Alex Stephany

CEO & Founder, Beam

Alex Stephany is an award-winning social entrepreneur and the founder of Beam, an innovative tech platform supporting homeless people and refugees into stable jobs and homes. Since launching in 2017, Beam has changed the lives of more than 3,000 homeless people and refugees and raised over £4.5m from individuals and companies to support them. An advocate of social business, Alex is passionate about the role technology can play in solving huge social problems. Before Beam, Alex was CEO of JustPark where he led the largest ever crowdfunding round for a tech startup at the time. An expert on the sharing economy, Alex is the author of The Business of Sharing, which was published by Macmillan in 2015. He has also advised the Mayor of Seoul on collaborative technology.  Follow him on LinkedIn.

1. What values are most important to you as a leader? 

I think courage is incredibly important. As it can be scary to take on truly hard problems, courage plays a vital role. Beam is an attempt to do that by tackling some of the hardest social problems out there.. It’s not just about the company; everyone in the company and myself needs to show courage every day to continually lean into the biggest challenges wherever they come from. 

I believe that courage extends beyond problem-solving; it involves a commitment to creating value, both socially and financially. I am convinced that the most significant value is generated when we are willing to confront really tough problems head-on, day after day, usually for many years.

Beam’s values align with my commitment to generating value for everyone in an ecosystem.  First and foremost the disadvantaged people using Beam’s platform – 3,000 of whom have now got jobs, homes, or skills through the platform. But also companies: we just released a way for small companies to launch a CSR programme in under 10 minutes where each month they support people, can track their growing impact, and engage employees who are able to send messages of support to the people their company is backing. You can find out more at Beam for Companies

2. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

My sources of inspiration are rooted in my own family. My mum stands out as an incredible role model, who seamlessly balanced her role as a devoted mum of four with a successful career as both a family lawyer and mediator, trying to save marriages from divorce. It’s amazing that as well as keeping our family securely together, she dedicated herself to keeping other families together too.

Equally inspiring is my great-grandfather, a true social entrepreneur of his time, albeit someone I never met. Beyond his successful business endeavours, he supported marginalized poor communities, particularly the Jewish communities fleeing persecution in the late 19th century. His commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of those in need continues to influence and inspire me.

3. Best piece of advice you have been given?

In my initial role as a trainee lawyer fresh out of university, I received some valuable advice from a highly accomplished senior partner.  It’s just a two-word piece of advice, very simple: “Impress everyone.” This simplicity resonates with my core belief that every individual holds significance. We need to treat the office cleaner with as much respect and dignity as we would a CEO or an investor. This, to me, is a fundamental value—ensuring that everyone is accorded respect and given an opportunity to do their best work and contribute towards a bigger purpose than any of us.

4. What would you tell your younger self?

I would describe my younger self as quite rebellious, especially during my teens and twenties, which got me into a lot of trouble, like getting fired from jobs and almost getting kicked out of university. I would tell my younger self, “Just relax! Relax and be grateful for a thousand different things that you can be grateful for in your life. Every day doesn’t need to be a fight.”

5. What has been your most important or profound lesson as a leader?

I think that most of the time, if not almost all the time, we know the answers. The ultimate difference between an experienced leader and an inexperienced leader is that the experienced leader typically has the courage to do what they know is right. Whereas the inexperienced leader takes the easier path, but the easier path is often not the right path.