Shell LiveWIRE alumni share their entrepreneurial journeys
Jul 18, 2017
Five inspirational alumni shared their entrepreneurial journeys in a special panel discussion to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Shell LiveWIRE at the recent Shell #makethefuture Accelerator event in London.
The event, chaired by Jo Cochrane, Shell’s VP of Social Performance, which was attended by entrepreneurs, partners and stakeholders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, enabled the LiveWIRE entrepreneurs to share their business achievements and challenges on their entrepreneurial journeys.
The five inspirational Shell LiveWIRE entrepreneurs participating in the discussion panel included:
Laurence Kemball-Cook, CEO and Founder of Pavegen, a clean technology company that generates electricity from footsteps. Its 5cm-thick tiles produce up to 7W of power per footstep when people land on a ‘hotspot’ in their centre. Laurence has been acclaimed by The Guardian newspaper for ‘shifting perceptions on renewable energy’. 2011 Shell LiveWIRE winner and 2013 Shell Springboard finalist.
Scott Dalgleish, Marketing Executive of Capture Mobility, which produces renewable energy from traffic turbulence. Capture Mobility recently used a Shell LiveWIRE Let’s Go Trade grant to explore the Chinese market for clean energy resulting in new business opportunities estimated to be worth between $60-80k.
Tom Robinson, Founder of Adaptavate, which is shaking up the construction industry with its ‘Breathaboard’ product – a biocomposite alternative to plasterboard. The use of Breathaboard leads to healthier people in energy efficient buildings. Shell LiveWIRE 2015 Young Entrepreneur of the Year. 2016 Shell #makethefuture Accelerator star entrepreneur.
Arthur Kay, Founder and CEO of bio-bean, an award-winning clean technology company that has industrialised the process of recycling spent coffee grounds into advanced biofuels and biochemicals. The company has raised millions in financing and has built the world’s first coffee waste recycling factory. 2013 Shell LiveWIRE Winner and 2014 Shell Springboard finalist.
Gary McEwan is a serial entrepreneur who won the Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 1993 with his HGV driver training company, Associated Freight Training. Gary now runs social enterprise Elevator, dedicated to the promotion and development of entrepreneurship, supporting over 2,500 businesses to start and scale in Scotland each year.
Main business achievements to date
Commenting on his main business achievements to date, Laurence Kemball-Cook said, “With Shell’s help, taking Pavegen globally. Most notably creating an entirely renewable powered soccer pitch using 200 Pavegen tiles that enabled kids to play football at any point, day or night. It has since inspired other local entrepreneurs to do similar things.”
Laurence also cites the installation of Pavegen tiles outside the White House, as well as building a team of 40 staff in 11 countries as highlights.
Scott Dalgleish revealed that actually putting the idea into action is Capture Mobility’s biggest initial achievement, saying, “The biggest moment for us was the first turbine put into action, because before that everything is hypothetical. All of a sudden people see it and think ‘oh that’s a really clever idea’. Then people like Shell see it and think ‘why has no one done this before’, which gives you a huge confidence boost.”
Tom Robinson acknowledges the importance of his Shell LiveWIRE award in the early days of his entrepreneurial journey, saying, “My first major achievement with Adaptavate was winning the LiveWIRE prize. Although looking back it was a small achievement, in the context that you find yourself in, it was massive.
“My biggest achievement to date is launching our first product. It meant we had taken a concept and moved our company from R&D to an operational company.”
How Shell LiveWIRE helped
All of the entrepreneurs acknowleged the role that Shell LiveWIRE has played in their entrepreneurial journeys, with Laurence Kemball-Cook saying, “Winning the Shell LiveWIRE award helped make Pavegen’s idea tangible.
“Shell took a punt on an idea that many said wouldn’t work, and look where we are now! On the brink of developing our largest project so far at the end of the year with Shell.
“Shell LiveWIRE’s initial faith made a mad idea tangible.”
Scott Dalgleish is full of praise for the difference Shell LiveWIRE made to the development of Capture Mobility, saying, “Shell gave us the credibility, support and huge confidence boost to help us get the product out there, turning an idea into something that could change the world.”
Arthur Kay believes that the support of Shell LiveWIRE came at exactly the right time for bio-bean, saying, “The really valuable thing from Shell is helping you bridge that initial gap from a wacky idea to getting to the next stage. It isn’t a lot of money, but it’s that amount that is critical at the right time of development.
“It is the funding, support, credibility and building a relationship that is fundamental to the success of all our businesses.
“Shell LiveWIRE has been able to cut through the madness and take ideas to the next level and improve the concept.”
Laurence Kemball-Cook outlined the major challenges facing Pavegen in its early days, saying, “I’ve learnt everything from mistakes. My first prototype – there were tons of flaws. I put my all into it for three years. No one would invest with no revenue. My team all quit because I couldn’t afford to hire them. Every day that went on, the problems become more complex.
“It’s entrepreneurs at similar stages that can help you with these complex issues. What you need is a great team behind you, perseverance, tenacity and courage.”
Three of the five alumni are entrepreneurs providing bright energy solutions, and Arthur Kay provided his assessment of the role bio-bean is playing in the energy transition, saying, “Bio-bean is very small and is not going to be even close to solving the global energy problems, but will still play a small part. Within cities you have a huge amount of waste, both organic and inorganic, but if you can turn that waste into valuable resources, that can be used to resupply cities in useful ways, you can compound the impact.
“We need to think about our energy future through a lens that we can look at and see how we should try to combine it with other issues instead of solely looking at it as an energy problem.”
Gary McEwan of Elevator, who won the UK Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 1993 with his HGV driver training company, Associated Freight Training, is full of praise for Shell’s long-term support of LiveWIRE, saying, “I am very impressed by Shell’s commitment over the past decades in supporting enterprise development and fostering the growth of local economies.
“Winning the LiveWIRE UK final, back in 1993, was the beginning of a remarkable journey for me. I can track every success back to that day. My team of more than 100 members is now supporting about 2,500 new and growing businesses in Scotland every year.”
For 35 years, Shell LiveWIRE has had a positive impact on entrepreneurs starting and growing sustainable businesses that: create jobs; improve local economies and societies; provide clean energy solutions that power human progress; and, become part of Shell’s value chain, contributing to local content development. This long-term social investment underlines that Shell is fully committed to creating shared value today and tomorrow.
For more information on 35 years of Shell LiveWIRE please click here.