Tessa Clarke

CEO and Co-Founder, OLIO


OLIO is a free app that connects users who have food they don’t want or need, with neighbours living nearby who would like it. Users simply snap a picture of their items and add them to OLIO. Neighbours then receive customised alerts and can request anything that takes their fancy. Pick-up takes place – often the same day – at the home or another agreed location. All the food on OLIO is available for free, and half of all listings are requested in less than 1 hour! OLIO also has a non-food section for other household items such as toiletries, kitchen equipment, books, toys & clothes. Since launching in the UK just over 3 years ago, 1 million people have joined OLIO and shared over 1.6 million portions of food. Food has also been successfully shared in 49 countries around the world. 

Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

When I founded OLIO, I left behind the corporate world for entrepreneurial life. And along the way I’ve gathered a treasure trove of invaluable advice, much of which was quite counter to what I had previously been led to believe. For example, the importance of “doing stuff that doesn’t scale”, and testing, iterating and learning as quickly as possible. I also frequently recall Ben Horowitz’s words in “The hard thing about hard things” where he explains that there is no such thing as a silver bullet – just an awful lot of lead bullets. This is so true in start-up life as you’re seeking the holy grail of exponential growth!

Worst piece of advice you’ve been given?

Someone once said that all that matters is the skills you have. And I’m afraid that as I look at the world around us, this simply isn’t true! It’s super important to recognise the power structures at play in the world around us, and then come up with a strategy to succeed within them.

What would you tell your younger self?

I spent most of my childhood desperately trying to ‘fit in’ and ‘be normal’ (I was brought up on a pretty isolated farm, far removed from the lives of my peers at school). And yet as I get older, I realise that it is precisely our differences that make us all so valuable and unique. So I wish I had had the confidence to embrace my differences rather than suppress them. 

What excites you most about the future of your industry?

It feels like *finally* in 2019 we might have woken up to the fact that sustainability isn’t a side-show, but is mission critical if we want any chance whatsoever to mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis, and to ensure that civilisation as we know it continues to thrive. 

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

Since founding OLIO I’ve found feedback from our users incredibly inspiring – especially in those very bleak moments of the entrepreneurial journey. I also frequently find myself spurred on with renewed vigour when I contemplate the world that my children – who are 4 and 6 years old – are due to inherit.

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