March 17, 2017, by Elizabeth Smith
Ingenuity17 Meet the Mentors: Steve Watts
The Ingenuity17 Conference was the first opportunity mentors, speakers and entrants had the opportunity to meet, network and collaborate. As the competition develops, and entrants get closer to the £110,000+ prize fund, we will be showcasing some of the successful entrepreneurs supporting and paving the way for the next generation…
This week it’s the turn of University of Nottingham Alumnus, Steve Watts (Electrical & Electronic Engineering, 1988)!
Founder and Director
What is your educational background?
I am a University of Nottingham Alumnus, having studied Electrical & Electronic Engineering decades ago!
I have never lost the University from my blood and have followed progress with excitement to the much bigger and wider spread establishment it is today.
I continued my education ‘on-the-job’ with over 20 years at PA Consulting Group before setting up my own consultancy business just over two years ago. And the education goes on…!
How did you originally get involved with The Ingenuity Lab?
I got involved with exciting and diverse ideas such as sky-diving cameras, snowboards with displays and electronic door locks. I worked with Tom Parker, who started Motor Reflex for a while, and we worked on a GoPro camera stabiliser.
How did you find the Ingenuity17 Conference?
I became involved with the start-up scene quite a way into my career through Wayra in London, and continue to be amazed with the creativity and unbounded ambition of young companies and entrepreneurs like those I met at the Ingenuity17 Conference.
The Ingenuity17 Conference was full of diversity: innovative products; new apps; ideas to help people in Africa and China – to mention just some of the breadth. Every business had passion and drive through its team.
The speakers were also very inspiring. However ‘experienced’ we become, we never stop picking up new ideas, thoughts, direction, contacts.
What piece of advice would you give to anyone interested in setting up their own business?
Think through what you want out of life and what drives you, and talk to lots of people (is that two pieces?).
A good business idea and plan is clearly important but you have to be sure you really want to dive in and do it… you will want to relish the challenges and hard work ahead.
Talk to peers, other entrepreneurs who have taken the plunge, (don’t forget partners, friends and family!) and very importantly your potential team and the network you will want to work with.
What do you think are the key challenges that new entrepreneurs face when setting up a business?
Challenges are both personal and business related.
On the personal side, a key challenge is taking a path into the unknown, perhaps with less security than before and accepting there is a lot you will have to learn the hard way. Like how to set up your first office…
On the business side another is becoming too attached to a particular business or technical idea and being unwilling to change it if you learn it isn’t going to succeed. If it isn’t going to succeed, move on – take a different path with your team and ecosystem – few companies get it right first time!
What work are you currently involved in?
I have a bit of a portfolio career at the moment.
Mostly I help companies use new electronic-based technologies and products to deliver innovative business change, often outside their traditional knowledge space. Much of this is around the Internet-of-Things, everything connected, but also in large-area electronics for low-cost, high-volume, low-power.
For many new companies, the new connected world is far from their comfort zone. I provide ‘technology translation’ to help clients understand it: at the board-level for the business consequences; at the operating level for how to utilise it.
I also help growing companies build new business processes and commercialise internal IP.
If you started your business today, what would you do differently?
I don’t think I would do anything much differently because most of the benefits I have gained have come from learning the hard way!
One of the surprises was the fact I couldn’t turn my mind off work related issues as I could when I was ‘employed’ – so many nights are spent whirring ideas around. It truly is 24-7!
To find out more about the work Steve Watts is up to with Cambridge IQ, please visit his website.