Teetotal graduate becomes Britain's youngest self-made billionaire

A billionaire at 26… after illness left him housebound: Teetotal graduate becomes Britain’s youngest self-made billionaire after launching video conferencing app during lockdown

  • Johnny Boufarhat developed video-conferencing app Hopin while bedridden 
  • The app allows conferences to be live-streamed and is valued at £4.1billion
  • The new-found fortune has gained him 113th place in the Sunday Times Rich List 

A teetotal 26-year-old has become Britain’s youngest self-made billionaire after launching an online events firm at the start of lockdown.

developed the video-conferencing app Hopin while he was struck down in bed with an auto-immune disease.

In just one year, the unassuming Manchester University graduate has transformed into one of the hottest tech entrepreneurs in Europe.

After graduating, he suffered a mysterious sickness which left him unable to get out of bed at his girlfriend’s flat in King’s Cross, central London

The app allows conferences to be live-streamed and is valued at £4.1billion with its founder’s stake now worth nearly £1.5billion.

Mr Boufarhat’s new-found fortune has gained him 113th place in the Sunday Times Rich List of the most wealthy individuals and families in the country.

The annual review found the combined fortune of Britain’s billionaires has increased by a fifth to £597billion despite the pandemic.

While millions were furloughed or laid off, the wealth of each of the UK’s 250 richest people grew at an average of more than £1million a day over the past year. This has led to calls for an overhaul of the way the super-rich are taxed.

Mr Boufarhat was born in Sydney after his parents – a mechanical engineer and an accountant – moved to Australia from Lebanon during the 1975-1990 civil war.

The family moved on to Los Angeles then Dubai before Mr Boufarhat came to the UK to study mechanical engineering.

After graduating, he suffered a mysterious sickness which left him unable to get out of bed at his girlfriend’s flat in King’s Cross, central London.

It was then that he began honing his app. After being diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, he recovered by changing his diet to only organic food.

Mr Boufarhat also raised millions in funding to launch the app in March last year after which ‘things went crazy’, he said. During the pandemic, its user base soared to five million, with 80,000 organisations including American Express and Hewlett-Packard using it.

Mr Boufarhat once worked seven days a week but now takes a half day off on Saturdays

Hopin had sales of £54million in the year to January 2021 and is forecast to rake in £130million this year.

Although it is registered in the UK, Mr Boufarhat lives in Barcelona with his fiancée, who works with him.

The firm has no offices and its 500 staff are mostly in the US and UK. Mr Boufarhat once worked seven days a week but now takes a half day off on Saturdays.

He told the Sunday Times: ‘I’m very, very work-focused. I just want to be as impactful as I can, in a positive way for the world… I’m boring – I don’t drink, I don’t do anything like that.

‘I make sure all my food is organic. That’s the biggest change I’ve made.’

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