Carlton Cummins – Winner of July’s Shell LiveWire Smarter Future Award!

carltonCongratulations to Carlton for winning July’s Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award!

The Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Programme awards £5,000 start-up funding for smart business ideas that will help meet the needs of our growing population. The programme also gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to be considered for the annual £25,000 Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year award and to receive a coaching workshop with Shell senior business leaders.

The competition looks for ideas that address the UK’s future transport, energy, natural resource challenges, or makes our urban environments cleaner and more sustainable to live and work in.

Carlton’s business, Aceleron, is a technology company focused on providing low cost energy storage by transforming end of life lithium ion batteries from electric vehicle and consumer electronics into affordable energy storage.

We interviewed Carlton about his experience applying for the Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Programme and what advice he would give to other students:

1. What was the application process like?

It was interesting – the application process was quite straight-forward, I filled out a form with a series of questions they used to evaluate the idea. They requested a 1 minute pitch video when I was shortlisted. The interesting bit is that we tried twice to win the competition (there is an application every month). We lost the first time, but the competition review team provided excellent feedback which we used to improve our application for the next month… then we won!

2. What challenges did you come across?

The biggest challenge was lack of precedence in the market. It’s a bit counter-intuitive but even in innovation competitions, judges have problems believing ideas that haven’t quite been done before. So we had to do A LOT of research to show projects and studies which showed that reuse of old lithium batteries was possible. We even went as far as conducting a small scale trial where we developed a testing process to identify the reuse potential of some old lithium batteries in consumer products (like laptops).

3. As part of the judging process, your elevator pitch video was published for a public online vote. What did you do to try and get the most votes for your video?

We used our twitter handle to share with persons that we were in the competition and needed votes. The voting process was a bit tricky so we made a GIF showing ‘how to vote’. To be honest though, this competition weighed the judges’ vote far more than the popular vote so we placed most of our focus on convincing them.

4. What will you be doing with your prize?

We intend to use the funds to carry out a second trial to follow up with the first. The first trial we demonstrated how to test batteries for reuse, so the second trial will be a technology demonstrator showing these batteries in a useful application. Essentially, if you were able to show that you can identify something that has value, the next logical step is to show what it can be used for, so we will use the fund to do just that!

5. What is the one thing you’ve learnt from this experience?

Hmm… persistence! It took a while to write the first application and it took a while to get the results so it was unpleasant to find out that we lost… BUT we asked for feedback. They provided some concerns that we hadn’t thought about so we went out and did more research to try to answer them as best as we could in the second application. Fortunately, we won the second time! A 3rd try would have meant a massive overhaul in the application! 😦

6. What advice would you give to students pursuing starting their own business?

Research and demonstration of your idea is important if you are looking to develop something that isn’t very dominant on the market. Really, the only way people will believe it is if you can find clever (cheap) ways of validating your idea.

By Che Cheung