My Secret Life: Martha Lane Fox, Entrepreneur, age 35

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The Independent Online

The home I grew up in... We moved around a lot, between Oxfordshire and London. I was happiest between the ages of 11 and 16, living in north Oxfordshire. I spent most of my time meeting boys and going to parties.

When I was a child I wanted to be... a hotel proprietor. I spent hours playing "hotel" games and made my mother and father check into their "rooms" (in our living room).

The moment that changed me for ever... was taking public. It was an iconic zeitgeist moment and took enormous intellectual, physical and creative effort.

My greatest inspiration... Antigone, the Greek heroine after whom I named my charity. She stood against what she thought was wrong.

My real-life villain... It's not that simple. It's about environment and context, and sometimes you have to fight hard to get out of that. America's disregard for the rule of law around the world is terrifying, so George Bush is a worry to me. If I could change one thing about myself ... it would be what I'm left with since my car crash. I'm permanently changed. I wish I could go back and avoid those events.

At night I dream of... everything. I have incredibly crazy dreams. If I sleep for four hours, it's a miracle. Much to my boyfriend's dismay, I'm up and bashing around in the early hours. I process and whirr a lot at night.

What I see when I look in the mirror... is a shorter person, because I can't wear heels since my accident. I'm always slightly baffled about looking so small.

My style icon... is Ginger Rogers or Cyd Charisse, both dancers from Thirties MGM musicals. I was obsessed with them when I was small, though I can't dance or sing.

My favourite item of clothing... My great, great aunt had a fantastic collection of hats. Before she died she gave me a straw hat with feathers all around it. It's bonkers and I wouldn't be able to wear it anywhere, but I love it.

I wish I'd never worn... I always go back to the day of the IPO [Initial Public Offering] for I completely underestimated the press attention and got to bed at 3am and was back in the office at 6am, having thrown on the first thing I saw and not having brushed my hair. And it was the day I was photographed more than any other in my life.

It's not fashionable but I like... thinking about how to send significantly fewer people to prison. We're fast-forwarding into disaster by opening ever-bigger prisons and sending more and more people into a system that is fundamentally broken.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at... remembering telephone numbers.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... preserving the status quo. I'm interested in disruption and how to leap-frog into a better situation rather than chipping away at pre-existing channels.

All my money goes on... travel.

If I have time to myself... I read, away from my computer screen. I'm bombarded each morning by news and messages online so have no time to read a paper.

I drive... I can't drive any more, much to the hilarity of my friends who think I was the worst driver ever. I drove at breakneck speed and parked wherever at whatever angle.

My flat is... bright and colourful. I revolt against the appalling beige descent on interior design.

My most valuable possession is... [My boyfriend] Chris gave me his great-grandmother's emerald engagement ring, which I wear on the first finger of my right hand which is smashed and weird from the accident – the ring makes it slightly better.

My favourite building... is the Duomo in Florence. My father took me there late at night when I was 13. As we came round the corner, the moon came out. I burst into tears! Movie heaven... The Band Wagon with Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire: it's my favourite movie by far.A book that changed me ... William Godwin questioned how the state deemed criminals, and the nature/nurture debate. His books sparked my interest in the subject.

My favourite work of art... Ori Gersht takes traditional paintings and recreates them with flowers; he freezes the flowers, inserts explosives in the petals, blows them up and takes photos of them.

The best invention ever... the internet.

In 10 years' time, I hope to be... I hope in some small but meaningful way to have helped some people. To make people more active as citizens, and instill a social purpose.

My greatest regret... It is not constructive to have regrets. I am sad that I nearly died in a car crash, but life goes on.

My life in seven words... dot, com, bust, boom; still alive – hooray!

A life in brief
Martha Lane Fox was born on 10 February, 1973 in London. The founder of the hugely successful website, she is now a non-executive director of Marks & Spencer and Channel 4, a trustee for Reprieve, a prison reform charity, patron of education pressure group CAMFED, and has set up her own charity, Antigone, a grant-making trust.

In May 2004, she suffered a near-fatal car accident, in which she broke her pelvis in six places and seriously damaged her arms and legs. She lives in central London with her boyfriend. Her latest project is the TalkTalk Innovation in the Community Awards 2008, which is open to UK-based, not-for-profit organisations or community groups. Visit