A Day in the Life Interview with Laurence Kemball Cook, CEO of Pavegen
This week we are joined by entrepreneur Laurence Kemball Cook, CEO of Pavegen, a London based startup, pioneering flooring technology to redefine sustainability and empower communities across the globe, utilising the power of footsteps to contribute to a greater environmental goal.
- First can you tell us a bit about your job? What does your company do?
First and foremost, I am an engineer and designer. I came up with the idea for Pavegen in my bedroom, having previously worked at one of the world’s leading energy companies developing new sustainable forms of lighting, but when I couldn’t find a viable way to generate energy from solar panels I was subsequently fired. So hanging my head in shame I left the company and started to consider other ways to generate energy, leading me to question whether you could create energy from footsteps. I’m fascinated with our cities and how to make them more sustainable.
From this one idea in my bedroom which took three years to pioneer we have got to a place whereby we have around 40 members of staff worldwide (majority of whom are currently completing our project in Washington, DC), we’ve done five TED Talks, we’ve got more than 1,500 investors and we are installing our technology just stones throw away from the White House, one of our biggest projects ever, so it’s a really exciting time for Pavegen.
- What time does your day start, and what does your typical work day schedule look like?
I tend to run to work, currently I’m training for an Ironman so depending on the weather I will either run or cycle. Once I get into the office I start by spending some time with the team, going through all our recent projects and working out where the commercial sales are going to come from.
I then spend some time with the communications team, brainstorming what our latest content will cover. The afternoon might be spent with the CFO crunching numbers and projections or the design team, working on new projects and live concept briefs.
I also spend a lot of time in conversation with potential investors and clients, and on top of all that I do a lot of speaking engagements and the usual answering emails. Currently, I have 86,141 unread emails – and that’s a good day!
- What kind of projects are you currently working on?
We’ve got some really exciting projects coming up, a few that I’m unable to talk about just yet, but we’re just completing a really exciting project not too far from the White House, generating power from the footfall of visitors.
We are also in discussion with leading governmental and educational groups in the Middle East and are in the planning stages with working with some of the largest infrastructure companies in the US. We are in talks with some of the biggest transport groups along the East Coast of the US for deployment in rail networks. We are at a really exciting stage, and we are just so busy with so many different projects on the go.
- What do you consider the greatest achievement in your work to date?
I think it was when we powered a Favela in Brazil in 2014, using only people’s footsteps. We collaborated with Shell’s #makethefuture campaign to create a 200 tile people powered football pitch. As the children played football their energy was stored in batteries to power the pitch floodlights at night, inspiring an entire community through sport.
- What’s the best thing about working at your company?
I don’t look at it like a job, to me it doesn’t feel like work. I’m just doing what I think is right, growing the idea and changing communities. When you run your own business everything around you changes so quickly: it’s always evolving, that’s the best thing, the sheer variety of each day. One day I’m on a plane with David Cameron, another I’m hanging out with Sadiq Khan, then I’m in Akon’s hip hop video, then I’m off to give a keynote on the internal energy conversation technology to rover scientists.
- What is the one app you could not live without?
Strava, it’s a sports app that tracks all your activity and puts it all into an online database, which allows me to study and keep up with my fitness.
- Where is the after work hangout?
We have a Pavegen football and running club and the whole team has just signed up for a 10k, which should be really great fun. Then there is always the local pub just across the road at the end of the week.
- Who is your professional role model?
I’ve got a few, Elon Musk and James Dyson because of their development of core technologies that shape the world we live in today,.
On a more practical level I would say Will King, who created “King of Shaves” – he is someone who I just really look up to.
- What makes London a good city for technology and startups?
London is a melting pot for creativity, engineering and design. It possesses an inspiring culture, fast transport links, great time zone and has amazing financial paths. It is where everything just comes together, making it much easier when scaling up a business.
- Which tech companies are you most excited about?
There is a new electric car company called “Faraday Futures”, which is really cool! They’re developing intelligent electric vehicles. I also really like EnterpriseJungle, founded by Emma Sinclair. The company delivers innovative solutions to companies using SAP, and she’s one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs I have ever met .
- What are the top 3 qualities you look for in an employee?
- Culture fit: they have to be forward thinking, visionary, passionate and not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in
- They have to be great communicators
- They must be technically excellent in their field of expertise
- We recently saw that you went to the US with Sadiq Khan to promote London startups how was that?
It was a great privilege to be chosen by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to be part of the team of the fastest growing tech startups in the UK. It allowed us unparalleled access to the US government and getting introduced by the Mayor was an invaluable experience as well as to meet the official government figures whom if I had tried to approach myself would have been much more difficult. It was also a great opportunity to close a couple of deals we had been working on, as well as allowing for collaboration with states and cities. It was also amazing to be surrounded by so many amazing and talented entrepreneurs.
- And finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting out?
If you are thinking of going into tech I think it’s really important that you have a deep understanding of your product and also at least somewhat of an idea of how to solve it. Having tech experience in the beginning of your journey makes it much easier to start out and maintain momentum.