Elspeth Briscoe, founder and CEO of Learning with Experts


Photo of Elspeth Briscoe

Elspeth Briscoe is the CEO and  Founder of Learning with Experts. Elspeth wrote a dissertation about the future of the internet in the early 90s, and subsequently went on to hold senior positions in strategy at eBay and Skype, having joined in start-up stage.

From December 2012 – December 2013 Elspeth was a consultant to The Guardian Chief Digital Officer on Digital Strategy & Growth Hacking. She also is a qualified landscape designer.

What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I didn’t decide to become an entrepreneur. I’ve just always been this way. Aged six much to my parents horror, I was caught polishing up stones in my neighbourhood and then selling them as paperweights. I have always loved selling, and I’ve always been someone who’s not scared to challenge the status quo. To me it’s more interesting solving a need or an issue, and it’s a creative process being an entrepreneur. It’s something I can’t help, rather than being a conscious decision.

What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Learning with Experts Logo

I think entrepreneurship is a creative discipline. And that combined with the drive and ambition to solve a problem, and not give up until it’s done. It’s also based in an instinct for risk taking and steering a business.

How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?

I’ve always thought it was. But having paying customers (and 33,000 registered users) – has begun to demonstrate that we’re fulfilling a real need, and therefore gives us the momentum to continue to scale.

What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?

Tenacity – there are so many pitfalls in running a startup and being an entrepreneur. You have to be of the mentality to never give up

Creativity – usually startups and entrepreneurs need to constantly rethink and twist and turn, and pivot ideas. This is really a creative skill.

Project Management – unless you can manage your project and finances you can’t build a successful business and be a successful entrepreneur. Cash is king, and maintaining liquidity is an important skill.

What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?

I love the freedom of being able to do things differently. Really solving a problem for people. For me it’s a creative process, and it feels very much my comfort zone.

What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?

I’m very inspired by people like Grayson Perry the artist. He has changed the way people view art. He’s also has no fear about breaking the status quo, being viewed as differently and challenging us as human beings.
I really admire some businesses who have changed the way we behave as human beings. Fitbits for example – are influencing us to do more exercise, through tapping into our competitive natures, and need for data.

If you had 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?

I’d discuss their thoughts on Learning with Experts. People with creative minds will often see things from a completely different perspective. I’d also ask Grayson Perry to teach an art course on our site!

What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?

I should have raised more money at the outset, rather than doing it in several stages. I’ve hired a couple of people (historically) who looking back I should have been more patient and waiting for someone excellent, rather than hiring someone who was ok.

How have you funded your ideas?

We’ve done three rounds of funding with VCs and angels from eBay, Skype and The Guardian

Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?


What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?

The Oxford Centre for Innovation is perfect for us. Location wise we spend time going to London too. Oxford being a centre of academic excellence also really helps as we are an education based company. Our experts come from all over the world – so the brand of Oxford also fits well with our business.

If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them? (Anything Oxfordshire especially!)

I would send them to The Oxford Centre for Innovation

Any last words of advice?

Be brave! And follow your instincts.