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As Zopa co-Founder and CEO, James was a pioneer in peer-to-peer lending. Putting those with a small amount to invest in front of reliable borrowers has proved a successful business model, creating what is now globally £100bn sector. James is now helping organisation make more informed strategic choices as part of FutureAgenda.org, the world’s largest open foresight programme. In presentations he examines disruption across a range of industries and considers how long-established organisations can drive innovation and be better prepared for the future.

A career ad man, Kevin Allen was notable for leading the pitch on the famous Mastercard ‘Priceless’ campaign. His account skills have been applied as Director of Global Accounts and Chief Growth Officer for some of the world’s biggest ad agencies. He now looks at how companies can grow, where the opportunities lie, and how great leadership inspires the greatest asset - the workforce.

It all started with one ice-cream van for the hard-hitting dragon from Glasgow and he’s been whipping companies into shape ever since. Now Duncan owns hotels, health clubs and bars. He motivates budding entrepreneurs with his rags to riches story.

Simon has developed software that connects print buyers to expensive presses across the country that are sitting idle at their time of need. Seeing himself as an ‘open and honest rule-breaker’, he has already grown the start-up into a £30m turnover enterprise. Simon puts their success down to recruiting the best talent they can find and sharing the rewards. Each ‘webmarteer’ then receives as much training and mentoring as they want – and the chance to teach at the firm’s school in Ethiopia.

As a self-taught chef Raymond worked day and night to achieve his dream - first excelling as a waiter to get his foot on the ladder. He has kept up the same passion as Chef Patron of Belmond Le Manoir auxQuat’Saisons, advisor to supermarkets and airlines and driving force behind The Restaurant TV series. He believes that everyone is trainable and that every manager has to plan. ‘You cannot succeed by doing things on the wing – or if you fail to deliver the values you promise.’

Arguably one of the biggest names in business in the world, Sir Richard is the flamboyant power behind the Virgin group. Starting off in music the company has covered everything from trains to wedding dresses, perfume to airlines.

In his early career Geoff was often thought of as a disruptive influence; today they say ‘change agent’. In Self Made Me he considers how virtually any SME can be successful – even in troubled times. Slaying a sacred cow or two in a very entertaining speech, he believes we’ve had enough of ‘soaring with eagles’. Geoff provides empirical data, hard facts to convert into improving the business: “Finding and keeping customers is the only activity that matters.”

James has been building and selling businesses for 20 years. While he has left the Den, he continues to spread his word via an app for SMEs. James believes in backing individuals rather than just looking at the balance sheet, harnessing their passion and encouraging them to stay. As befits a man who left school at 16 but later sent himself to Harvard, James also talks about self-belief. He’s always followed his father’s mantra – “Observe the masses and do the opposite.”

With a background in retail distribution, Hilary saw it was difficult and costly to move small packages of palletised freight – so she found a solution. Bankers turned her down but she persevered, sold her home and now distributes 10,000 pallets each night across the UK and in 38 countries worldwide. After writing Bold As Brass, she fronted Hilary Devey’s Dole Office – in which she brought her business experience to bear on the benefits system.

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