Cow Corner

The Founders

Every business was started by a person (or persons). They are always special, mostly brilliant, often infuriating, and always our friends. Here are some of them.   

  • Sam Leighton-Smith
    Founder & CEO

    Sam founded Compass back in 2010 with his friends and co-founders Mike and Chris. Their aim was to establish a disruptive recruitment and search organisation that would be a friend to the independent health and care sector and add real value to organisations as they grew.

    Founder & CEO @ Compass

    Sam Leighton-Smith

    I have always wanted to partner with PE as the independent sector we work in is heavily financed in by the investment community. I have witnessed first hand the positive impact and value that private equity has contributed to vulnerable individuals within our communities, the advances it has made to medicines which preserve and enhance life and now the tech their portfolio businesses are developing to prevent healthcare complications for individuals in the future. Our vision at CRS is to be the most knowledgeable consultancy that our client partners have dealt with within the recruitment space and this will continue to be our obsession as we look to now grow both organically and inorganically (M&A) with Cow Corner as our investment partner.


    My personal background is fairly uncomplicated for a recruitment consultant. Portsmouth born and bred I had a paper round, did car washing in the summer and worked in McDonalds in between studies and travelling. I got a job as a recruitment consultant at my previous company in 2008 when family circumstances changed. I immediately loved recruitment for its entrepreneurial nature, the fact it doesn’t matter if you have a doctorate or an NVQ and that you can have a profound impact on organisations by contributing towards the way in which they assemble their management teams and hire their staff. It is extremely rewarding as well to place people who move jobs to progress their careers. You meet some terrific people, both as colleagues and as clients and you have an uncapped ceiling in terms of what aspiration you set your company to achieve. It is quite simply the ultimate people business.


    My co-founders and I decided after 14 years that we would look for investment to facilitate the aspirations of an ambitious team that had been with us for many years and one that was ready to grow not just organically but through acquisition as well. Cow fit the bill perfectly and their approach is akin to recruitment philosophies. They have high standards and expectations, are supportive, aim high and provide good counsel. We are excited for our next chapter as we bring new businesses into our house of brands and look to grow into new geographies as well.

  • Nick Hutchinson
    Founder & CEO

    Nick co-founded Glider in 2016 after spending over a decade working at board-level in one of the UK’s leading commissioning management consultancies for the built environment. Today, Glider works with some of the UK's most renowned institutions and construction companies that many larger organisations aspire to work with

    Founder & CEO @ Glider

    Nick Hutchinson

    With a degree in software engineering and over a decade of experience working at board-level in one of the UK’s leading commissioning management consultancies, Nick co-founded Glider Technology in 2016. 

    Nick’s has extensive commercial experience in delivering highly complex mixed-use and office developments, as well as navigating the challenges of supply chain delivery at practical completion and subsequent client onboarding. His experience has contributed to the development of Glider’s pioneering, game-changing and disruptive solutions for the construction and property sector. Glider's client list boasts some of the UK’s largest construction companies, well-known corporates and public sector organisations. 

  • Andrew Bone

    Andrew founded Dayshape with a long term friend Alastair. After working as a Chartered accountant for the early part of his career, he decided that the professional services industry needed help solving the pain of resource management.

    Founder @ Dayshape

    Andrew Bone

    Andrew graduated with a First-class degree in Computer Science from St Andrews University. This led to his first job as a software engineer. It was there he met Dayshape co-founder, Alastair Andrew. Bone went on to train as a Chartered Accountant, working with PwC and RBS. Alastair went back into academia to pursue a PhD in combinatorial optimisation, an area with applications in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

    Andrew and Alasdair remained friends. Over a pint in 2013, Andrew convinced Alasdair to launch a start-up focused on taking AI and optimisation techniques from academia, and wrapping them in a product which would allow people in the real world to benefit. Professional services was a sector Andrew knew well, including first-hand familiarity with the pain of “resource management”.

    Together, and with a growing team of PhDs and software engineers, they built what is now known as Dayshape.

  • Chris Kemp
    Founder & CEO

    Chris Kemp set up the company 14 years ago, when he was just 25. Today, Ingenuity has a team of nearly 150, all working to match world-famous brands with marketing agencies.

    Founder & CEO @ Ingenuity

    Chris Kemp

    What I’ve learnt: Chris Kemp, CEO at Ingenuity

    Chris Kemp set up the company 14 years ago, when he was just 25. Today, Ingenuity has a team of nearly 150, all working to match world-famous brands with marketing agencies.

    Ingenuity offers seven new business services – namely lead generation, agency recommendations, content, PR, brand partnerships, events and insight. Chris has led the organisation since its inception, creating a positive work culture and helping achieve bigger and better things for Ingenuity.

    Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

    Seeing my girls in the morning. I love to start my day by making sure I have some quality time with them before I jump on the Northern line.

    What’s been your luckiest break?

    Being at the right place at the right time. Before Ingenuity, I was working for a new business agency and due to their mismanagement, it went under. I was able to use this to my advantage.

    I had a close relationship with the clients there and they trusted me. Off the back of this I was able to take a business out of administration and create Ingenuity, taking many of my clients with me and strengthening my contact base. Basically, timing is everything, but also spotting the opportunity and not being afraid to take the risk is key.

    What’s your best failure

    Trying to set up a PR business that wasn’t close enough to the core of Ingenuity. It was a separate arm to the business entirely, sitting under the brand of Acuity. It felt very much like two separate teams, so in 2018 we rebranded Acuity and changed the focus and management to Ingenuity PR. This was a great step for the whole of the business, as we created an integrated offering for our clients and also improved our culture as a whole.

    What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?

    People. The best investments, and those that I would never ever regret, are the team members I employ.

    At Ingenuity, we hire a lot of junior members who stay and grow with the business. Many of our team leaders joined the company when it was still in its early stages. For example, our Managing Partner, Duncan Wood, has been part of the team since 2009.

    I pride myself that people don’t just come and go, they work their way up through the business. I want to give others the opportunity I had, in order to stay and progress through the company.

  • Jonathan Gauton

    I founded Outset in 2002 with the goal of delivering HR and Legal services better than the leading law firms which I had worked in for all my life.

    Founder @ Outset

    Jonathan Gauton

    Whilst working as a senior partner in a leading law firm, I had the belief that HR and legal services could be delivered using a different and better approach. Fed up with stuffy suits and hierarchy, unknown legal fees and unnecessary legal jargon, I founded Outset in 2002. We created a range of services to meet the needs of modern businesses, putting clients at the very center. For the past 20 years we’ve been challenging the status quo of the traditional professional services industry.

    In 2022 I decided that a partner was needed to take the business to the next stage of its growth story. I got to know Cow Corner over the course of two years, it was clear that they understood my business and vision and brought the necessary skills in scaling a business to help us get there. I continue to be involved with the business as a shareholder and Chairman, and I’m very excited to see where we can take Outset.

  • Pat Aylmer
    The Learning People

    I founded The Learning People in 2010 to provide Career ready education for people wanting to change their lives

    Founder @ The Learning People

    Pat Aylmer

    I came to the UK 15 years ago with an Australian corporate, and identified that there was a real market opportunity to provide online learning courses to help people to obtain IT and Project Management qualifications that allowed them to change their career and ultimately improve their lives. I felt I had the confidence to take a risk on this opportunity and founded the Learning People in 2010 to provide “career ready education”. From there it grew, allowing us to start trading in Australia and New Zealand in 2018. The process of supporting people to back themselves and change their lives has been enormously rewarding, along with developing my own team many of whom have worked and grown with the business right from the start. Partnering with Cow Corner has allowed my family to return to Australia where I still support the business

  • Jonathan Papworth
    Person Centred Software

    Jonathan is a serial entrepreneur, founding eight technology businesses throughout his many years, with Person Centred Software being his most successful.

    Founder @ Person Centred Software

    Jonathan Papworth

    Jonathan started life as a software developer working on IBM mainframe computers back in the late 1970’s. After a few years he became a contract programmer, including working in mainland Europe. His final contract was with a small IT company providing financial software to the SME market, and within a couple of weeks realised this company needed a management refresh, which involved buying the original founder out. This company went on to be AIM listed, at which point Jonathan decided another change was needed, and founded an outsourced IT company, with a focus on developing middleware applications. The software element of the business was spun out and due to a few customers in the Social Care sector a unique financial product for this market was created.


    The late 90’s was the Dot Com boom, and Jonathan, together with his brother, Simon, founded what would be come to be known as a Cloud Computing business. As well as the technology, they brought the concept of monthly user pricing to the market - including a unique licensing model negotiated with Microsoft (years ahead of Office 365). Unfortunately the Dot Com boom become the Dot Com bust, and Jonathan went back to his software development roots and re-invigorated the Social Care financial product - which 8 years later had become the second largest software provider in this sector of the UK. This attracted the interest of the largest provider in the sector, as well as venture capital, and a sale was eventually agreed, at which point Jonathan retired.


    It was in 2013 that his brother Simon suggested that a new product for Social Care could be created, and in an afternoon over a whiteboard, the icon driven carer focused application was designed. With Simon’s technical prowess and Jonathan’s commercial experience, Person Centred Software created a new market in Social Care, and took an industry from being paper based to mobile apps. This included creating a community interest company for the sector that Jonathan continues with, and this company continues to inform NHS and government strategy for social care.

  • Keith Relf
    Pembroke Financial Services

    I founded Pembroke in 1993, after working for several of the larger life offices and two local Financial Advisory practices. I wanted to provide exceptional financial advice to clients.

    Founder @ Pembroke Financial Services

    Keith Relf

    I founded Pembroke in 1993, after working for several of the larger life offices and two local Financial Advisory practices. I wanted to be able to provide exceptional financial advice to clients and have the ability to take the long-term view and treat all clients, no matter how much they had, with equal care. Over twenty-five years I grew the business organically from a one-man band to 10 Independent Financial Advisers with the associated support team. In 2018 we started exploring options, as we knew we needed a partner to help us unlock the next phase of growth.

    After meeting a number of potential partners, in 2019 we partnered with Cow Corner. We were confident they would continue to put the client at the heart of the business, and that they understood the sector and how to continue the growth trajectory. Partnering with Cow Corner has enabled me to slowly step away from the business and I officially retired on my 65th birthday in April 2023, after four years working with Cow Corner. I continue to be a shareholder in the business and enjoy catching up on the businesses progress with the Pembroke and Cow Corner teams.

  • Mark Darby
    ISMS Online

    Mark founded ISMS.Online in 2005 to help businesses quickly achieve and maintain compliance with ISO 27001. Today the business works with over 100 of the most in-demand standards.

    Founder @ ISMS Online

    Mark Darby

    Obsessive, intense, driven and bonkers are just some of the words used to describe Mark Darby. Those traits are also fused with a strategic mindset and an uncanny ability to solve and simplify complex problems.  


    It led Mark to founding, a SAAS solution for achieving standards such as ISO27001. Success led to more success and he chose Cow Corner to help continue scaling up the business.  In just 4 years of working together has become the standout UK led growth business in its field with over 1,000 customers across the world.  Mark and Cow Corner recently sold the business to ECI where it will no doubt continue to go from strength to strength. 

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