Lean in and pivot: Even Steve Jobs didn't work alone, startup boy

Group lessons for self-styled 'lone wolf' tech entrepreneurs

Radbot In which Damon Hart-Davis talks about life as a tech entrepreneur and tells us about his product.

I toiled in banking for circa 20 years, amongst other gigs, including at the much-loved Lehman Brothers (motto: “Where Vision Gets Bilked” or whatever) and RBS, and a previous fintech start-up of mine, though I’m also an electronics guy by background.

Lehman’s did give us baseball caps, but no superhero capes. Sometimes I wish I had that cape (and the spandex-ready-abs); along with the manual that tells you how to be a great manager and leader and visionary (though without the bilking); and the secret lair and supply of ready cash to fund the pimped-up ride and global-domination plan.

Now I’m in a different, smaller, and yet – paradoxically – bigger world. It's a big opportunity, a small company, and I'm with my business partner and COO, Mark.

And this time we really do have a chance to save the world through IoT and commerce, even if my abs may forever be beyond hope.

Didn’t international trade secretary Liam Fox just inform Brits that it is their $DEITY-given duty to trade? That’s not fat, just the family pack, Doctor Fox!

Come on duty, here I am, ready to take it on the chest. Like Superman stepping into the call box, Batman scanning the night sky of Gotham City for the bat signal or, maybe, just the Tic – I have my costume with my pants on the outside, and I’m ready to serve. In this case, Britannia and beyond!

Our big idea? Making money, energy and carbon saving work for Joe Everyone at home, simple, cheap and “just works” like your fridge light coming on so you can see what you stashed when you open the door! Our mission is to smarten up 400 million radiators across Europe, saving the typical UK punter £300 per year on their gas bill, for example, and knocking as much as 10 per cent off the UK’s carbon footprint. And without any need for perplexing instruction manuals or expensive bling or cold toes.

Why this? Putting cash in the pockets of millions of people and keeping our country habitable for our kids, while fixing an interesting engineering, social and financial problem – this keeps us off the streets. It’s beyond academics and techies in their ivory towers, and business people whose self-worth is tied to the size of their yacht: we think that we have the right skills to make this work.

We don't need another (lone) hero

Marvel and DC heroes work alone – apart from Batman – but, as I’ve discovered, heroes of entrepreneurial tech don’t. They cannot.

It’s against the unwritten rules.

Yes, we are a tech start-up with a better, disruptive (oh yeah, baby!) mousetrap designed by its STEM-loving founder. It even works. So why aren't medals in the post already? And why don’t co-working spaces in London look more like this lab?

The technology, it turns out, is only a small element of this new story of a commercially successful product that we’re trying to write. The lone (tech) wolf is rarely going to change the world – Bond movies and business-school textbook examples notwithstanding.

The startup needs a team with the right mix of people, money and skills – and preferably not all clones of one another!

Full disclosure: my startup OpenTRV has received funding from EU and UK government sources.

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That brings me on to branding and crowdfunding and... and...

Next, see how a real tech startup brings a consumer product to market. ®




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