Phoenix Founders 2024: Behind the Scenes

Harry Walker,
 28 March 2024
Table of Contents

“Since 2010, we’ve tracked the progress and pivots of entrepreneurs across our datasets. Through long-term observations of these entrepreneurs, we have been able to analyse how their businesses have changed over time. Over the past decade, we have seen generations of entrepreneurs pass through our data, all the while taking on the different challenges that have faced them. Seeing this unfold was the motivation behind producing this report, showcasing the evolution of these entrepreneurs over time.

Additionally, failure is often seen as a taboo subject in the business landscape. Much of the coverage we see is centred around those most successful in our industry. However, recovery from a setback, at least in our view, should be seen as a major success. This is why we have focused on phoenix founders; those who have learnt lessons from their past businesses and have gone on to greater things. This collective is a positive cohort, full of interesting stories and journeys. We hope that by highlighting these experiences, we can encourage further entrepreneurship and show that a single failure does not define, or end, an entrepreneur’s journey.”

Henry Whorwood
Managing Director, Research & Consultancy

What was the process of finding Phoenix, Serial, and Parallel founders?

1) Obtain cohorts of founders

Our process began with conducting advanced searches on our database to find the starting group of entrepreneurs for further analysis.

Specifically, we looked for founders who are currently operating a successful business and who have also had a previously failed business that we classify as ‘dead’. These founders made up the cohort known as phoenix founders.

Additionally, we identified founders who successfully exited a business and subsequently founded a currently active company, to capture a contrast to those with dead businesses. Those in this cohort are known as serial founders.

We also looked for founders who are currently operating multiple active businesses at the same time. These made up a different cohort known as parallel founders. This was not a group analysed in depth in the report but was used as a comparator group versus the other cohorts.

2) Cohort refining

With our initial cohorts identified, the next step was to refine and organise our founder data.

To navigate the complexity of multiple ventures per founder, we formatted our data so that each founder’s company was presented, even if this meant duplicating the data. This meant we were able to get data on each individual’s business to ensure that they met the criteria for the report.

To ensure our cohorts met the study’s criteria, we cross-referenced the stage of evolution of each company. Each founder needed to have at least one active business and one that was either dead or successfully exited to ensure that they belonged in the phoenix or serial founder cohort.

Our final refinement step was to verify that there was no crossover between phoenix and serial founders, ensuring two distinct groups for our analysis. While, in reality, a founder can be present in both groups, this distinction was made to ensure that accurate analysis was conducted on each cohort.

We also looked for founders who are currently operating multiple active businesses at the same time. These made up a different cohort known as parallel founders. This was not a group analysed in depth in the report but was used as a comparator group versus the other cohorts.

3) Reaching Out to Founders

Engaging with the founders themselves was a key part of our research.

We compiled a list of founders to reach out to, focusing on those with interesting stories or well-known personalities within the startup ecosystem. The cases for inclusion ranged from their companies operating in interesting and innovative sectors to those raising large amounts of equity fundraising.

Leveraging the Beauhurst platform, we then gathered contact details for these potential interviewees.

After reaching out, we sent each founder questions to learn more about their journey. The responses provided rich insights, enabling us to craft detailed profiles of them and their businesses. The Beauhurst platform also offered plenty of information on each entrepreneur’s business, meaning we were able to tailor questions for each, to bring out the most interesting information relevant for the report.

These profiles were a valuable part of the report, adding a human touch to our analysis.

Phoenix founders 2024: Rising from the ashes

Combining founder data with company data

With the cohorts of founders complete, we could analyse each cohort to uncover common themes and differences between them.

For example, by analysing our data on the founders’ gender and age we could create overviews of each cohort’s demography and spot how they differ. This revealed that the phoenix cohort has a higher proportion of male founders than that of the high-growth ecosystem as a whole.

We also layered data on each founder’s companies. One of the key aspects of the report was sectoral analysis; each cohort had a breakdown of the top sectors, with a more detailed focus on phoenix founders’ businesses’ sectors.

With our sector data covering every business, we were able to determine the top sectors for phoenix founders’ current and previous businesses. This revealed internet platforms as the most popular sector for current businesses, with 132 operating in the sector. In contrast, mobile apps was the most popular sector for these founders’ previous companies, also with 132 companies.

We also looked at how frequently a phoenix founder’s second business operated in a different sector to their first – either in an adjacent sector, or in an entirely different one. This uncovered some interesting analysis, with almost two-thirds of phoenix founders choosing to operate in a sector entirely different from the one their previous business was in.

Charles Stanley, with whom we partnered to produce this report, carried out a survey of business owners. This survey was used to supplement the report and provided insights into business owners’ journeys and their thoughts on how their business failures have influenced their current business.


The multi-step process carried out in the production of this report not only allowed us to gather valuable data but also to share inspiring stories of resilience, innovation, and success within the UK’s startup scene.

Through careful data analysis and personal engagement with founders, we were able to offer a unique perspective on the entrepreneurial landscape, enriching our audience’s understanding of what it takes to thrive in this dynamic and challenging environment. We hope the report will encourage entrepreneurs to push through adversity and take comfort from the fact that a business setback should not be the final chapter in their business journey.

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