DunnHumby co-founders Edwina Dunn and Clive Humby have had many marketing industry honours bestowed upon them but now academia has finally recognised their contribution to the world of data science with Kingston University awarding them honorary doctorates.
In 2014, the couple – who started the data analytics firm on their kitchen table in 1989 – were the first recipients of the Professor Derek Holder Lifetime Achievement Award. And, addressing the graduates from the University’s Kingston Business School this week, they shared the life lessons learned in their 36 years together.
Dunn said: “I’m not a believer in worrying about what you can’t do – my management style is based on working with someone who is my complete opposite. Find your opposite and you can be three times more amazing than if you find someone like you. Finishing university doesn’t mean you should stop learning – follow your passions, keep investing in them and never stop being curious.”
Tesco took a majority stake in the business in 2001, and the pair sold their final 10% stake at the end of 2010, for £48m. The pair estimated they had netted £93m in total. Dunn and Humby now have a major stake in consumer insights company Starcount, and are chief executive and chief data scientist respectively.
Dunn received her award from the university in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the marketing industry and to gender equality and women’s involvement in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
Her latest venture, The Female Lead, aims to help inspire young women to succeed through having access to diverse role models. Last year the organisation joined forces with Women in Data UK (WiD UK) to launch “20 in Data & Technology”, detailing exceptional stories of female achievement in data science across the UK. The second event is due to take place in November this year.
Dunn added: “We’ve found through big data, with real science, that girls who follow inspirational women on social media change the language they use. It’s great to talk about the likes of Marie Curie and Florence Nightingale, but we also need to share the stories of women who are out there making a difference in the worlds of science or business, through their humanitarian endeavours or successes in music or dance, who can be living, breathing role models.”
Humby said: “We’ve always been fortunate to be able to work together on the outer limits – applying computer algorithms to data that’s never been used before, discovering new mathematical methods we can apply to that and helping businesses succeed.
“If there’s one lesson I could give graduates starting out on their careers today it is that the world will change. If we look back across our 30 odd years together, the skills we are now using – and the skills of the graduates we are now taking on – are completely different to those we started out with. Things will change, don’t be afraid to stretch yourself. Because actually that’s the only thing that limits ambition.”
Chair of the University’s Board of Governors David Edmonds said: “Edwina Dunn and Clive Humby really embody what can be done when setting out with a clear idea and then working hard to achieve it, and have made significant contributions to the national economy through their knowledge and innovation. For a University like Kingston, which is built on enterprise, attainment and diversity, it’s a particular pleasure to be able to honour them in this way.”
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