John Ellison at a hackathon event

Who am I?

I'm a designer and entrepreneur on a mission to help people live more healthy, happy and meaningful lives.

I do this by leading tech startups to delight their customers and receive good profits in return.

Check out my portfolio
Llearn how I can help.

This is my story

When I was 18, I dropped out of business school to run my first tech startup. It failed, but I learned more in that year than in all my years of education combined...


Over the past ten years, I’ve worked with a variety of organizations including lean startups, large corporations, social enterprises and universities.

mockup of a woman holding an iphone with the website shown
  • pikl logo
  • louise birriterri CEO of Pikl
  • Anna-Marie Powell Pikl Head of Marketing
  • Jon Kirk partnerships director at Pikl
  • Wayne Dunthorne broker sales director at Pikl
  • Lee Turner Creative Armoury Creative Director
  • Lee Scarfe Creative Armoury MD
  • Mark Faraday Made by Sauce development partner
  • Richard Crothwer Developer at Made by Sauce

Startup Redesign & Product Launch

I was fortunate to work as project lead for a Norwich startup called Pikl for their biggest initiative to date. We rebranded, redesigned their website and launched a whole host of new products. Working directly under Pikl CEO Louise Birriterri, I ran a series of back-to-back sprints to test key assumptions about how to meet her customer's needs.

The new launch helped position Pikl as the leading insurance provider for the sharing economy in the UK and helped secure over a two million pounds of investment for Louise and her team to scale.

user test for cultivate project
  • cultivate logo
  • Dave Lloyd client
  • Terry Huggins SME
  • james box principle UX designer
  • james bates principle UI designer

Lean Startup Validation

I worked with visionary vicar and entrepreneur David Lloyd at STN in Norwich to define and validate a startup concept that emerged out of five years of rapid growth.

We ran four back-to-back design sprints where we tested four prototypes with 24 users, validated problem-solution fit and identified the target market.

wall of sticky notes showing design process
  • opengov logo
  • Robert Vogel client
  • Lead Software Engineer at OpenGov
  • Carris Rhodes Manager of Public Engagement, Customer Success lead
  • Tom Zayan Group Product Manager at OpenGov
  • Chief Product Officer at OpenGov
  • Lead Product Designer at OpenGov
  • Director of Design at OpenGov
  • Senior Product Marketing Manager at OpenGov
  • Director of Engineering at OpenGov
  • Amanda Dowd independent strategist, UX and visual designer

Product Management & Behavior Design

As product manager of Open Town Hall, I worked with an incredible team at OpenGov to create a unified product roadmap for Citizen Engagement that leveraged behavior science and persuasive design principles to build public trust in government.

We used customer interviews and competitive analysis to derive strategic priorities for a unified product suite.

wall of sticky notes showing design process
  • peak democracy logo
  • Robert Vogel CEO
  • Chief Architect at Peak Democracy
  • Carris Rhodes Manager of Public Engagement, Customer Success lead
  • Mike Cohen Head of Sales at Peak Democracy
  • Brian Durand CTO at Peak Democracy
  • Elizabeth Daugherty client support specialist at Peak Democracy

Product Redesign & Acquisition

I led a remote product team at Peak Democracy through a major redesign and startup acquisition. We identified core usability problems, iterated solutions with customers and continually released improvements into production.

Then I worked with the executive team to fulfill a multi-million dollar merger and acquisition with a venture-backed startup in Silicon Valley.

wall of sticky notes showing design process
  • Clearleft logo
  • james box principle UX designer
  • Andy Parker user researcher
  • Claire Kirkland senior project manager
  • Rich Rutter COO
  • Andy Budd CEO

Design Training & Mentoring

I worked with James Box, the Head of UX at Clearleft, to identify and target new business opportunities in the space of design education and training.

The outcome of my work was a pivot in business strategy towards higher-level consulting, training and mentoring.

John Ellison at a hackathon event

How can I help you?

Whether you are working on a new startup or have an existing product, I'd love the opportunity to help you and your team solve your most challenging problems.

I specialize in helping early stage startups validate their riskiest assumptions using leading design methods like:

  • Design Sprints
  • Behavior Design
  • Lean UX
Get in touch

Clients & Collaborators

Over the past ten years, I've been fortunate to work with and for people from some amazing organizations.

“John is an exceptionally talented and well-rounded designer. He brings his infectious enthusiasm and creativity to everything he works on. But that doesn’t begin to do him justice.

“More to the point, he’s one of Planet Earth’s finest human beings. A person whose values and integrity sit at the source of all his endeavours. His blend of skill, intelligence and passion makes him an ideal collaborator. With these, he helps individuals and teams tackle seemingly insurmountable challenges. And he does it all with grace, humility and a pragmatic optimism. Talk to him. You won’t regret it.”

— James Box, Founder at Berst

James Box headshot

James Box is a designer in a class of his own. With decades of experience, James builds trust with anyone he meets and immediately instills confidence. A significant portion of my maturity as a designer has come from working with James and learning how to solve problems like a scientist.

“John led our company through a major product redesign. His intense focus on the needs of our customers was paralleled by his deep desire to understand our business and meet its goals...”

“After a few short months, he redesigned key components of our product which were applauded by multiple clients as beautiful enhancements to our legacy system.”

— Robert Vogel, CEO of Peak Democracy

Robert Vogel headshot

Robert is one of the most incredible people I have ever met. He quickly became a mentor and a friend. I have learned more about running a business from Robert than anyone else. He taught me the importance of showing employees how much you care, and above all, caring for yourself.

“John led our product team through discovery and research into prototyping and through several iterations. I was very impressed by John's capacity as a designer, as a team leader, and as a writer. John will go out of his way to make sure clients are happy with the final product.”

— Natasha Freidus, CEO of NeedsList

Natasha Freidus headshot

Natasha is a driven, passionate and committed professional with the heart of a lion. She has given so much of her life to helping refugees—both locally from her home and at scale from her computer. I've been humbled and impressed by her ability to give so much of herself while also being an incredible mother and wife!

It has been a privilege collaborating with John.  John is someone who can take a vision and is hungry to understand it, distill it, communicate it, critique it and break it down into raw commercially viable components so that the dream can start to become a reality.

Rarely do you find such a mix of skills in one person.  Through the intensive Design Sprint process Cultivate was able to turn into reality in a matter of weeks.  John is a ‘must have’ for your team.

— Dave Lloyd, Co-founder of Cultivate

Dave Lloyd headshot

Dave Lloyd is a servant leader who lives life like a Jazz musician. He is authentic, open and vulnerable. He has deep creative instincts and a keen eye for aesthetics. Working with Dave on Cultivate opened my eyes to a whole new way of approaching problems, one that is intuitive and improvised—joyful even!

What's your story?

I’m always interested in hearing about new projects and opportunities.

Let's grab a coffee or jump on a Zoom chat. You can tell me about the problems you are trying to solve. I'd love to listen and see if there's anything I can do to help. | 07523280060