The Entrepreneur: Laurence Kemball-Cook, Pavegen

The eco entrepreneur on his transition “from bedroom to boardroom”, operating globally in 14 countries and why a strong team is essential…

Founder: Laurence Kemball-Cook
Company: Pavegen
Website: www.pavegen.com
Description in one line: Renewable electricity from wasted footfall energy
Previous companies: None

Business growth 

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • Our unique, disruptive technology that revolutionises the energy harvesting market
  • Our revenue generation – particularly through the ability to market the product at any location with high footfall
  • Product sales through both a direct and global agency network online, as well as a strong use of digital channels

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

The transition from bedroom to boardroom – taking a concept through the initial stages and reaching a point where Pavegen consists of a growing team of entrepreneurs, scientists, and innovators, with a global distribution in over 14 countries. Also, hanging out with David Cameron and supporting government initiatives was pretty great!

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

The benefit of being a small company is that we can pivot really quickly – we’re always looking at metrics around user acquisition through digital and alternative channels. As a hardware and manufacturing business, it’s really important to monitor cash flow on a daily basis – and sometimes minute by minute!

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

70% of our market is international; we operate in 14 countries across the world. We work really closely with organisations, such as UKTI and the British government, to assist growth in key markets.

In the past couple of weeks we launched new projects in Japan and Malaysia, and we’re due our largest installation in Brazil in the foreseeable future.

Describe your growth funding path:

Pavegen has completed a number of investment rounds. Our lead investor is Renaissance Capital Partners, who offer a bunch of support and work very closely with us. In 2013 we had a positive EBITDA, which was great, and we continue to look for growth via both equity funding and through driving revenue in the global marketplace.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business? 

There’s huge movement towards smart cities and new infrastructure solutions connected to big data. We developed a unique API that allows data to be sent for monitoring and communicating. That’s our unique offering that we’ve been developing over the past few years, and it’s benefitted us greatly.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

In three years we aim to become commercially viable, on par with technologies such as solar that have had 40 years development time. We aim to equate the cost of our tiles to standard flooring solutions. I’m ambitious and international growth is our target – £100m revenue from international markets would fit our model.

Growth challenges 

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Going through the pain and struggle of taking a concept, based in a bedroom in South London, through to a market-ready technology which people show more faith towards!

What was your biggest business mistake?

Entrepreneurs, at the early stages, should deal with everything in a business; sales, HR, finance, technology development, etc. I definitely hung on to that for too long, working 20hr days, and finally realising that the human body can sometimes say no. It took me a while to learn about that balance.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Some entrepreneurs pursue ideas that aren’t going to transition into a scalable, investable business, due to the addressable market not being suitable. Entrepreneurs should pivot as early as they can to get to the MVP (minimum value proposition) that has a scalable market opportunity.

How will your market look in three years?

By 2017 I aim for Pavegen to be the leading energy-harvesting product on the global market, contributing towards smart cities across the world.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

It’s important to surround yourself with people who have experience, as well as believing in your idea and following through with the commitment, regardless of the risks at stake.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

Bikes. I love cycle racing up the biggest mountains I can find.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

All I’ve ever done is build Pavegen since graduation, and I’ve learnt through all my mistakes, both big and small. We’re constantly recruiting MBAs, and experience is really critical for people to hit the ground running within our business. Learning on the job, I think, is the best way to do it.  

What would make you a better leader?

Nothing can be done without a great team surrounding you, and I strongly believe this. It’s absolutely vital to invest in staff and their development on a regular basis. I admit, that due to the scale Pavegen is at, and the amount of time I spend with clients, I can’t personally involve myself with every staff member. I hope to find a way to spend more one-on-one time with the team, helping to maintain the culture of a tight-knit business.

Business book:

Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey A Moore

Laurence Kemball-Cook will be speaking at the Fast Growth Entrepreneurs Club on Tuesday 10th June 2014. For more information please visit www.fastgrowthentrepreneurs.com

Follow us on twitter @FGEntrepreneurs. LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/grp/FastGrowthEntrepreneursClub

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