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Flashback to 2004: Catching up with Neil Tierney

Thu, 16 January 2014

In 2004, Neil Tierney and Neil Farish won the Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the UK with their business, Lightweight Medical.
What can you remember about your involvement with Shell LiveWIRE?
Lightweight Medical Ltd won Shell LiveWIRE in 2004. It was a brilliant experience with brilliant people. The morning after the awards ceremony I did a small interview segment on Sky News prime time and remember thinking "this is crazy, and amazing!"
How have things changed for you since you won your Shell LiveWIRE award?
I co-founded Onzo Ltd in 2008 as a spinout from my first company Lightweight Medical. At Onzo I hired a topflight CEO and senior management team and secured Series-A funding from a UK headquartered Fortune Global 500 company and their VC partner. Onzo’s growth was rapid and it now boasts hundreds of thousands of users from major utilities across APAC, EMEA and USA. We successfully navigated Onzo through one of the worst recessions of recent times, growing to a staff of 80 with a £10m+ turnover. After five amazing years I stepped down from Onzo in January 2012, during its growth finance B-round to focus back on healthcare. My team recently launched a new business called Sherpaa in NYC with Tumblr, backed by US investors OATV, Collaborative Fund and First Round Capital. In 2010 I was a Growing Business UK Young Gun 30 under 35 and I am currently a 2012 MDDI Global Medtech 40 under 40.
What has been the biggest obstacle you have overcome in business?
Dealing with corporates is tricky when you are small, agile and progressive. Corporates are big, glacial and risk adverse. Avoid dead-ends by cultivating C-level contacts and agreeing a "heads of terms" ASAP in any negotiation.
What are your top three tips for a young entrepreneur who is about to set up in business?
  • Simple is better than complicated. Focus all your energy on creating a truly fantastic user experience, and products and services at the right price that undeniably improves lives.
  • Start small and keep your cost base low. Think about both your top line (revenue) and bottom line (profit).
  • Hire brilliant people and treat them like family. Put all prospective team members to a vote, and if anyone says "no" then it's a no.

Shell LiveWIRE UK has been running for over 30 years. If you have been involved with the programme at any point and would like to share your story, please contact the team at