Eight Questions for the 'Final 8' - Christopher Yeomans
In each of the eight days running up to the 2011 Shell LiveWIRE Young
Entrepreneur of the Year Award, we will be profiling each of the eight
finalists to give you some background on their entrepreneurial journey
so far. Fourth up is Christopher Yeomans of Estriatus Energy.
To learn more about Estriatus Energy visit Christopher's Alumni page.
give us some background on how your business got started?
had originally come up with the idea during travel in Mexico in 2007 where I
held a crewing position on a small yacht. It occurred to me that a device
pulled behind the boat could generate power for on-board electrical equipment.
Devices for this purpose already existed but were crude and inefficient; a
better alternative seemed to be a belt type design featuring a succession of
paddles or blades. Upon returning to the UK it became clear that renewable
power was a hot topic, and ever more evidence was being given for its
importance and, as such, more funding was being provided for its investigation.
I realised that I had invented something applicable to this new economic boom
and began designing and building a very small scale prototype. Following
testing, the potential for the technology was obvious, as at even a small
scale, the torque generated by the machine from a very small flow was enormous.
set up the company in 2009 in order to qualify for certain grants and other
funding options which were available to innovative technologies for development
and IP protection. We used this funding to establish our intellectual property
and to build the first full scale prototype, as well as to fund testing on the
tests gave me the confidence to pursue the business and continue to develop the
design, as the potential for a large electrical output was evident in the data.
been the biggest barrier you have overcome to get this far?
most significant barrier I have had to overcome thus far, beyond the lack of
finances, would be the lack of any indicative educational qualifications. I
left education at A-Level with no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so I didn’t
have focus enough to choose a degree path. Only since then did I realise I had a
penchant for engineering, largely teaching myself all that I needed to know
from online research and technical manuals. Backing up my own research with
advice and input from fluid dynamics experts and university professors was the
only way I was able to convince others of the technology, as most grant
awarding bodies tend to shun non-graduate applicants – something I found very
frustrating, especially when some of the world’s top entrepreneurs, including
Branson and Sugar, never obtained a degree.
Shell LiveWIRE helped you on your journey?
LiveWIRE has given me the confidence to pursue the business. Even though I
might get fifty negative responses for every positive one, that single one is
enough to keep spirits high enough to apply for the next possible rejection.
It’s something which paid off only a couple of months ago, leading to grant
funding from the Technology Strategy Board, and investment. The LiveWIRE
funding allowed me to apply for funding over a much larger area of the country,
extending my reach and enabling me to cover more ground. Were it not for the
Shell LIveWIRE funding I would not have been able to afford the expenses
involved in this search, which did eventually pay off.
been the best bit of advice you’ve received on your entrepreneurial journey?
received two good pieces of advice from two different sources which I consider
highly important above all others. Firstly, someone I met during my time in
Mexico whom I stayed in touch with had formerly been a successful entrepreneur,
owning a holiday resort and nightclub chain. His most important piece of advice
was: ‘you’ve got to have a thick skin’. There is no shortage of doubt in the
world, and you will inevitably find more people telling you why it won’t work
than people who tell you your idea is good.
second piece of advice comes from an old western called ‘A man called Nobody’,
which essentially suggests that not everyone who wishes you well is doing you
any good, and not everyone who causes you harm is necessarily doing damage.
Positive critique can often lead people to pursue an idea which might need more
work, resulting in a poor product and a bad company image, whereas negative
critique can indicate flaws to be worked out in the early stages.
entrepreneurs do you look to for inspiration?
always regarded Branson as a role model for his successes in developing a
business from scratch, with no university qualifications. It’s nice to know it
is possible. Also Google, for their policy written on plaques throughout their
buildings: ‘Don’t Be Evil’. They have, since their inception, sought to avoid
being lumbered with the same negative reputation as other ‘E-Giants’ whose
business practices have been seen as violent or aggressive. Google has risen to
be a global superpower simply by offering a good service, listening to their
customers, and taking every care not to endorse any unethical practice.
you most looking forward to at Shell LiveWIRE LIVE! 2011?
highly looking forward to presenting my proposal to the austere panel of judges
and hopefully receiving some feedback from some very successful individuals.
I’m also hoping to get the opportunity to talk to Shell’s John MacArthur as I
have many questions regarding Shell’s CO2 policies and where
Estriatus Energy might play a role in the future in assisting with these.
it mean to you and the business if you win?
money and prestige of winning the Grand Idea’s award this year would top up our
funds by just enough to enable us to fuel the growth of the business and
install turbines, enabling the revenue generated by the first instances to
allow the company to grow without the need to seek further funding from
external sources, maintaining more equity in the company. The sooner we grow
the sooner we can grow bigger, and it is our eventual aim to implement our
ocean current generating technology when we have expanded enough from our river
you think can be done to help entrepreneurs in the future?
the early stages of the company’s development I was informed of a facility
which used to exist which provided potential inventors access to workshop
machinery and tools which they otherwise wouldn’t have. [It was] semi-charitable
I believe [and] it funded itself from subscriptions to the facilities. Apparently
they no longer exist – I imagine it would be incredibly beneficial to a lot of
people to see them reinstated.
For full details on each of the eight finalists for the 2011 Shell
LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, please visit the 'Final 8' page.
You can watch the 60-second elevator pitch video submitted by
Christopher as part of the Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Award process in the
top right-hand corner of your screen.