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Pavegen in the Loop

Tue, 07 October 2014

Contributed by Laurence Kemball-Cook, Pavegen Systems founder
At the stage of inception, Pavegen was in an endless loop – we needed global recognition and positive coverage to progress financially, but we needed the money from investment to gain global recognition and positive coverage. When Pavegen was founded in 2009, I knew starting up my own business during the economic crisis was going to be a challenge. Especially, having to persuade companies that energy-harvesting tiles are tiles of the future. Back then, no one wanted to spend money on something that was new, unique, but above all, unheard of.  
Building my business was a journey; every day there were many obstacles that I had to overcome, but I believed in my product and wanted others to believe in it too. Pavegen is an innovation that completely changes the public perception of renewable energy. It is engaging, informative, entertaining and educational, and these factors don’t usually correlate to a sustainable energy resource. This makes the product unique. 
The greatest hurdle of my journey was trying to start up my business during the recession in the UK. Banks would not lend. Venture capital firms wanted revenue before they would invest. Universities demanded a significant stake percentage. Government subsidies were lacking. 
I had applied for the Shell LiveWIRE Awards, which allowed me to place a spotlight on my innovation. I knew that no matter what I did, it would eventually fall on getting my name out in the energy-harvesting market. I couldn’t succeed with Pavegen if no-one knew about the product, but with Shell’s continuous support, it felt like I had everyone’s attention. Growing the business from a financial standpoint was a huge challenge; my journey from bedroom to boardroom has resulted in making Pavegen the global leader in the footfall energy harvesting market.
Even with our success, I never imagined we’d be working to light up Europe’s busiest airport, Heathrow – let alone changing perceptions on energy usage with 200 tiles in Rio de Janeiro to create the world’s first people powered football pitch. Working with Shell on our largest installation to date, in Rio, was exhilarating and surreal. Our partnership amplified the coverage; we found ourselves in the Telegraph, BBC, Fox News, CBS News, Yahoo… everything escalated, and we are now officially on the map.
It’s been a long journey, but definitely one worth taking and I know, for Pavegen, this is still only the beginning.
For all the aspiring entrepreneurs, my advice to you is to:
  1. Focus - Don’t try and juggle everything at once. Opportunities need to be taken, but take it one step at a time to avoid getting side-tracked. Make sure you keep your end goal in sight, but also remember to maintain an open-minded attitude to everything you encounter. After all, there are many paths you can take to get up the hill!
  2. Use social media - There are over 1.82 billion social network users in the world. Use your social media wisely to connect with the right people, so that they can engage with your content, and can keep up to date with your company. Keep your clients updated, but your readers wanting more. 
  3. Take part in start-up programs - I applied for Shell LiveWIRE in 2011, winning the grant that helped secure a partnership with Shell in the future. The support I received from Shell LiveWIRE was invaluable, and definitely gave me a whole load of new opportunities I didn’t consider before. Their continuous support, even to this day, is a huge asset to the team and our brand recognition. I would recommend applying to Shell LiveWIRE, or similar young-entrepreneurial programs, to help your start-up business grow. 
  4. Network - Network, Network, Network! Go to all the technology events, take your business card and give them out to everyone. Make sure you get every person to remember your name and your idea. You want to make yourself memorable. 
Entrepreneurs should know no rules and overcome all barriers. Our installation at Bestival in 2009 was the first step onto the ladder, and since then Pavegen has progressed massively, partnering with WWF, Uniqlo, and Schneider Electric (to name a few) and installing in over 20 countries!
The technology market is constantly evolving, which is why it’s crucial that your concept is innovative. As a young entrepreneur, you alone are the difference between a good idea and a great business. 

About Laurence Kemball-Cook (Founder of Pavegen Systems)

Laurence is the founder of Pavegen Systems. Pavegen’s signature paving tiles convert energy from people's footsteps into electrical power. In its early start-up years, Pavegen secured a £1,000 start-up award from Shell LiveWIRE and was a finalist for the 2011 Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. In 2014 Pavegen collaborated with Shell and world football legend Pelé to create the world's first player powered community football pitch in the Morro da Mineira favela in Brazil.

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