We had a great turnout for our Demo Day on 14th March, where the fifth Accelerator cohort got to pitch their products. They stepped up, in a room full of friends, family and potential investors, to show us what they’ve achieved in the last six months…. And they’ve achieved a lot! This was their last chance, as part of the programme, to pitch for support on the next stage of their journey.
After a welcome drink and a chance to see the fantastic range of products on display, everyone settled down to hear more. Mat Hunter, CEO of CRL, and Marcus Shepherd, CFO for U+I, started things off by setting the scene and thanking the programme’s many supporters. Marcus reminded us of CRL’s outstanding pedigree. Formerly, as the Central Research Laboratory of EMI, it had always been a site for innovation and a place for brilliant young minds to grow, and U+I was keen to keep it that way.
Mat continued by leading a lively, and fascinating, discussion with two people who had ‘been there and done that’, when it came to tech start-ups. Rob Nicoll, co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Chip[s] Board, and CRL’s new Investor-in-Residence, Arnold du Toit, have both been through the process. Rob’s company makes biomaterial from potato waste and his team was on the Accelerator programme last year. Arnold, was founder and CEO of Drive Daddy where he spent over a decade developing smart tech in personal transport, and developed the world’s first hop-on golf trolley. Between them they had a lot of valuable advice to pass on to the newly graduating cohort.
When asked “what’s next after Demo Day?” both agreed that the important thing was to get the right people around you – not just in terms of potential staff, but also investors. Arnold admitted that he’d learned the hard way from hiring the wrong people – simply because they were available – and advised everyone to be guided instead by who they would hire if money was no object. As a ‘junior’ investor himself he’s come to realise that, in many ways, investors are on a very similar journey to entrepreneurs and they are aiming for growth too. Rob said that when Chip[s] Board started out they didn’t have a product, but they did have a great idea and a story that investors could get behind. He felt that helped them to get likeminded investors who shared their sustainability values and, especially when it came to staff, the right fit was more important to them.
It was great to hear their experiences first hand and, in keeping with the CRL community ethos, they both had lots of tips which they happily shared in a packed 15 minutes. They summed up by saying that leaving the Accelerator was just the beginning and it was important for the start-ups to keep the momentum going, and to choose carefully when deciding where to move to and who they would take on their journey.
The next part of the evening was led by Alice Johnson, CRL Programmes Manager, who introduced the 7 cohort members making their final 5-minute pitches:
Lauren Bell, of Cosi Care, is on a mission to help eczema sufferers, particularly children, break the damaging itch-scratch cycle with her solution which provides instant cooling relief. A staggering number of people, in the UK, suffer with the condition and her innovative product has already won her accolades including the Santander/Brunel University prize for emerging entrepreneur of the year.
Conor Lascelles and Lottie Hawkins, of Agile Planet, have developed a bio-burner which produces carbon-negative, organic fertiliser in the form of biochar, from waste wood, and is attracting the interest of serious gardeners with an eye on more organic and environmentally friendly practices.
Alecia Esson, of NxSteps, has designed a smart insole that uses pressure-sensing technology and an app, to provide biomechanical data, which will lead to better movement and less injury for the wearer.
Alex Strang and Charlie Cadbury, of Moment Pebble, have developed a solution to stress, in the form of a touchstone with a built in 30-second meditation, that brings mindful moments to busy people, without the need for apps and mobile phones.
Yaagni Patel, of Y-Heels, has developed innovative multi-height shoes, with an adaptable twist, that dispenses with the need to carry spare shoes. At the click of a button, the heel heights of her shoes can be interchanged to avoid the inconvenience of commuting in high heels.
Dorota Grabkowska, of Hero Skin, has developed next generation body armour for extreme supports that gets the right balance between maximum comfort and optimum protection. As a mountain biker herself, she knows that there are 2 types of mountain bikers… “those who have crashed and those who will”. Injuries are unavoidable and the impressive product reveal was met with enthusiastic applause.
Noah Bier, of Brahman Design, and his co-founders are in the business of creating beautifully designed products for creative people. Their signature product, the Hovel, is the first in their creative tool range which has led to a new partnership with US pencil makers, Blackwing. They are now planning for their next product, the Iris.
All of the start-ups presented their plans for the next stage, and they were very clear about what they needed for the next stage of growth from potential partners. To find out more about them, click on the links.
Alice summed up by saying “We’re really proud to see how far they’ve all come and the CRL team are looking forward to hearing more as they continue to make history. Some will stay with us – moving to the next stage with our BOOST programme. Some will join us in one of our co-working spaces, around the country, but we hope all will keep in touch and pop in to see us occasionally.”
Applications for the sixth CRL Accelerator programme is now closed but interested start-ups can still contact email@example.com to find out more, and express an interest in the programme, at any time.
Part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the programme supports the next generation of product-focused entrepreneurs by helping them to develop crucial areas of their business, to help ‘accelerate’ growth, and take products to market.