Sara Murray - PPP, 1987

Sara Murray is a serial entrepreneur. At the early stage of her career she founded Ninah Consulting, which used proprietary software to advise clients, including GSK and Coca-Cola, on marketing effectiveness, and sold it to Publicis Groupe. In 1999, Sara founded Inspop, which owns the brand and built and sold the online company to the Admiral Group. She was a non-executive Director of Schering Health Care and a founding board member of Seedcamp. Sara won the Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2009 and sits on the Technology Strategy Board Governing Board. She was awarded an OBE for services to Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2012, and is also a qualified helicopter pilot.

Reflection on my time at St Hilda’s

I will always think back to my time at Oxford as one of the happiest times in my life – despite what I thought then, I had no real cares or responsibilities and used that freedom to get the most out of life. In my first week, Dr Mellanby told me to enjoy everything Oxford had to offer, and I determined to do just that.

On graduating in 1987, Goldman Sachs’ name was mud due to their letting go of all their new graduate recruits the previous year the day before they even started, so the place to work had changed from banking to consulting.

I applied to the big names, but ended up joining an unheard of American firm, because they flew me business to the US for interviews, gave me a starting bonus which cleared my debts and promised me a key role on their first start up outside the US, in London.

I stayed 18 months in that oppressive 24-7 environment, where stick was prevalent and carrot non-existent, before moving to the City and Hambros for a year. Their graduate training scheme gave me good friends and an alternative sense of a business environment, before I set out on my entrepreneurial journey.

I’ve since started four companies, experienced much drama, many failures, but always been absolutely certain that what I was doing was building something great. That irrational optimism – the sense that, somehow, my business would not fail despite the odds – is what defines an entrepreneur.

I’ve been building Buddi for about 9 years now, delivering technology to enable vulnerable people to continue to live safely in their own homes.  We’ve brought market-leading technologies to some of the world’s biggest companies, and disrupted the field of electronic monitoring of offenders – not a business plan I could ever have conceived.  I occasionally find myself in hallways so far removed from anything I could have imagined, asking myself “how did I get here?”  However, I have never had a boring day in my career.  Those tutorials with Kathy Wilkes, who moved me and pressed me and always had an answer, prepared me well for the challenges I face daily in business.  There is no right answer, but I need to have questioned and evaluated all the possibilities.  My ability to do that means that I don't consider being an entrepreneur as being a risk-taker.  Perhaps it’s a confidence, which Oxford provides, but I know my business will be successful.