THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

06 February 2018

5 questions with... Karen Hanton, a dotcom veteran and serial entrepreneur

From toptable.com, Europe's largest online restaurant booking website sold to Opentable.com in 2010 to one of the numerous start-ups she is currently involved in, Karen Hanton is an entrepreneur with experience spanning over two decades.

We caught up with her ahead of our Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons event to find out more about her route to the top, how the digital landscape has changed since the early years of dot-com businesses and what are the projects she is currently involved in.

Karen Hanton head shot (1)

What is the one most significant event that shaped your career?

Leaving the croft in Aberdeenshire aged 17 and coming to London... where everything is possible!

 

Toptable.com is one of the few businesses that didn’t just survive the dotcom crash, but thrived in its aftermath. What do you think was the key to its success?

Sheer hard work and belief as so many people were skeptical but we were in so deep we just had to carry on. And losing my house just wasn’t an option!

 

If someone were to ask you what does it take to make an online business succeed now and 15 years ago, (how) would your answer differ?

Oh yes it’s completely different today. Much more competition - if you have a good idea you will be copied within a terrifyingly short time. Corporations like Amazon have whole departments scanning the horizon for sectors to ‘invade’. Harder to hire and keep good people who have their pick of exciting start-ups with  bigger table football tables and beanbags than you!

 

Tell us a little more about projects and businesses you are currently involved in?

PetsPyjamas.com is one of them: the number one website and travel company for dog-friendly adventures. PositiveLuxury.com is another project I am involved in. Founded in 2011 with a mission to close the trust gap between people and brands, it identifies and celebrates luxury brands committed to sustainability. To earn the PositiveLuxury coveted trust mark, brands must pass a stringent annual assessment that examines sustainability from a holistic point of view encompassing governance, social and environmental frameworks, philanthropy and innovation.

 

What are your top tech trend predictions for 2018?

I think everybody knows that cryptocurrencies are here to stay. And only this week I have seen an example of AI first hand where we did a trial to produce a piece of content. With just a title searching Google, it was incredible how much relevant information and how well it was put together without any human intervention. Great and scary all at the same time!

 

Don't miss Karen's inspiring talk and hear more from our panel of tech trailblazers, join us for Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons  on Tuesday, 6 February. See you there!