Meet Our Team

Rob Swerling - Non Executive Director (NED)

Rob recently joined The Up Group as its first NED. He is currently Chief Operating Officer for VC-backed growth business, LiveBookings; an online restaurant booking platform backed by Balderton Capital and Wellington Partners. Prior to this, Rob was the Head of Commerce Partnership EMEA for Google as well as Principal for Business Development. Previously, Rob was the COO for start-up, Credit Market Analysis, which was successfully sold. In his earlier career he was a Barrister having secured a First Class Degree from Oxford University in PPE, as well as a First in Law from Cambridge University.


Clare Johnston - CEO & Founder

Clare graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Management Sciences from The University of Warwick.

She began her career in Management Consulting, working in the Business Consulting team of Detica, an international technology consultancy, later acquired by BAE Systems. Clare worked on online projects including an ecommerce strategy review for a global insurance provider.

At an early stage, Clare was offered the opportunity to co-manage a boutique executive search firm. In this role, Clare managed the team and led searches for a range of clients, from start-ups to global corporates across a broad range of functions.

Clare’s entrepreneurial instincts and passion to develop an unparalleled talent network led to the foundation of The Up Group in late 2007. The focus is on growth companies and teams in the dynamic sectors of online, digital, mobile and technology. The business has grown rapidly and is recognised as one of the leading boutique search firms for digital and technology expertise.

Clare has an extensive network across VC and PE firms, senior executives and functional leads as well as entrepreneurs. She hosts regular sector events attracting some of Europe’s most exciting investors, entrepreneurs as well as executives from start-ups through to global corporates. She frequently sponsors and attends industry events including presenting the ‘VC Fund of the Year’ Award at the 2011 Investor Allstars Awards. In addition to being a regular sponsor of ProductTank and Product Camp, she is a Mentor at global start-up event, Seedcamp.


Michel Cassius - COO

Michel joined The Up Group in March 2012 and brings with him deep digital/technology experience having founded and run several start-ups including being the CEO of and Co-Founder of YoYo Games. He has also worked for Microsoft, Apple and Electronic Arts, including running in Europe.  Michel has been included three times in New Media Age’s top 50 “New Media Visionaries”.

As The Up Group’s first COO, Michel will be focused on supporting the expansion of The Up Group and its network, working closely with CEO, Clare Johnston.

Stephanie De Wangen - Director

Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor degree in Political Science from Trinity College in the US and has additional diplomas from Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris and Middlebury College in the US. Stephanie has dual American and French citizenship, is a native English, French and Spanish speaker and is proficient in Russian.

Stephanie’s early career was spent working for online companies: Excite, AOL and Amazon. At Excite, she managed large online sponsorship accounts throughout Europe. As Senior Business Development Manager for AOL Europe, she secured online partnerships with traditional and online companies. While with Amazon, Stephanie managed the UK Online Marketing Group and later assumed responsibility for the Online Account Management Team of Amazon UK, France, and Germany.

Stephanie’s search experience was gained with Korn/Ferry International, where she was a Senior Associate in the European Global Technology Markets Practice. Based initially in the firm’s Moscow office, she worked on assignments in a variety of industries. She later relocated to the London office as a member of the Technology Practice, focused largely on the Internet industry.

Stephanie then became a Director with CTPartners, a global executive search firm, as a member of the firm’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications Practice. She has worked with corporate as well as start-up clients, identifying leadership to fill CEO, CFO, COO, and other general management roles across the UK, Europe and USA.

Stephanie joined The Up Group as a Director. She leads Board and Senior Management team searches globally for our corporate clients.

Claire Hogg - Senior Consultant

Claire graduated from the University of Cambridge with an Upper Second Class Honours degree in French and German, which she speaks fluently.

She trained in Executive Search in a boutique firm focused on commercial high flyers in the consumer, retail and technology sectors. She predominantly worked with Blue Chip FTSE 250 clients and led searches across Marketing, Strategy, Operations and Business Development.

At The Up Group, Claire has worked with a broad range of clients across the Consumer, Media and Online sectors. Claire focuses on Business Development, Marketing, Strategy and General Management. She also works with a number of UK and European Venture Capital & Private Equity firms on both investment and portfolio roles.

Hanna Linden - Senior Consultant

Hanna has a First Class Bachelor degree in Political Science from Uppsala University, Sweden and Durham University and a Masters with Distinction in Political Science, also from Uppsala University. In addition to her ability to work across all Scandinavian languages, she has a good working knowledge of German and French.

Hanna spent her early career working in finance and in-house HR with a global design company. She then moved into a boutique search firm where she worked with a range of blue-chip clients as well as start-ups.

Since joining The Up Group, she has specialised in Marketing and Finance searches, as well as being involved with a range of Strategy, Operations and General Management appointments.

Hanna has delivered searches at CxO level, largely for technology and online clients from early start-ups to corporates. She has also co-hosted various events for leading CMOs/Marketing Directors of online/digital companies.

Pete Alexander - Consultant

Pete has a BA Joint Honours in English and Philosophy from the University of Nottingham. After graduation, he established a start-up company in the online gaming industry.

After this he spent five years working at Skillcapital, an executive search firm focused on the European private equity space. During Pete’s time with Skillcapital, he worked with a range of international and UK clients. He placed executive and non-executive management into businesses across the leisure, FMCG, retail and eCommerce sectors. Pete has a very strong Chairman and CEO network.

Pete joined The Up Group to focus predominantly on our private equity, eCommerce and wider consumer clients.

Gemma Hale - Consultant

Gemma graduated with a First Class Honours degree in English from the University of Reading.

At The Up Group, Gemma specialises in product, technology and commercial roles. She has worked closely with a number of VC-backed portfolio companies through to corporates, developing extensive knowledge of the digital, online and technology sectors.

Gemma has co-hosted industry-wide events for product and technology talent and is an avid participant in digital networking events as well as being a keen reader of industry news.

Vicky Gumbley - Research Associate

Vicky has an MPhil in Medieval Literature from the University of Cambridge as well as a First Class Honours degree from the University of Cardiff in English Literature. She joined The Up Group in 2011 as a Research Associate.


Karen Klakegg - Research Associate

Karen has a BSc (Hons) degree in Business Studies from Cass Business School as well as a MSc in Management, Organisations and Governance from the London School of Economics. She speaks fluent Norwegian and can work across all Scandinavian languages. Karen joined The Up Group in April 2012 as a Research Associate.


Hugh Marshall - Research Associate

Hugh has an Upper Second Class MA Joint Honours degree in International Relations and Business Management from the University of Aberdeen. He joined the Up Group in 2012 as a Research Associate.

Catherine Rogerson - Research Associate

Catherine has an MPhil in Modern Society and Global Transformations as well as an Upper Second Class BA (Hons) degree in Social Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge. She joined The Up Group in 2011 as a Research Associate.

Josephine Rossi - EA to CEO & Office Manager

Josephine graduated with an Upper Second Class Honours degree in French and Italian from University College London.

Her earlier career included six years working in investment banking in operations and finance roles, prior to moving into the philanthropy sector. During this time she specialised in corporate community investment in East London working with a number of financial services companies. In addition, she spent eighteen months at City Year London: the first UK site of the international youth and education charity, City Year, Inc. As a Founding Team member she was involved in all elements of the start up including office management, communications, fundraising and event management.

Josephine joined the Up Group in January 2012 as EA to Clare Johnston, CEO and Office Manager. She is responsible for keeping the office ticking and supporting the team’s growth, as well as supporting Clare. In addition, she is the first point of contact for all enquiries, as well as assisting the team on events, marketing communications and research administration.


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