Being Courageous (Part 2) … Warby Parker’s Neil Blumenthal to Sonia Cheng at Rosewood Hotels, King of gaming Riccardo Zacconi and African billionaire Mo Ibrahim

May 15, 2020

Neil Blumenthal, Warby Parker

The idea for glasses retailer Warby Parker was borne out of a conversation its four founders had as students at Wharton business school. Fed up with the high cost of prescription glasses, they decided to do something about it.

Warby Parker was founded in 2010 in Philadelphia by Neil Blumenthal, David Gilboa, and two other colleagues, and is headquartered in New York City. The name “Warby Parker” derives from two characters that appear in a journal by author Jack Kerouac. The company’s official corporate name is JAND Inc. with “Warby Parker” the company’s trade name.

The company was started in the Venture Initiation Program of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where the founders all studied. The company received $2,500 seed investment through the program and launched in 2010. Shortly after launching, the company was covered by Vogue. In 2011, Warby Parker shipped more than 100,000 pairs of glasses and had 60 employees. By the end of 2012, the company had grown to around 100 employees. By 2015, the company was valued at $1.2 billion.

Sonia Cheng, Rosewood Hotels

Sonia Cheng left a career in finance to run a hotel group despite knowing nothing about the hospitality industry. Jumping in feet first meant she had to create her vision as she learned

Cheng, born in 1980 in Hong Hong studied maths at Harvard and then joined Morgan Stanley and Warburg Pincus working in their USA and Hong Kong offices until she joined Hong Kong-listed New World Development, where she became CEO of their Rosewood Hotel Group. She is also non-executive director of Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group.

Rosewood is the baby of Cheng, or rather, one of four babies. Hailed as a model Millennial, she’s the chief executive and also a mother of three under the age of 5; her husband runs a restaurant company. Under her, Rosewood has become one of the world’s fastest-growing luxury hotel brands. Read her full story in Forbes

Riccardo Zacconi, King

As the co-founder of gaming company King, Riccardo Zacconi spotted potential in an audience no one else in the industry was targeting: the casual gamer. The result? Candy Crush Saga.

After growing up in Rome, Zacconi worked as a consultant, for 3 years with LEK and then with BCG from 1993 to 1999. Attracted by the Dotcom boom, Zacconi joined the Swedish online messaging startup Spray before it was purchased by Lycos Europe in 2000. In 2001, he left Spray and moved to the UK as Entrepreneur in Residence for Benchmark Capital until August 2002 when he became vice president of European sales and marketing at uDate. He left this company shortly after its merger with Match.com and in March 2003, he co-founded King, becoming the CEO. He has since grown the company into one of the most successful mobile gaming businesses worldwide.

Arianna Huffington, Online Media

When Arianna Huffington spots a trend, she dives in head first. Trusting her gut has helped her build a successful online media platform and put her at the forefront of the mindfulness movement.

Originally from Greece, she moved to England when she was 16 . She is a co-founder of The Huffington Post which is now owned by Verizon, the founder and CEO of Thrive Global focused on health and wellness information, and the author of fifteen books.  She has been named to Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Mo Ibrahim, Celtel

Billionaire Mo Ibrahim made his mark in Africa by building mobile networks that connected a third of the population. Now he’s tackling another problem which he believes is holding the continent back from its potential – political corruption.

He worked for several telecommunications companies, before founding Celtel, which when sold had over 24 million mobile phone subscribers in 14 African countries. He sold the business in 2005 for $3.4 billion. He set up the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to encourage better governance in Africa, as well as creating the Mo Ibrahim Index, to evaluate nations’ performance.  In 2007 he initiated the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which awards a $5 million initial payment, and a $200,000 annual payment for life to African heads of state who deliver security, health, education and economic development to their constituents and democratically transfer power to their successors.