The founder of the wireless charging start-up on living out his childhood hobby of connecting things, and why overselling how your product will change the future is a bad idea.
When my wife and I went backpacking around the world in 2012, I realised that we were making strategic decisions about the places we visited based on the availability of power sockets, so we could recharge and connect with friends and family back home. We would peer through the door of South American coffee shops to see if we could spot a power outlet. If we spotted one, we stayed; if not, we moved on. Coffee was a byproduct of our need for power.
I’ve always had a desire to connect things. At 14 I networked our home and built a file server with components from one of my dad’s old work machines. I housed it in our toy cupboard, so my sister and I could have centralised storage to access our school work, regardless of which laptop we were using.
This was in the early 2000s. People didn’t normally do this. I used to plug in all sorts of things to this server, so I could access them remotely – hard drives, printers and more.
I studied for a degree in theology alongside my role at a large London church, where I was director of technology. I led the network design for a £6.5m building project as well as managing a team of 50 musicians, which is where I met my co-founder, Charlie Cannell. Throughout my backpacking travels, I would email him with business ideas. When I got back to London I put together some basic wireless charging equipment and showed him. In an Italian restaurant in Bond Street, Charlie said: “let’s do this.”
Three years later, in 2015, we deployed Chargifi, launching in 11 countries. We’re on a mission to empower a connected generation, giving them power when and where they need it.
We make wireless power “smart” – by which I mean we provide venues with the opportunity to manage, monitor and monetise wireless charging in their locations. As a result, they can attracting footfall, and visualise their return on investment through our dashboard and IoT platform.
While most new companies disrupt existing markets, wireless charging is a new market. The “power problem” is a universal one. Research by LG of 2,000 US smartphone users found that nearly nine out of 10 people “felt panic” when their phone battery dropped to 20pc or lower.
My wife and I put our savings into launching the company. We received our first round of investment 18 hours before our first child was born, in an angel round led by Brett Akker (of ZipCar fame). We’ve also been able to attract some great investors, including Intel Capital. We’ve worked closely with various teams there over the past year to accelerate our development.
It’s critical for any entrepreneur or innovator to have a vision of the future, but not lose sight of the importance of being a good day-to-day leader. When starting up, you need to be bold and declare what, why and how your company is going to change the world. This attracts people to your vision. The leadership side of this is also about being sensitive enough to understand where your customer fits into that vision.
In terms of what not to do – don’t oversell how your product will change future. You will just let people down. That said, don’t undersell it, either, because you will could miss out on larger opportunities.
Be obsessive in finding knowledge of your market, and build a strong team. Once you have these attributes, the crucial point will be knowing when the market is developed enough for you to really put on the gas and grab market share.
Power is the fundamental building block of a digital economy. In the past 30 days alone we’ve had more than 2,000 Chargifi sessions across our expanding network of locations. We’re now working across industry sectors and we recently opened up new partnerships in the UK with organisations such as Pret A Manger and npower, to provide their customers with power where and when they need it.