Sherry Coutu is a formidable force in the business world.
A serial entrepreneur, investor and mentor, she currently chairs the Scale-Up Institute, Founders4Schools and the financial strategy group of the University of Cambridge.
She is tech advisor to the Mayor of London, a non-executive director of the London Stock Exchange Group and Zoopla and serves on the advisory board of LinkedIn.
So it comes as something of a surprise when she says her first tentative steps into the business world were driven more by personal feelings – “there was a boy” when she went to Harvard to study – than professional concerns.
But it did not take Sherry – who will be one of the keynote speakers at the Entrepreneurial Scotland’s Scale-Up Summit at Gleneagles Hotel on May 4 – long to find her feet.
“I did an MBA, dropped the boy and then became an entrepreneur,” she laughs.
Little has got in her way since.
She moved into financial services and founded ISI Emerging Markets – a company that was later sold to Euromoney.
She then turned her head to building Interactive Investor and sold out as it became an early ‘unicorn’ business with a valuation in excess of £1 billion.
Angel investment and business mentoring roles followed and in 2014 she compiled the independent Scale-Up report on UK Economic Growth.
The paper identified talent shortages, leadership capacity building, market access and finance amongst the issues hindering the scaling of start-up companies.
But she said information about growth companies is key.
“Data is the overarching one,” she said. “We have to be able to identify growth companies.”
The Scale-Up Institute was established on the back of the Coutu report and it has a mission to “lean in” to support growth firms as they scale.
By improving the scale-up environment, the institute believes the UK can create an additional 150,000 jobs by 2034, improve productivity and add £225 billion to the country’s GDP.
Places are still available for the Scale-Up Summit by visiting www.entrepreneurialscotland.com/about/conference.