To mark the launch of our latest equity funding round on Seedrs, we’re celebrating the powerhouses behind our successes so far.
For our third blog, we’re introducing Toby Gill, CEO of IPG. Coupling a technical background in scientific academia with entrepreneurial expertise from founding an Agri-tech start-up, Toby works closely with IPG’s experienced leadership team and Advisory Board to define and lead the commercialisation strategy for the IPG Flameless Generator.
Toby, you started your career in academia at the London Centre for Nanotechnology with a PhD in Physics and Chemistry from UCL, before moving into commercial pursuits when launching and running your own Agri-tech start-up. How has this multifaceted experience informed your approach to commercialisation at IPG?
Launching and running an Agri-tech start-up was a valuable learning experience for me. I went into that endeavour a scientist, but I emerged the other side as an entrepreneur. To summarise quite candidly, this experience taught me how not to bring a hardware product to market. We fell into a relatively common trap of the technically-minded by failing to engage with our customers soon enough to understand that, whilst the technology we were developing did solve an ecological and economic problem, it wasn’t a product that our customers really wanted. We thought, “I will build it, and they will come”. We were wrong.
I’m grateful for this lesson, which thankfully didn’t lose any investors money, as it gave me the depth of experience to understand the intrinsic challenges IPG face as a hardware company, from both a technical and commercial perspective, and how to mitigate them. To-date, I have seen my role in the business as one to effectively ‘translate’ between engineers pursuing technical outcomes, and our customers pursuing tangible solutions to their specific problem, helping to create a strategy that engineers can bite their teeth into to solve the challenges and problems actually faced by our customers, as they seek to move away from diesel.
As with any product development, the strategy to creating a minimal viable product is simple on paper, but the devil is the detail. For IPG, this meant focusing on the key pains felt by businesses in our beachhead markets. While efficiency and capital cost are important, today customers are asking how they can confidently transition their businesses away from diesel, without compromising energy security. Prioritising our fuel-agnostic, pollutant-free capabilities, and initially sacrificing peak efficiency for low-capex solutions, has been key to on-boarding customers for our next phase of trials. With their buy-in today, we now have the foundation upon which to move forward, optimising efficiency and further reducing costs to secure our competitive advantages in the long tail of future applications where our technology will hold value.
However, the key word here is ‘future.” These applications will indeed prove to be valuable markets for future expansion, but part and parcel of understanding the technical risks to the company is understanding that these are not the most suitable markets to pursue to generate the valuable revenue we need, today. We are targeting construction and mining as our beachhead markets because we know the risk appetites in these industries are best matched to the current capabilities of our product. Building orderbooks among these early adopter customers will allow us to then set the foundations for future scaling into additional markets once the value of our solution is proven for these industries.
With the funding imminently secured, can you speak to IPG’s strategy including both how you secured these early adopter customers, and how IPG will build its revenue streams?
The purpose of the funding we are currently raising is to take the company from a proven prototype through to demonstration of our MVP product in the hands of our customers and, at the same time, prepare our manufacturing supply chain for fulfilling our growing customer demand.
"Much of the growth of the $30bn diesel generator market will emanate from emerging economies such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia. Our focus on a scalable and modular manufacturing process will put us in a strong position to enter these high growth markets."
While John’s focus has been on developing those relationships within our supply chain, which are underpinned by the collaboration with the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering and SDE Technology to define our route to scaled manufacturing, my focus has been on building the strategic partnerships and relationships with our future customers to build confidence in the value of our product for their longer-term decarbonisation strategies.
In reality, “selling” a clean-and-green replacement for the diesel generator is easy. Whether for construction sites, mining projects or festivals, our target industries are crying out for solutions to end their reliance on diesel. Key to the success we are having onboarding customers to our journey, which starts with these MVP trials, is understanding how we can deliver their technical power requirements in alignment with their current and future commercial needs – and this is where my ‘translation’ abilities between technical and commercial have been of benefit.
Now, in effect, I am handing over to John, Brett and Lauren as they lead our engineering and commercial teams to drive the technical delivery of these trials and ready our blueprint for scaled manufacturing. In the meantime, I will work with the support of our exemplary Advisory Board of industry experts to set my sights on building on our route-to-market for future stages of our commercial growth.
As CEO, you have a clearer view than any on the role of the IPG Flameless Generator in the clean energy future. What’s next for the company, now that the team have everything in place to deliver the MVP trials?
With the demand we are seeing from today’s customers, we know that we can grow our demand across the UK and Europe. While the team works to deliver the trials needed to unlock the 100’s of unit orders per year close to home, I’m excited to be working with our advisory board to define our route to 1,000’s of units per year.
"In reality, “selling” a clean-and-green replacement for the diesel generator is easy. Whether for construction sites, mining projects or festivals, our target industries are crying out for solutions to end their reliance on diesel."
We will of course be scaling to meet demand in existing markets, but much of the growth of the $30bn diesel generator market will emanate from emerging economies such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia. Our focus on a scalable and modular manufacturing process will put us in a strong position to enter these high growth markets as we scale our manufacturing capabilities, lowering our costs per unit.
We have already explored the value of our product for unlocking sustainable microgrids in these territories, and I am excited to look to how we can draw on the full capabilities of our digital manufacturing blueprint to target wider expansion and deliver more value to existing and new applications.
Our Meet the Team webinar offers the chance to hear from Toby, as well as CTO John Grainger and Senior Product Manager Brett Moolenschot, about the company and its visions for the future. Watch the recording here. For information around the value the IPG Flameless Generator offers our target markets, watch the recording of our Seedrs Bitesize pitch.
Our crowdfunding campaign closes tomorrow. Visit our campaign page on Seedrs to learn more about our mission to help businesses replace their diesel generators.
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