Rapid Innovation Group Portfolio On Track to Raise More than £15m

A recent survey of our portfolio of companies showed that, at the end of the third quarter, companies we are working with are on track to raise more than £15 million from equity, debt, and grant instruments.

Credible evidence of commercialisation activities and its early success is critical to attracting capital from any source – funders need to be able to justify their decisions and deliver engaging narratives to their investors.

In 2018 Rapid Innovation Group has worked closely with a number of its companies to raise capital from grant sources – we are finding an increasing volume of both government and private grant capital is chasing a static / slow growing volume of truly revolutionary companies, making this non-dilutive source of funds a particularly exciting seam to tap into.

Rapid Innovation Group Partner Founds Distributed Ledger Business

David Gates, partner at Rapid Innovation Group, has today founded a distributed ledger company to work on developing technology and practices to support the implementation of this exciting technology into chain of custody businesses.

David’s work will be part funded by Innovate UK, the UK Government’s innovation funding agency, as well as an equity investment from a private company which is seeking to find a reliable vendor for this type of technology. The company is trading as Saffron Traceability, as is currently seeking chain of custody and traceability businesses that wish to explore this exciting new domain.

Rapid Innovation Group Company Reaches Agreement in Principle From Private and Public Investors

Global Traceability Solutions GmbH, the operator of the largest traceability network in the world, has recently confirmed an equity investment from a number of public and private sources.

The funding will allow it to step beyond its core markets in timber and timber-related products into a number of exciting new domains in which it has secured anchor partners.

More information is available from www.global-traceability.com

Rapid Innovation: Goodbye to the Red Lion, Hello to the King(sway)

Today Rapid Innovation left Red Lion Square, its home since 2010, for a new office at 103 Kingsway – less than five minutes’ walk away.

The move comes as the company is expanding its breadth and depth of activities, although it maintains a focus on a portfolio of high-promise, deep technology companies – all of which have the potential to be world changing and world beating.

Life is beautiful: in memory of JP

JP had all of the energy and passion of the entrepreneur.
He was also a lovely man. Full of good cheer and resilient enthusiasm.

Being an entrepreneur and trying  to grow a business is a fight.  There is fun in it but at times the going is hard and the struggle all consuming. JP was up for it all and I admired him for that.

In his passing there is reflection. It makes me think how much is sacrificed in the building of a business. Without that struggle it would be hardly worth the effort. It is the struggle that defines and makes us. But in those quieter moments that can be so hard to find, we remember that there is so much more to  life: so much to wonder at, to discover, to experience, and to love. As JP’s skype profile put it: Life is beautiful.

From electricity metering to cookie cutters

A common trope in the smart buildings and energy efficiency technology space is that there is no cookie cutter approach to effectively manage energy in buildings. It’s a statement that speaks to the myriad of factors that can affect how individual buildings operate and how one technology solution does not fit all sizes.

A few months back, an energy management and smart meter expert from a global consultancy was in our office to discuss big data approaches to energy management. In particular, we were discussing the growing significance of circuit-level data in the built environment.

As our conversation went on, we began speaking about his native Australia and funnily enough it turns out his sister-in-law has carved out quite a niche market in selling cookie cutters (I’m not using a metaphor here). Lisa set up Cookie Cutter Shop in 2013 having identified a significant market opportunity.

We thought it’d make an interesting post on our entrepreneur’s viewpoint page. Unfortunately, I didn’t get an all-expenses trip to Australia, but I did have the pleasure of speaking with Lisa…

How did you identify that there was a market for cookie cutters in Australia?

In my previous role as the owner of a bricks and mortar kitchenwares specialty store we were constantly asked for cookie cutters that we didn’t have in our small range.  We would try to assist customers to find what they were looking for and couldn’t find many of the items from our Australian suppliers or other retailers.

You’ve now built up quite a significant range of cookie cutters. How did you go about sourcing these and developing relationships with suppliers?  

Trade events are an excellent source of new ideas, inspiration and networking.   Particularly if you can attend trade events that are not in your local area then the opportunities for you to meet with new suppliers that could bring something unique to your business are almost limitless at the larger shows.  It was at our first trade fair in Frankfurt that I discovered the diverse and unique range of cookie cutters available from Europe.

How have you made your brand defensible in the market?

We have targeted a niche product within the huge retail category of baking and cake decorating.  There are many online businesses selling cake decorating supplies with a small range of cookie cutters but our main goal was to have the largest range of cookie cutters available from the one place in Australia.  If we don’t have it we will do our best to assist our customers to find it.  We have also more recently partnered with a manufacturer in Spain to make our own custom design cookie cutters so that we can offer cutters that are perfectly suited to our market as well as being the best quality.   As well as the largest range and excellent quality products we pride ourselves on the best customer service which assists us to retain our customers.

What do you see as your biggest challenge?

During these first few years the balancing act of adding new cutters to our range whilst not going overboard has probably been my biggest challenge.  I have always loved cookie cutters so every time I see a new shape I want to be able to offer it to our customers.  We need to balance the cost of our inventory and its storage whilst growing the business and brand.

The other challenge is that our products are reasonably low cost so we need a certain volume of orders to meet our fixed costs.  Keeping our fixed costs low is very important and has also been challenging.

Do you think your business model can be exported to different markets in the world, or did this work only in its particular Australian context?

I believe this model could certainly be exported to other markets in the world.  Especially those markets that don’t have an established network of larger cookie cutter suppliers.  There are certainly opportunities as we are sending many international orders each day at the moment.

What’s the most interesting cookie cutter shape you’ve seen out there?

This is a hard question, the most interesting cookie cutter shape.  The most interesting for me are the really detailed and intricately made cutters like our lighthouse cookie cutter or Cologne Cathedral.  These cutters make cookies that don’t need any decorating because they just look so beautiful with all the embossed details.  I also love checking out antique shops for vintage shapes.

 

The other interesting set of cutters would have to be the ninjabread men. They are a bit of a hit with customers also.

And lastly, what’s your favorite home cooked meal?

At the moment with a fussy 3 year old in the house, my favourite home cooked meal is anything that she will eat without too much bribing!  Seriously though I think my favourite home cooked meal would have to be a simple roast pork with ample crackling and apple sauce.  It has been my favourite for as long as I remember so it probably has some sentimental value also.

In regards to home baking I am enjoying experimenting with some of our Christmas cookie cutters this year and making some delicious vanilla butter cookies spiced with Gingerbread spice.

A conversation with Ffion Rolph, Rapid Innovation Group Project Director

RIG’s summer intern, Nadya Kelly, sat down for lunch with Ffion Rolph, RIG’s project director. Over some pizza and coffee, they discussed Ffion’s time at RIG, technology interests, and gender issues.

NK: How did you end up working for RIG?

FR: Honestly, I came out of university, and like most people, didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I had a couple of ideas. I’ve always been into politics – I studied it at university and had been working at the Welsh Assembly for a while before I came across RIG. A friend knew someone who worked here. I decided it looked interesting and after meeting Shields a few times, it seemed like the right fit.

NK: What did you want to do as a kid, and how does working at RIG square up to your first aspirations?

FR: When I was younger, I was (and still am) really into sports. I wanted to be the first female Formula One champion. I’m a bit of a speed freak. As I got older, I wanted to be a barrister for a while, but I’ve always had a strong interest in science and technology. I feel like at RIG, I’m really engaging the geekier side of my personality and getting to indulge that.

NK: What do you say when you meet someone new and they ask you what you do?

FR: I tend to tell people about the tech and the specific challenges that I’m working on at the time. I find giving examples really helps. Most of the time people find those technologies interesting so it’s a great starting point!

NK: Do you enjoy having a broad scope of work at RIG or would you like to delve further into specific companies that really interest you?

FR: Deep down, I am probably a generalist. I really like variety but sometimes it can be rewarding or even essential for RIG to develop an intimate understanding of molecular level science. We have to get to know the industries in which we work, inside out. I enjoy new challenges, learning about new technologies, and maintaining the possibility of getting involved in many different fields.

NK: The natural next question is what are your specific interests in technology, and what do you think is particularly interesting right now?

FR: At risk of sounding cliché, energy is a huge challenge facing the world right now. There’s an emphasis on finding solutions for energy generation but that really is only half of the puzzle. Now we have a variety of renewable energy sources generating intermittent energy, there will be challenges to do with ensuring supply if we are to successfully transition to a renewable grid.

The automotive industry is really what is driving things forward in terms of battery storage but I think there’s also space for other solutions that might be more geared towards grid-scale storage; things like Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES). I think that the energy storage challenge definitely needs a bit more attention and funding over the next decade or two. Once we match storage with generation, we will have a complete solution.

The other thing I think is probably water. I’m going for the big themes! We’re always told that the world has enough food to feed itself two or three times over but that we just can’t distribute it. With water, we will have to address increasing shortages otherwise we face significant political and humanitarian consequences.

I think people are starting to become aware of the issues around meat and how much energy it takes to create one serving of beef, for example. People are starting to think about sustainable farming, how we distribute food to the areas of the world that need that food. We might be looking back at subsistence farming, which is how agriculture started. So I don’t think food is so much of a problem, but water, especially with climate change, is going to become a very scarce resource, so making the most of the water that we have, being able to reuse it, treat it efficiently, to use less energy when treating it, is going to become very important. So, what’s interesting today is working with the technologies that address the treatment of water and the energy required to use it.

NK: Do you enjoy a particular part of the process of helping companies to grow the most?

FR: I think because I like learning a lot about new things, the first few months – which are all about having conversations with experts in the market, learning about why or why not a technology might be interesting, becoming an expert in that sort of space – is always very satisfying. If you have any intellectual curiosity, you’d love doing that kind of thing. Once you’ve got enough knowledge of the market to understand how the technology might succeed, it’s very exciting to put together significant commercial deals either with a large internationally recognised partner – the Veolias of the world – or to get involved in direct sales. There is a certain excitement involved in sales and a sense of achievement in completing any deal, so I think that’s probably where I would look to focus in the future. I’ll still retain the intellectual curiosity but I think putting together relationships to deliver technologies that make a sustainable and meaningful difference to people’s lives is fairly exciting.

NK: Given a good idea, do you think your experience at RIG means you would now be excellently placed now to become an entrepreneur?

FR: Definitely, and I’d like to think if I came up with an idea for a company and there was an opportunity to do something then maybe I could build that within RIG. I wouldn’t want to hand it over to anyone else. If I started a company tomorrow, I would grow it by following everything that I already do at RIG to the same principles. I would love to be able to do that one day. I mostly want to own a restaurant which is still being an entrepreneur but a bit more on your feet!

NK: Do you think there is a gender issue at RIG? Is it problematic?

FR: I think when you look at the company, yes, it is easy to think that there’s a gender problem because there aren’t many women, and all the equity partners and directors are male. I don’t think, however, that there’s any lack of desire to hire more women. We would really like to have more women on the team; we’d like it to look 50:50 at least.

While RIG has its part to play, there is also a societal challenge around getting women into STEM subjects and careers. We still want to do everything we can to change that. I play an active role in recruitment: I place vacancies for grads and interns, and the ratio of applications that we get is really five-to-one male to female. So, while we want to hire more women, when the pool is so biased, it can be difficult. That isn’t to say that we don’t make a concerted effort to hire women but it does highlight part of the challenge faced by RIG and companies like it.

So yes, there is a challenge around gender at RIG but the company undoubtedly has several feminists, including men. Everyone, including women, can be guilty of internalised sexism but RIG is definitely an atmosphere where those notions can be challenged. People are very open to new ideas.

NK: What’s been the most challenging thing for you at RIG?

FR: Learning to understand that not every company we work with will succeed. Obviously, what we are interested in is building companies that solve macro-challenges, global challenges. Some of those companies may grow to be very big but Shields has always said we’re quite good at keeping companies going or maintaining a reasonable rate of growth, but that’s not why we or any of the entrepreneurs we work with are doing this. It’s a cliché but it comes with the idealism of entrepreneurs: they want to either ‘change the world’ or build huge financially successful companies. I still do and will always find it difficult when we stop working with a company. There are many reasons why: the company stops being successful; we discover that there is no market for its technology; or there is a technical issue which cannot be resolved. Regardless, it always feels a bit like a break-up.

I’ve worked with a few technologies which, on paper, sounded great. There was one which had a great story… We were setting up conversations with global players across a number of industries. Things were progressing well but once we started testing programmes with some of these potential partners, the technology did not perform as expected. That was sad and it’s fair to say I found it tough.

NK: How do you address the subtle diplomacy involved in dealing with clients?

FR: I think you have to be fairly emotionally intelligent and have a good deal of empathy. I think you have to remind yourself that even though it may be clear that the market is saying one thing (i.e. it challenges the entrepreneur’s views), you have to imagine that if you had developed the technology over 3, 5, 10 years like some of our clients, it would be like your child. If someone tells a parent their child is naughty or does something wrong, the parent doesn’t take kindly to it. It might be a weird analogy but I think you know what I mean.

All of us want to see the technologies that we work with succeed, but it’s all about how you deliver messages. We’re all on the same team at the end of the day. We have the same objectives but the honest feedback is not always what people want to hear.

It is important to appreciate they (our clients) are experts in what they do; visionaries who’ve developed something entirely novel. They’ve seen an opportunity, they’ve developed a great idea, they’ve built a technology. That requires a great deal of capability so you have to be conscious that some of their objections are quite valid. It doesn’t mean it’s not sometimes frustrating!

“I want to take a company from the lab to its first million and beyond”: An interview with James Evangelou on his 1 year RIG anniversary

James Evangelou joined Rapid Innovation Group in September 2015 after graduating from Cambridge and spending 6 month teaching English in Colombo. He spent a lunch with RIG Engagement Manager, Ffion Rolph, talking success, challenges, and his bid to take over RIG.

First things first, are you still happy to be here?

Yes! I’m still enjoying myself and I think there’s a lot to look forward to in the next year.

Good stuff. And thinking back, what made you want to join RIG?

Well, I was fresh out of university and looking for a job. I liked what RIG does and the technology areas in which it works looked very interesting.

After I met some of the team a few times, I felt there was a good fit. The third time we met, I was torn between working for RIG and taking an opportunity to teach in Sri Lanka for 6 months. When Shields told me to go to Sri Lanka and join RIG when I came back, I knew it would be a good place to work.

Did you have any preconceptions that turned out to be wrong?

I thought that there might be more of an individual focus, or that teams would be more distinct. In reality, there’s more of a company-wide team ethos. We all maintain our own areas of expertise but we address challenges together by drawing on the collective experience.

What’s been your biggest challenge over the last year?

I suppose I could try to define my greatest challenge with a particular moment or event. More generally, however, I think a great challenge for any new recruit is understanding and managing expectations in a new work environment. This comes back to the preconceptions you just asked me about. When I joined, I was told about the lack of formal hierarchy at RIG. But I still had my own notions about how things would work in practice and, at first, I had a tendency to defer to others’ experience or knowledge.

Over time, I’ve had to challenge myself to realise that it’s not about age or experience but about who is the subject-matter expert on a particular type of challenge or technology. In my first year, it’s been a challenge to put myself forward as a leader, but one which has brought a lot of opportunity.

And how about your greatest success?

I’ve really enjoyed finding interesting new technologies that we would like to work with and establishing the relationships to facilitate that. It’s also been rewarding to identify key applications and multiple value propositions for emerging energy technologies. The opportunity to prove and develop these with some of the largest energy service companies in Europe has bestowed a responsibility on me which requires organisation while fostering creativity.

What do you think are some really exciting technology areas right now?

I recently went to a conference on the ‘Industrial Internet of Things’ and this is an area I think is pretty interesting. What’s cool about it is that it overlaps with so many other things. It could be linked to advanced materials, industrial manufacturing, and a host of other things. This overlap is what makes it so interesting.

Beyond this, I’m also interested in energy infrastructure technologies – software or hardware – because of the significant macro challenges that they’re solving. The interplay of distributed generation, energy storage, and the significance of data in the wider energy ecosystem is demanding open innovation and collaboration It’s bringing out some clever technology in the process.

Any tips for some technologies to watch?

Energy storage is an area which is continuing to grow and is seen as an essential component of any electricity grid. The recent $85 million investment in the Germany battery company, Sonnen, is indicative of this perception. Storage, however, is a broad category that ranges from smaller scale home batteries to compressed air in large underground salt caverns and it will probably take a combination of these technologies to achieve a sustainable energy mix. For me, what’s really interesting is the integration of domestic battery technologies and their battery management systems with elements of device communication. This will help usher in the promised  era of smart homes and cities of the future.

I’d also like to add water technology to this list. Given the importance of water in our world and its increasing scarcity, an interesting water conservation or anti-desertification technology is something I’m keeping my eyes peeled for. The issue of water scarcity goes far beyond my interest in cool tech; it could well be one of the defining geopolitical issues of this century.

What do you think is one of the critical commercial challenges for an early stage technology company?

Finding the market before ‘finding’ the product. Tailor the product to the market and not the other way around. If the market isn’t obvious or there is no demand, then you need to look at selecting another market. How you position yourself relative to the market and the opportunity is more critical to success than how much time you spend perfecting your first prototype.

Define your ambition for us: where do you want to be in 3 years’ time?

Other than taking over RIG? I’d like to work with a really interesting technology, become an expert in that space, then develop and execute a strategy to take that company from the lab to its first million and beyond.

Finally, what’s it really like working at RIG?

Working here is both challenging and rewarding, and those two go very much hand in hand. The opportunities to work with interesting technology and be on the road mean that working here isn’t your standard office 9-5.

The people you get to work with at RIG aren’t half bad either.

Client triples turnover

Having closed off its financial year in the last few weeks, a Rapid Innovation Group Information-as-a-Service client is pleased to report it achieved its annual revenue targets whilst minimising customer turnover.

Rapid Innovation Group has worked with the client for four years, focussing on international partnerships and internal operations to enable revenue growth.  In that time the client has trebled its turnover and made significant advances to specialise and professionalise its operations.

The good run in growth is anticipated to continue into the next financial year, in which the management team are anticipating an acceleration of sales that will enable the business to grow by a further 50%.