That is the 20 th in our “8 Questions” collection — wherein we sit down with founders within the Playfair portfolio who share their entrepreneurial journey.
We first invested in Continuum Industries, an AI pushed, cloud-based optioneering platform that dramatically accelerates the event of linear infrastructure, in 2020. Since then, the corporate has constructed and deployed Optioneer throughout quite a few massive scale infrastructure tasks for asset homeowners/operators. Optioneer has additionally grow to be the go to software program for utility firms and nationalised infrastructure operators to extend their transmission capability to hit formidable internet zero targets.
In the present day, we sit down with co-founder and CEO, Grzegorz Marecki, to listen to his story from the beginnings of Continuum Industries. We hope this can assist different founders and aspirational entrepreneurs in their very own ventures.
1. What impressed you to be an entrepreneur?
My dream was all the time to design the large techniques that make the trendy world run, similar to roads, railways, electrical grids and full cities. I’ve big respect for issues which can be so nicely built-in into each day life that we find yourself taking them with no consideration.
This led me to grow to be a civil engineer. Nevertheless, after I began working within the trade, I shortly realised that I must spend 20 years designing small parts like bridge foundations, particular person columns, or drainage ditches earlier than ever getting to guide large-scale tasks. Whereas these small parts are extremely necessary, it was the large image that I used to be enthusiastic about.
Throughout my college years, I had a great deal of enjoyable at a scholar society known as HYPED, which constructed hyperloop prototype automobiles for Elon Musk’s competitors in California. I needed to experience on the hyperloop as quickly as potential, and this expertise made me realise how a lot may very well be finished to enhance the method of planning and growing bodily infrastructure.
It was an fascinating second — we noticed an issue within the trade, we had been surrounded by a few of the smartest and most pushed individuals I had ever met, and we occurred to run into individuals who had been additional down of their careers and had been prepared to take a wager on us. I had additionally simply graduated so launching Continuum Industries grew to become the one logical factor to do subsequent.
I now get to develop instruments different engineers and planners use to design the bodily infrastructure that makes the trendy world flip. As a substitute of engaged on one venture each few months, I arm engineers and planners with instruments to do a 10x higher job on dozens of tasks.
2. Can you are taking us again to the beginnings of Continuum Industries?
Continuum Industries was impressed by a dream of constructing a 1000 kph journey a actuality.
That ‘moonshot’ pressured us to consider infrastructure planning and design from the primary ideas to hurry up the venture improvement course of.
Nevertheless, we fairly shortly realised that nobody is definitely constructing hyperloop traces simply but, so there would merely be no marketplace for us.
Whereas hyperloop was far off, we realised that the transition to internet zero goes to require tens of millions of kilometres of recent infrastructure constructed actually shortly to attach renewable vitality to centres of demand. And since it at the moment takes 12 years on common to take an electrical transmission line from idea to operation in a rustic just like the UK, the trade has been actively in search of methods to hurry issues up.
It took us a number of iterations when it comes to market, prospects, product and enterprise fashions, however we now have discovered our area of interest, and we are actually taking Continuum Industries world.
Our device, Optioneer, has been used to evaluate over 30,000 km of choices of linear belongings thus far — whereas that’s a protracted distance, it’s nonetheless solely the start of Continuum Industries.
3. What’s the hardest lesson realized since day 1?
That we dwell in a world that always presents no excellent choices, and we have to embrace this to maneuver ahead and obtain no matter it’s we’re chasing.
That is true when it comes to our product and trade — our prospects typically have to decide on between attaining long-term decarbonisation targets or avoiding shorter-term localised environmental and social impacts.
The identical applies to constructing an organization — it’s typically extra necessary to make selections shortly and be taught from them somewhat than dwell on points for a very long time.
4. What has been your strangest day as a founder?
I wrestle to single out any in the future because the strangest as a result of every day is filled with swings. On the one hand, you are feeling such as you’re on prime of the world and successful, however alternatively, a great deal of issues simply hold falling aside, and it’s important to assist hold the rocket collectively. I believe the tweet beneath captures that feeling fairly nicely. haha
I believe that spring 2020 was one of many strangest occasions for us — we closed our £1.5m fundraise with Playfair in March, and actually per week later, the world floor to a halt. So whereas we had been hiring and intensely enthusiastic about what was subsequent, we struggled to reconcile our pleasure with what was taking place round us.
5. What have you ever realized out of your traders because you first fundraised?
Once we began Continuum Industries, I had little gross sales expertise past promoting outrageously costly rickshaw rides round Edinburgh. I used to be in a position to make as a lot as £800 per evening on the rickshaw, however that was nowhere near what operating enterprise gross sales is like.
Throughout a board assembly about two years in the past, our traders helped us realise that whereas we had been getting promising traction with a number of prospects, we weren’t participating with sufficient new prospects to help our progress plans.
This was a really tangible enter that led to us recruiting our first gross sales improvement rep and enabled us to develop gross sales 7x previously 12 months.
6. As a founder, what’s your proudest achievement thus far?
Having the ability to work with wonderful individuals to assist construct a machine that persistently creates worth for its prospects and the broader society.
The underside line for Continuum Industries is whether or not we’re serving to to maneuver in direction of decarbonisation — we haven’t but quantified our impression when it comes to carbon discount however we all know that our prospects had been in a position to deliver their renewable vitality venture programmes ahead by as a lot as 8 to 12 months. For utility-scale wind farms and electrical energy transmission tasks, the impacts are big.
We’ve even seen goal dates for brand spanking new community operations accelerated by as a lot as 3 years after work was carried out utilizing Optioneer. There may be nonetheless a variety of work to do, however that is already big and intensely tangible.
Our know-how’s impression on basic points going through humanity attracts distinctive individuals to our crew, making a flywheel impact. The extra nice individuals we now have, the extra worth we are able to create for our prospects and society.
7. Crystal Ball: What are your plans for the longer term?
The subsequent 30 years are going to be essential in terms of coping with local weather change — we principally need to double the scale of the electrical energy grid globally by 2050. It’s not a problem the trade will be capable of deal with with out basic modifications to how issues are finished.
Continuum Industries will play its half by unlocking quicker improvement of recent transmission infrastructure, which is essential to make the vitality transition potential.
Our imaginative and prescient is to construct the go-to working system that helps builders take their venture from an idea to a allow as quick as potential and on the lowest potential threat.
8. #1 piece of recommendation to an aspirational founder?
I have a tendency to enroll to the saying that concepts are sometimes low cost and execution is what issues probably the most.
After transferring from Poland to the UK ten years in the past, I typically discovered myself with not more than £20 in my account on the finish of the month.
Quick ahead a number of years, and we now have a superb crew of 30 individuals who play a essential half in growing infrastructure price billions of kilos.
I might say that simply persevering with to push ahead persistently over time will make it easier to get to locations you wouldn’t have thought had been obtainable.