Forging elite start-ups


David Millar

David Millar

Technology Accelerator Director

In 2018 Matt Fraser and Tia Toomey were crowned The Fittest Man and The Fittest Woman on Earth at the CrossFit Games in the United States. Just getting to the Games is incredibly difficult, only the top 0.012% make it through the global regional events called the Open - a competition held over five weeks in CrossFit affiliates around the world. In 2018 over 420,000 competed in the regional Opens across 100 different countries.

The commitment, work and mental toughness required just to get to the Games is difficult to comprehend – as one CrossFit commentator famously said: “You don’t know how good you have to be just to suck at the CrossFit games.” The last placed person at the Games is one of the fittest humans to walk the Earth.

Athletes must be masters of multiple disciplines, from weight lifting, to running, gymnastics and swimming. These athletes train 10 hours a day every day. They must deadlift over 200kg, run a five-minute mile, do 50 unbroken pull-ups and lift over 100 kg over their head. It’s just nuts! They must be world class at everything – weak at nothing.

But it’s not just about physical fitness and meticulous nutrition, mental toughness plays a huge role.  CrossFit isn’t just about individual elite athletes, it’s about the community - visible at dedicated CrossFit gyms, or boxes as they are known, around the world. Normal people of all shapes and sizes supporting each other when they’re in the hole trying to lift that weight or row those last few metres to complete that day’s work out (WOD).

I started CrossFit in October last year looking for a new challenge to push me beyond my limits. Since becoming part of CrossFit Aberdeen and its fantastic community, I see a lot of similarities with the TechX Pioneer programme at the Oil & Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) in Aberdeen.

While CrossFit is trying to forge elite athletes, TechX is trying to forge elite start-ups. We’ve just completed our TechX Open with 182 applications from 35 different countries all vying for one of the 10 coveted places on the TechX Pioneer Accelerator programme - our version of the Games, if you like. We rigorously select just 5% from this global application pool to become TechX Pioneers - all of these start-ups looking to improve, progress and become masters of their craft – to be world class.

To be in this 5% they need to demonstrate mastery of entrepreneurship and have the grit and determination to succeed. You need to be awesome just to get here. Once here we put them through our meticulously crafted 16-week programme to help them master their weaknesses and build on their strengths. They do this as individual start-ups but also together as a close-knit community – supporting each other, forming bonds and friendships that will last long beyond the end.

A key focus for TechX is to ensure we spend as much attention on the founder and their business, as well as the technology. This “trinity” must be equally balanced if we want to create game-changing companies. As we continue to look for ways to innovate the TechX offering, this year we are delighted to enhance our founder programme in collaboration with CrossFit Aberdeen and its owner Rob Lawson, who will deliver a special masterclass on “Mental Toughness.”

Rob has seen the true grit and determination required to be an elite athlete at the CrossFit Games. He owns CrossFit Aberdeen and is a Level 3 coach – one of only a handful in the UK. Rob also works directly for CrossFit HQ as a member of their Seminar Staff and is a Reebok UK Sponsored Athlete. His role with CrossFit HQ has seen him be Competition Director of the European Regionals and judged at The Games multiple times.

Building on his experience and the journeys of many of the elite CrossFit athletes, our TechX Pioneers will learn first-hand from Rob what it takes to be a Games athlete.  This includes examples and learnings they can take onboard while they start to master their craft, while building the mental toughness they will need while on this roller coaster ride to technology entrepreneurship.

Our TechX Pioneer Cohort 2 arrive on May 13th and we are all excited about the opportunities these start-ups present for the UK…..and global energy sector. After graduating in August, they join our TechX Plus incubator programme for a further 12 months in order to accelerate towards field trials, raise investment and commercialise their product or service. 

Ultimately the goal is to deliver game-changing technologies that will unlock the full potential of the UK Continental Shelf and support the transition towards a lower carbon society. We believe TechX’s unique offering will achieve this, harnessing a breadth of entrepreneurial talent to develop elite technology start-ups – amongst the fittest on the planet.