams) and having once said "digital devices rock my world", he's also supposedly never encountered a smartphone he has not bought.
Expanding this interest in digital to his investment portfolio, back in 2011 Fry invested in Summly, an iPhone app that condensed news articles, which was designed and developed by 17 year old Nick D'Aloisio.
This prototype attracted an investment of around $300,000 from Horizons Ventures, the private technology investment company of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing – also a backer of Facebook, Siri and Spotify.
Interestingly, the investment arrived on Nick’s 16th birthday, making him one of the youngest people ever to attract venture capital funding.
With other backers including celebrity actor Ashton Kutcher and multimedia artist Yoko Ono, Summly subsequently sold to Yahoo in March 2013 for a reported $30 million.
A passion for digital, but not your typical entrepreneur
Stephen Fry has never pretended to be a businessman. Spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations make him "want to scream"; "gouge out his eyes and stab his ears".
I have never been able to read a profit and loss account or a balance sheet, and I go swimmy and feel sick if I have to read a legal document because on the whole I'd rather watch television
Ranked #44 in the 2008 Telegraph's list "the 100 most powerful people in British culture" Stephen Fry has always been keen to invest and support the development of British technology businesses, making investment into Tickkle in the same month Summly sold - and in 2016 he quietly co-founded a startup that bills itself as a "Pinterest for education".
The company called Pindex is a self-funded online platform that creates and curates educational videos and infographics for teachers and students.
Their first video was a Stephen Fry-narrated explainer about the Large Hadron Collider, dark matter and extra dimensions. Other videos have focused on science and technology, including ones on the Hyperloop, colonising Mars, and robots and drones.
As with any investor, it's always important to highlight risks taken, and Stephen's tech investments have had varying degrees of success.
One of his first ventures, Pushnote - a site that let users comment on any web page - folded in 2012 within 18 months of launching.
That didn’t deter Stephen, however, as he has since invested in early stage tech platforms seeing them reach a sale value of over $30 million. This inlcudes YPlan, the events discovery and booking platform he was associated with that sold to TimeOut for £1.6 million.
Tax efficient investing in the UK
As we mentioned in our 'The Fame And Fortunes Of The Celebrity Investor' post, many celebrities find themselves automatically being a role model, but also receive criticism for some of the actions they make.
When it comes to investments, for the most part I would personally sing their praises. I believe many of us could happily take a leaf out of the likes of Stephen Fry's book, turning to venture capitalism to secure finances for the future.
What's more, UK celebrities like everyone else in the country can potentially see huge benefits from the generous tax reliefs of schemes such as SEIS and EIS.
And these tax reliefs really are fantastic for both investors and entrepreneurs alike.
For investors, you could benefit from income tax relief of up to 50% with SEIS investments - and in the 25 years EIS has been available, almost £16 billion has been raised through EIS-qualifying investments, enabling a high level of growth and success for the best British SMEs.
Ambitious entrepreneurs - celebrities and non-celebrities alike - are pioneering UK British business initiatives, driving businesses by investing not only finance but also time and advice (something that's arguably invaluable) to help build those high growth businesses.
This post is part of our UK celebrity investors series. You can find our introductory post to the series here.