Durham University – Successful Alumni who Founded Startups

If there is someone you would like to add to the list, please email us directly. Please see our shortlist below!



Will Smith & Peter Kirby – Tred




Tred is a consumer fintech whose mission is to make money work for people and the planet. They’ve created and are about to launch the UK’s first green debit card that lets you track and offset your carbon footprint as you spend, and plants trees with profits.

Co-founders Will Smith and Peter Kirby created Tred to help people understand the real impact their choices are having on the planet – and to help people take positive action. 82% of people in the UK say they want to live more sustainably, but don’t know where to start. Pete and Will were increasingly experienced this difficulty in their own lives, getting lost in arguments about the relative impact of a plastic straw vs an aeroplane flight, and finding it hard to actually live the sustainable values they both held.

Tred’s green debit card effortlessly bridges that gap between intention and action by linking customers’ carbon footprint with their everyday spending. By making it simpler for people to both understand their environmental impact and take action, they’re making it easier to fight climate change and build a greener future for the planet.

Other carbon calculators make the customer manually input various data-points about their life. By contrast, Tred makes tracking and understanding your carbon footprint effortless by calculating it automatically from your spending, then showing you a breakdown of what activities are driving your carbon footprint.

Tred will also offer customers tips to reduce their carbon footprint, using data on their spending to help drive smart recommendations of simple switches to lower carbon alternatives.

Customers can also opt to offset their carbon footprint easily within the Tred app. Their monthly plans allow a customer to choose between various 3rd party verified carbon offset schemes (Latin American Forestry Conservation Projects, Global Renewables, and Wooden Building Elements).

Finally, Tred devotes 10 % of revenue from transactions made on the Tred debit card to tree planting, so Tred customers help tackle climate change as they spend, without having to do anything differently.

These green features are supported by a best-in-class banking experience to match ‘non-eco’ challenger banks, ensuring customers don’t have to compromise to make the sustainable choice. In this way, they hope to attract a mass audience to Tred – not just the most eco-conscious consumers.

It’s been a year of rapid progress for Tred. They’ve raised over £1m from angel and crowdfunding investors, scaled to a team of 15 full-time members, secured a commercial agreement with Mastercard, and grown to a waiting list of thousands. The next few months will see them launch and scale our card & app, and grow our community to make a huge positive climate impact.


Natasha Boulding, Phil Buckley & Scott Bush – Sphera


Sphera is an award-winning speciality materials company focusing on low embodied carbon, next-generation construction material alternatives in the race to Net-Zero. Its products include a carbon negative lightweight material designed to be used in concrete. This aggregate material has been trialled in concrete blocks.

The blocks have better thermal insulation and thermal mass than incumbents (where traditionally an improvement in both is not possible). This will improve a building’s heating efficiencies, energy efficiency ratings (EPC) and lower the building’s operational carbon footprint also. This invention also means less traditional lightweight aggregate is needed – a material with a large carbon footprint due to the high temperatures required for production – lowering lightweight concrete’s carbon footprint.

Their build environment (whether it’s the carbon footprint of materials or energy buildings use) is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and therefore, climate change. It is vital in the race to Net Zero that sustainability is a primary consideration for the sector moving forward. Sphera’s long-term vision is to become the innovation partner of the construction industry – a hub of knowledge and innovation on advanced materials and a Net-Zero build environment.

The company was founded in 2018 by Natasha Boulding, Phil Buckley and Scott Bush. The team has many years of experience in academia and industry, both in the UK and internationally. Natasha gained a Chemistry Masters degree from the University of Warwick and a PhD from Durham University, Phil gained a Mathematics Masters degree and PhD from Durham University and Scott gained a Physics Masters from Aberystwyth University. Since 2018 they have raised substantial grant funding and private investment to grow the company. In 2020 Natasha was announced as a winner of Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation award, which highlights top female entrepreneurs in the UK.

They are now looking to collaborate with organisations or individuals interested in using the blocks. For more information email [email protected].


Luke Young and Rory Hornby – Agrisea




Agrisea was built to solve world hunger and is evolving to create the sustainable future of food. Agrisea is the Ocean Agriculture company. Founders, Luke Young and Rory Hornby, are developing the future of agriculture by creating crops that can grow in high salt conditions such as salt soils in the Mekong Delta or in coastal saltwater on their floating ocean farms.

Luke and Rory started Agrisea’s journey as two students at Durham University with a shared vision of a truly sustainable future, a future where food was a right for everyone, no matter where or who they are. In today’s world agriculture is suffering from sea-level rise, increased soil salinity and unsustainable and environmentally damaging farming.

With the next world crisis likely to be a battle over freshwater there is a lot that needs to change in how we grow our food. These two students started building Agrisea to develop truly sustainable farming systems that use no freshwater, no chemical fertilizers and less land, their growing team is building the various features of the latest progression in food production, ocean agriculture.

Agrisea’s Ocean Agriculture solves all the sustainability restrictions seen in traditional agriculture. We modify plant callus tissue using a particle bombardment system to activate a plant’s salt tolerance mechanism to enable them to grow floating on our oceans or in high salt soils.

In September 2019, Agrisea was accepted into the acclaimed San Francisco-based accelerator IndieBio where they gained international recognition for their work, this work continues from their location in the Velocity incubator, Canada. From this base they have grown their operations across the world, including Singapore, Kenya, and Vietnam. Keep an eye on Agrisea, with an announcement on the horizon, 2022 is set to be a ground-breaking year for them.


James Averdieck – Gü


James Averdieck - Gü


James Averdieck studied Economics at Durham University between 1985 and 1988 before he founded his own business, creating Gü Chocolate Puds. Since founding the company after his graduation, James has successfully turned it into a £30m business. James believes that studying Economics gave him a good foundation on which he could build his own business.

James lived in Brussels for a time before founding Gü, which gave him some inspiration for the company. He felt inspired being surrounded by chocolate shops and patisseries, and his first products were chocolate mousses and soufflé which he created with the help of a patisserie company which was based in London. Since then, his products have become popular in most mainstream supermarkets throughout the United Kingdom.

Gü also went on to enter the French market, before James sold the company in 2010 for approximately £30m, and now focuses more on supporting young and future entrepreneurs as they set out founding their own companies.


Bertie Hubbard – MyTutor


bertie hubbard


MyTutor is the UK’s most trusted tutoring platform and the largest provider of in-school tuition in last year’s Government-backed National Tuition Programme. MyTutor recently secured a £15 million Series B Follow On investment led by SEEK Investments.

MyTutor’s mission is to provide life changing tuition for all, regardless of background, and is unique in its offering by supporting both disadvantaged students through its schools programme and private tuition partnering directly with parents. With their base of 20,000 tutors they’ve supported over 1,000 Secondary Schools, hundreds of thousands of parents, and delivered over 2 million lessons.

MyTutor is unique in that all its tutors are carefully vetted subject experts from the UK’s top universities. Being close in age to their students, the tutors not only provide academic support, but also build confidence and provide mentorship too.


If there is someone you would like to add to the list, please email us directly.