“Timing, perseverance, and 10 years of trying will make you look like an overnight success”, said Twitter’s co-founder Biz Stone. There are lots of variants of the “it takes a long time to be an overnight success” quote, but I was struck again by how true this must be at last night’s Digital Innovators event, organised by Bird & Bird and City A.M.
The event featured an impressive line-up of entrepreneurs and founders at businesses addressing challenges in the retail, mobile, energy, transportation and fulfillment sectors. Each speaker, in their own way, highlighted the often under-regarded quality of patience in early stage businesses.
Tom Adeyoola Is the CEO and Founder of online retail technology business Metail. The company is ten years old - frankly ancient by the standards of most companies in your nearest WeWork or Runway East. The company has 11 patents granted, and a further 36 pending. Metail has just had a patent granted from an application they made in the US in 2011 - that’s seven years to get a patent. Innumerable businesses and have incorporated and failed in that time.
We also heard from autonomous driving company FiveAI, which launched publicly in 2016. Its VP of product, Ben Peters, said that this year the UK’s Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that autonomous vehicles will be on the road by 2021. This means that it will have taken over five years to get FiveAI-powered cars on the road, but even then “there is still an awful lot of work to do to get autonomous vehicles on the road” in that time frame. Some engineering challenges simply have a very high level of complexity.
Another speaker was Andrew Carmody, Chief Strategy Officer of digi.me. The company’s technology allows consumers to request all of their data from online business. Clearly, this is a business whose time has come with GDPR legislation around consumer data and privacy coming into effect in May of this year. But again, this is technology that the company has been working on for five years. “Timing”, says Carmody, “is everything”.
Lawrence Kemball-Cook, the CEO and Founder of Pavegen made a similar point about their business. Again, theirs is a business which is nearly a decade old, and only started making revenues in their last four years. It apparently took two and a half years just to get their tech outside of The White House.
It’s not all a long haul though. Giles Rhys Jones of geocoding company what3words said that they met Mercedes-Benz at an event and were in-car within six months! But for most entrepreneurs, you’ll need to strap in for the long haul because overnight successes are few and far between.
But 2018 will certainly be a year for driving even more innovation for the 50 up-and-coming companies chosen as City A.M. and Bird & Birds Digital Innovators (check them out here) only two of which - with your help - will soon be crowned winners. The carefully selected bunch of trailblazing firms who are predicted to change lives and transform markets in the years to come are already harnessing technology and breaking boundaries. And you can help choose just which ones you think are doing it best by voting for your favourite firms here to help us whittle it down to a top ten shortlist.