Shaper: Simon Franks

Show aired on 29th April 2017


Simon Franks

Simon is the founder of a number of successful businesses and an investor behind a number of enterprises. He sold his first business (the first company in Europe to stream feature films over the internet) in 2000.

In 2003, Simon co-founded and seed-funded Video Island/Lovefilm – Europe’s leading online DVD rental business. Lovefilm was subsequently sold in 2011 to Amazon Inc.

Prior to the sale in October 2005, Simon co-founded Redbus Film Distribution (RFD), one of the leading UK film distributors. RFD had international success with films such as The Gift, Bend it Like Beckham, Maybe Baby and Good Night and Good Luck. It also produced a number of globally successful films. RFD was sold to the US studio Lionsgate.

Between 2000 and 2004, Redbus was the UK’s fastest growing company with a compound annual growth rate in-excess of 280%.

Simon has won a number of awards for business, including the Sunday Times Fast Track award.

In 2013, he was selected as one of the world’s 100 top innovators by British Airways and was part of the BA Ungrounded flight for the 2013 G8 summit. Simon continues to fund and advise a number of early and mid-stage businesses including, and Infinity Health.

In 2006, Simon switched his focus to philanthropic pursuits, establishing and funding the Franks Family Foundation (FFF). The FFF manages and funds charitable endeavours around the world. The focus is on building a new generation of educated, patriotic and trained future leaders. Projects range from managing schools to scholarship programmes to medical and health outreach projects.

Simon is also politically engaged within the UK, having a particular interest in issues pertaining to international development and promoting entrepreneurialism as a means of addressing economic problems within less advantaged communities in the UK as a whole. Simon was an advisor to Ed Balls and the Labour Party on business, entrepreneurialism and innovation.

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Follow Simon on Twitter @SimonFranksUK.

I got a job in banking which was fascinating and terrible and I saw lots of great people get trapped in the system of just being addicted to the money.

One of the things I say to lots of other entrepreneurs is often your first idea isn’t the idea you end up on.

When David Bowie ran out of money and securitised his music rights I thought wow what a great idea, I’m going to do that for film rights. That original idea which I thought was absolutely inspired turned out to be less than inspired.

We were arguably the first in the world, certainly the first in Europe but arguably the first in the world, to stream a whole movie across the internet.

The way we run our world is incredibly unjust and I just don’t understand it. I think we would all be better off if we did it a little bit fairer.

It was really hard to get people to take you seriously because it was a small spare bedroom in a flat above a restaurant. But to me it became the centre of my empire, even though the empire was just me.

I think I am quite good at innovating but I am also quite negative and I think that’s a really good combination because I discard bad ideas quite quickly and I don’t flog dead horses. When I made a mistake I put my hands up and I changed course.

The film industry is full of people who are not very good at being themselves and I met some wonderful people in it but there’s also a lot of people where the absolute desire for fame and to be recognised is overwhelming.

It’s not just the weight of money because I’ve seen billions of dollars wasted, sadly, in the desire to make the world a better place. Actually it’s about brain power and the money, not just the money.