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Technology Accelerators - will I survive?

Author

Iain Lees

Iain Lees

Founder, Resolute Energy Solutions

I won’t lie, as I write this, I’m sitting down at home on Friday night with a fairly hefty drink beside me.

We started Resolute in 2016, and in three years of mud, sweat & tears (no blood; top notch safety here you see), this has been the single most overwhelming and exhausting week in the history of the company.

Not in a bad way though. Not at all.

We had to fend off so many other companies for a space on the OGTC’s TechX programme. Energy startups from all over the world had applied, and somehow we got through, despite yours truly doing the pitching (God, I hate pitching), and despite me somehow telling the judging panel that our development lab (my garage) looked like it belonged in Breaking Bad.

Joking aside, I know there were some stand-out technologies that didn’t make it through, and while we feel privileged, I already had a build-up of nerves about how unbelievably good the other cohort teams were going to be. I mean, I don’t need anyone’s help to make me look stupid thankyaverymuch. That, I can manage all on my own. It’s also The Oilfield, so to be honest, I was a little apprehensive about egos, alpha males, politics, as well as me making inappropriate jokes out of nervousness. As it turns out, I should only have worried about the latter.

So, Monday morning comes. I pack my pencil case, calculator and my play-piece, and head into the OGTC for Day 1 of school. I didn’t take any lunch money in case any of the bigger kids tipped me upside down for it, even though I’m too big and heavy for anyone to tip me upside down for the lunch money I quite clearly don’t possess.

I should never have worried. On one hand, the rest of the cohort are amazingly nice people; a great mix of characters, with great camaraderie. Clever. Interesting. Clever. Enthusiastic. Clever. Helpful. Clever. Did I mention they were clever? I mean, I thought PHD’s were hair straighteners.

It is nearly a quarter of a century ago that I left school, as an ungainly, skinny fifteen-year-old, to start my engineering apprenticeship. A lot has changed, mainly in terms of numbers in my age and weight, but despite all I’ve done in my career, I still feel like I’m winging it - and here I am, rubbing shoulders with some of the brightest, most forward-thinking technical entrepreneurs around. Thankfully they’re also some of the nicest and most down to earth.

We were all sat down in front of that huge, intimidating OGTC cinema screen, that plagued us during pitching (some of us who failed at the first attempt last year find it intimidating anyway. Okay, that’ll be me). It was all gentle fun so far; small talk, coffee, and no inappropriate jokes (oh God, that comes later). THEN they played the jaw dropping welcome video. It certainly had the WOW factor. From “Wow look at the state of me on pitch day, it’s like somebody kicked a confused elephant seal through the door”, to “Wow, this is really bloody serious.”

It really is. So many people have invested so much in this programme, and it’s quite daunting to realise it:

  • The rigorous selection process.
  • The initial funding to help kick start the businesses.
  • The cost of running the programme itself - its sixteen weeks, and it is really full-on.
  • The planning of the programme. This is the big one for me. So many people have worked so hard, for so long, just to give US the chance of bringing positive change to the industry.

When you see that level of dedication from people that aren’t in it for personal gain, you know you have to knuckle down and give it your all. I’ll kick myself otherwise, and if that happens, there better be a queue waiting to join in.

The moment I knew it was all going to be fine with my new classmates? Easy.

11:16 on day 1. We had to do an “icebreaker”, or as the old me would call it, a “****ing icebreaker”.

We were to introduce ourselves to a stranger and state your spirit animal. Fearing the worst, that I was going to be surrounded by a dozen lions (I’m a giraffe you see; weird neck, teeth like I eat leaves from the ugly tree, clumsy and generally lion fodder), it was a welcome find to be surrounded by meerkats & monkeys.

Egos had been well and truly left at the door. It was a good job too. We then had to draw our new friends’ portrait on the big touchscreen. We went with the supposedly safe option of drawing our spirit animals. If you’ve never seen a giraffe drawn on a 6m x 2m touchscreen, just imagine a cave painting emoji for Ann Summers finest. At least my new classmates are good judges of character, I suppose.

The whole week was a blur. So many people gave up their time to offer support, advice and training. We’ve learned a huge amount, without anything feeling like a lecture. They’ve worked hard to make it feel easy for us. Almost fifty people have given up their time to help us this week. FIFTY. In five days. The following week was the same. And so on, and so forth.

The volume and depth of help is staggering…… and we really hope we don’t let anyone down! 

Iain is one of the TechX Pioneers from the 2019 cohort.  We’ll be posting a series of blogs, so stay tuned to hear their story and (hopefully!) an exciting journey through this unique accelerator programme.