Will tech unicorns save our planet?

In popular fiction, unicorns are a symbol of peace, harmony, and wisdom. These virtues are the hallmarks of a sustainable planet and in the first of a series of discussions on the broader role of tech start-ups in society, we will explore whether these virtues symbolise the unicorns we see in real life.


On one hand

We see unicorns giving away their patentscreating communities of micro-enterprises at scale; and taking a firm stance not to let money corrupt their mission. Are these unicorns our planet's last hope? If so, should we do more to inspire a new generation of socially responsible unicorns?

On the other hand

We see unicorns creating social unrestignoring the rights of their employees; and aggressively building the same network of unsustainable suppliers as their competitors. In their relentless drive to become the industry leaders of tomorrow, are unicorns creating a world in which technology is threatening the future of our planet?



In this session, we will explore how tech firms create and destroy value; how we can distinguish between good and bad disruption; and the ways in which a new breed of start-ups value themselves by their broader contribution to society.




Alex Depledge

Alex Depledge is the straight talking British businesswoman best known for being the driving force behind Hassle.com.

Alex launched the well-known startup, Hassle.com, in 2013 and is a passionate believer in the power of the sharing economy to improve people’s lives - enabling individuals to take control of their working life and become micro entrepreneurs.

In 2014 TechCity Insider named Alex ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’, following on the heels of her appearance on the ‘Silicon Valley Comes to the UK Scale-up Top 100’ - a list highlighting British entrepreneurs expected to lead their firms to £100m in revenue in three to five years.

Alex’s forthright views has seen her become a trusted source for commentary on the future of the sharing economy, women in tech, VC funding and the UK startup sector.


John Elkington

John is a writer and thinker, a serial-entrepreneur and an ‘advisor from the future’.  He is Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Volans, a consultancy & think-tank focussed on driving market-based solutions to the future’s greatest challenges. John is also Honorary Chairman of SustainAbility. As well as sitting on some 30 boards and advisory boards, he has just released his 19th book alongside Jochen Zeitz, former CEO of PUMA and now co-chair, with Sir Richard Branson, of The B Team. The book, titled "The Breakthrough Challenge: 10 Ways to Connect Today’s Profits with Tomorrow’s Bottom Line" comes full circle from John’s 1997 "Cannibals with Forks", where he first introduced the Triple Bottom Line concept. 


Nicole Vanderbilt

Nicole is the Vice President of business development at Etsy. Nicole Vanderbilt joined Etsy in August 2012.

Previously Nicole held a variety of leadership roles in the consumer internet industry, including CEO of mydeco.com, VP of international for Bebo, head of industry marketing at Google, and director of premium communications at American Express.

Nicole holds an MBA from INSEAD and a BSE from Princeton in Architecture and Engineering.

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Tony Greenham

Tony is Director of Economy, Enterprise and Manufacturing at the RSA (Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce).

He is a former investment banker and veteran of the late 1990’s dotcom boom, and before joining the RSA he was the Head of Finance and Business at the New Economics Foundation.

A seasoned media commentator, Tony is author of many books and policy reports on new economics including “Where Does Money Come From?”, “The Reality of Now” and “People Powered Prosperity”.

He sits on advisory boards for Alliance Trust Investments and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, and he is a Senior Fellow of the Finance Innovation Lab.





9.00 am



9.15 am



9.30 am

Panel Discussion


10.10 am

Question and Answers


10.35 am



10.45 am