Danny Jones is the Director of Off Grid Energy, who produce Grid to Go, a hybrid power generator. Based in the Midlands, it was a finalist in the recent Start Up Hub small business competition, sponsored by Fujitsu, Danny talks about his experience of the competition, as well as giving some thoughts on how big businesses and government bodies can help start ups succeed.
Grid to Go, our hybrid power generator, was borne from personal pain. Having spent two decades shoe-horning electrical gear in to yacht engine rooms, I hatched the idea of putting what I had learnt into a box that could be used alongside a diesel generator to cut fuel and CO₂. The immediate response was phenomenal and so Off Grid Energy Ltd. was created to develop the idea in to a commercial reality.
Eighteen months on and we are in full series production and have exceeded our business goals many times over. We are proud to stake a claim to being a British manufacturing company involved in carbon reduction technology, an employer of skilled personnel, a training provider, exporter and a rapidly growing business. It is these strengths that we believe will have caught the eye of the selection panel.
Our involvement with the Start up Hub has been an eye-opener. Discussions we had at the event and subsequently have been game changing. This ranges from straightforward introductions to unconditional offers of support in terms of expertise across the whole spectrum of business activities both technical and commercial.
We already have experience of how big business can help a small company. We have partnered with Scottish and Southern Electricity in developing a version of our product based on Lithium Ion battery technology. This is something we would not have contemplated undertaking as a start up without the support and belief of the team at SSE. As a result, it now has a gold standard solution to a need it had and we have a product variant that is world class. It’s win-win. We hope to replicate this experience with the connections we made at the Start Up Hub competition and initial prospects are very positive.
My advice to other entrepreneurs, following our experience in the competition, is this: take bold steps and you will see great success. We have taken some risky decisions, such as committing to rent a commercial property that, at the time was too big and too expensive for us, but we have now outgrown it. Had we not had the foresight and conviction we would not have achieved the same things.
We are fortunate in that growth for us has been rapid and continues at quite a pace. However, for many small businesses, the initiatives available to help them are modest, or the paperwork is too time consuming for it to be of benefit. Big businesses and government bodies need to make big gestures to be of any substantial help to entrepreneurs.
For us, help from government and big business is as much about opening doors and removing obstacles as anything else. Simple and inexpensive steps for big business, such as favourable payment terms, can change the world for a fledgling company. Equally, what we do has the ability, without exaggeration, to have huge impact that benefits big business and the nation as a whole through cost savings and carbon reduction.
When that is combined with creating manufacturing jobs and helping with the balance of trade then we all win!