RIP serial entrepreneur Jimi Heselden

Heselden died yesterday in a tragic accident that saw his Segway skid over a cliff into the river Wharfe.  He leaves behind a wife and four children.

Heselden's story is fascinating. Before he became an entrepreneur, Heselden was a coal miner. He was made redundant from the pit in the late eighties but used his miner's geological knowhow to devise the Hesco Bastion box: a wire, flat-packed container that is practically impenetrable when filled with earth, stones, water and sand.

Hesco Bastion boxes were originally intended for use a as a flood defence but were quickly spotted by the British military.

Heselden made his fortune from Afghanistan defence contracts where these Hesco Bastion boxes protected military camps and army personnel from enemy attacks. The boxes were quick and cheap to construct, proving much more effective against mortar attacks than traditional sandbags.

The Hesco Bastion website has been inundated with letters of condolence. "As a soldier I have been lucky enough to not only be protected by Hesco in Afghanistan, but was fortunate enough to meet Jimi. There are a lot of soldiers and civilians around the world that are still alive thanks to his company," reads one.

The invention may have earned Heselden a £166m fortune - the Pentagon alone bought £50m-worth of his blast-proof walls - but it also forced him to live very quietly. My request for an interview back in 2006 was politely declined; the Hesco Bastion founder pointed out that as many terrorist groups were eager to bring down the man that had protected US troops, he would prefer to keep a low profile.

Heselden was also a great philanthropist, donating £23m to a variety of causes over the past few years. He was awarded an OBE for services to the defence industry and charity in 2006, and was a very involved member of the Yorkshire community where he lived.

Jim Riley, founder of Tutor2U, lived a stones' throw away from Heselden. "He was a great man," he says. "I often saw him out and about on his Segway."

Heselden bought the US-based Segway company in December 2009. He had planned to further develop the machine this year, before rolling out a range of new models in 2011. The 62-year-old entrepreneur was testing a new model - the cross-country Segway X2 - when the accident took place yesterday morning.

So, for all you Smarta readers having a Tuesday tipple this evening, raise your glass to Jimi. To a great entrepreneur and philanthropist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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