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A native of Nottingham, Olisa's technology career commenced in the 1970s at IBM after he won a scholarship while an undergraduate at Cambridge University, where he studied Natural Sciences and then Social, Political and Management Sciences at Fitzwilliam College. At IBM he held various posts before joining Wang Laboratories in 1981. Following a period as Marketing Director for Europe, VP of US Marketing and then of Worldwide Marketing based in Boston, he was appointed Senior VP and General Manager of Europe, Africa and the Middle East (EAME) located in Brussels. He led the team which restored the EAME operation to profitability, following which he launched an unsuccessful MBO resulting in his departure in 1992.
Olisa then founded Interregnum, the technology merchant bank leading it through its early growth; its entry into, and exit from, a joint venture with BDO Stoy Hayward; the AIM IPO in 2000; and the tricky years that followed the collapse of the dotcom boom. At Interregnum, he worked at the forefront of the entrepreneur/technology growth cycle that began in the mid-1990s. He was also a principal advisor to, and Director of, uDate.com, which became one of the UK's few large scale dotcom successes when it was sold to Barry Diller's USA Interactive in 2003. Olisa retired from Interregnum in 2006 and now runs Restoration Partners an independent, boutique technology merchant bank.
He was the first British-born black man to serve on the Board of a major UK public company (Reuters) and is currently a Non Executive Director of Thomson Reuters (where he is a member of the Audit Committee). He was also a Director (and Chair of the Remuneration Committee) of Canada's largest independent software developer, Open Text Corporation. More recently, he served as a Non Executive Director of Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) from 2007. He also serves on the Board of, or is an adviser to, several privately held and innovative companies including the UK's leading corporate governance advisor, Independent Audit. Olisa is also Chairman of Outsourcery, Thebes Group and Shaw Trust.
He is a Freeman of the City of London; Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists; a Director of the Thomson Reuters Foundation; Chairman of Thames Reach (a charity working to shelter and resettle the homeless in London); founding Chairman of the Powerlist Foundation - to which he has been voted number 2 for 2015; a Vice President of the British Computer Society and a past member of the Government's Women's Enterprise Taskforce. He was also a Governor of the Peabody Trust for a decade and a NED of the West Lambeth NHS Trust for three and a half years. His experience of regulation is substantial. He has been a regulatee of the FSA since 1993 and a start-up regulator twice; first as an inaugural Postal Services Commissioner from 2001 to 2004 and more recently as a Board member of IPSA, the body charged with managing MPs' expenses, pay and pensions.
- Interview with The Sunday Times
- Thomson Reuters Profile of Ken Olisa
- Eurasian Natural Resources Profile of Ken Olisa
- Profile of Ken Olisa at Thames Reach
- "Ken Olisa lecture online". Fitzwilliam College. 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2014.