Seven things you need to know about Sarah Wood OBE
Sarah Wood is the co-founder of Unruly, whose credits include two of the most successful ad campaigns of this decade so far. She recently picked up her OBE from Buckingham Palace for services to innovation and technology. When Sarah speaks, the tech world listens…
“Don’t be afraid to break the rules, be lean, be agile and think in pairs – great individuals don’t build successful companies; great teams build successful companies.” – Sarah Wood OBE
- Wood is one of Forbes’ top 10 London-based women to watch, one of Inc’s 15 women to watch in tech, one of Business Insider’s Coolest People in Tech, one of Debrett’s 500 Most Influential People in Britain and she’s the Veuve Cliquot Business Woman of the Year 2016.
- Wood founded Unruly in 2006 with her husband Scott Button and their friend Matt Cooke. She raised $25million in another round of funding in early 2012, a record for a social video company, then News Corp bought it last year for £114million (£58m in cash and a further £56m if certain performance targets are met). Wood, Button and Cooke remain at the company.
- Unruly specialises in distributing, publishing and tracking video advertising across multiple channels as well as targeting consumers and has racked up 2trillion views to date, working with the likes of Dove, Adidas, Evian and Renault – 91% of the world’s top 100 brands. It has 300 employees in 20 locations worldwide. Their mission? To #DeliverWow. Unruly was responsible for helping the Evian Roller Babies campaign and Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches go viral, which are in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most viewed ads in 2010 and 2013 respectively.
- The 7/7 bombings were the catalyst for Wood to her start own business. She was at King’s Cross when the bomb went off on the train at Aldgate. She has said of her near miss: “You re-evaluate: Why am I here? What am I doing? Life is too short.” “I was researching political and social revolutions at the time and realised that there was much more of a relevant revolution taking place with the internet and maybe I could be part of that revolution rather than just write about it.”
- Wood’s husband and Cooke sold their previous business ad-serving firm Connextra to fund the new venture, and initially, with Wood, they set up online comedy site Eatmyhamster.com, based on people sharing and rating funny content. The site led to a viral video chart, ranking the most popular videos across the web – which spawned Unruly.
- Wood champions diversity in the workplace – half her employees are female – and has set up mentoring programmes to help women become more confident in business. Wood is proud that 44% of the Unruly board, 45% of managers, and 48% of the total workforce are female. In tech, these figures are almost unheard of. She told Business Insider: “Along the way, I’ve encountered remarkable generosity, toe-curling misogyny (being mistaken for a hooker at an international reception for technology CEOs) and plenty of sage advice from founders, authors and seasoned women in tech.”
- She’s an associate lecturer at the University of Cambridge, where she teaches a masters course entitled “Mash-Ups, Memes and LOLitics: Online Video Culture and the Screen Media Revolution.” and she co-founded City Unrulyversity, a free pop-up university in London with a mission to inspire the next generation of Tech City entrepreneurs.
Better directors for a better world
The IoD supports directors and business leaders across the UK and beyond to learn, network build successful and responsible businesses.
Advice on tap for business leaders
Find out more about IAS. Providing valuable advice free with an IoD membership.