Why start your own business?
There was very little thought in whether or not I could start my own business. For me, this was a very clear and natural thing to do. The most pertinent reason being freedom: the ability to be truly ‘creative’, and generate real value in a specific area, whilst controlling your direction, speed and style of travel is a real privilege.
At the heart of my work is a desire to combine the practical with the aesthetic, the functional with the idealistic, and to meet the challenges of a modern world in an innovative way. I look to achieve this through a methodology of rational inquiry, undertaken in the spirit of curiosity and experimentation. It has, and I’m sure will continue to be a great experience, allowing me to follow and explore my passions.
What would you have done if you hadn't started bio-bean?
I would have started another one… I have several ideas for businesses that I would love to explore. The most difficult thing is to effectively and pro-actively prioritise and be bold enough to put ideas you would like to take time developing to rest. I always keep my notebook and iPad at hand so as I can jot down thoughts and ideas and explore them later or in my free
I studied architecture, which may not be the most obvious route to what we do at bio-bean. I, however, see strong parallels between the two. In both I have looked to draw from the worlds of art and science, and used the subsequent cross-fertilisation of ideas to enhance and when appropriate innovate.
I still draw and design a lot, keeping my eye in, as well as writing occasionally for relevant periodicals. Science, technology, business; architecture, music, art; these are simply mechanisms through which to channel human creativity and ingenuity.
Did you have much support?
We have received a huge amount of support for bio-bean, both personally and professionally.
My family has provided the most incredible support, and I have worked very closely with my father – Dr Philip Kay, to bring bio-bean to fruition.
I am also a big believer in the value brought by a co-founder. A co-founder provides can be critical to building a successful business, providing entrepreneurs with energy, perspective, balance, and most importantly, filling gaps in each others knowledge and skill set. I teamed up with Benjamin Harriman (the co-founder and COO of bio-bean) very early on in our story. We first met in the suburbs of Istanbul where we got locked on a bus together – we quickly got to know each other, bonding over the merits of the composer Johann Sebastian Bach
Benjamin is an amazingly driven and talented entrepreneur and we have built the company together.
We have also received support and mentoring which is critical for any early stage company. The UK (and London in particular) is an amazing ecosystem for small businesses, particularly those that offer something new and exciting.
Both government and businesses are keen to foster innovation and growth within specific sections, and through these routes bio-bean has enjoyed considerable success in grants and awards.
Some of these include:
- The Sirius Programme, a pioneering new scheme from UKTI, designed to bring the world’s brightest entrepreneurial talent to the UK, enabling the best graduates with innovative start-up ideas to launch their businesses;
- The Mayor’s Low Carbon Prize (currently calling for entrants);
- The Shell LiveWIRE Awards (currently calling for entrants) – bio-bean eventually won ‘Shell Young Innovative Entrepreneur of the Year’;
- The Shell Springboard Awards;
- The TSB innovation vouchers (currently calling for entrants);
- The Pitch UK (currently calling for entrants).
What challenges have you faced?
We have faced a number of real challenges to date. We have looked to deal with them through looking calmly and objectively and situations and not being rushed into making a knee-jerk reaction.
How did you raise the money?
To date, we have been endorsed and funded by some prestigious institutions including the Shell Oil and the Mayor of London, through the incredible Sirius Programme, as well as receiving financial backing from several private investors. For seed investment we looked to secure a series of grants and competitions.
In looking for funding and investment from private parties we utilised both our personal and professional networks. My business partner and I simply put ourselves out there – we went to every networking and pitching event possible. We compiled a clean, simple and clear proposition and sold the idea. Money should chase good ideas and not the other way around.
What ambitions do you have for the future?
bio-bean is currently focusing on developing the company and infrastructure within London and the UK. However, through employing a flexible and scalable business model that will allow us to scale domestically and expand internationally. bio-bean has the potential to become a social enterprise with a global reach; a company which will deliver economic, social and
And finally.. do you have any idols?
Sir Terence Conran, the design legend, entrepreneur and father of British taste – I would love to meet him one day.
In terms of who I have actually learnt things from, my parents have been my greatest source of strength and inspiration – both my mother and father are incredibly clever and creative people. They taught me everything I know.