Pavegen: Every footstep has power.

An ASPIRE BeInspired presentation from Laurence Kemball-Cook, Founder and CEO

From Failure to Launch. 

One of the world’s leading eco-entrepreneurs Laurence Kemball-Cook is leading the charge on making a difference to the cities we live, work and play in. ASPIRE cohorts were granted an amazing opportunity to have a presentation and Q&A session with Laurence to hear more about the challenges and opportunities he faced when building his startup and insight into his view on entrepreneurship and the green energy movement. Below please find a summary of some of the key takeaways from the 90-minute presentation.

7.4 Billion people, 55% living in cities, many are toxic. Over 2.2 million children in Delhi now have permanent lung damage. But it doesn’t have to be this way; as the CEO and Founder of Pavegen Laurence Kemball-Cook believes, we can make cities beautiful and healthy places. Laurence has a personal mission to change cities for the better through the use of technology. To build our cities for people, not for machines. And the good news is that things are changing; in 2018, only 12% of the world’s energy came from renewables. But in 2019, 33% of the world’s power came from green sources moving to an expected 45% when the numbers come out for 2020. Green energy is starting to have its moment and has the power to change lives as well as cities.

Pavegen was born from Laurence’s passion, and its mission today is to improve the world through the power of a human footstep. Pavegen is now a 40 person company with a strong management team based in Kings Cross and Cambridge with manufacturing in North London, operating in 36 markets.

Pavegen Technology

But this has not been an easy journey. 

Laurence’s start into this world of green and footsteps had a rocky start. Working at eON, he failed at delivering a green solution, and after being fired and at his lowest, he couldn’t stop thinking about his university passion on how to turn footsteps into power. Duck taping a prototype together Pavegen was born. What he quickly discovered is that people were drawn to his invention. They loved jumping up and down and seeing energy being created. What he needed now was to build a product, but without revenue, he couldn’t get funding; without funding, he couldn’t build a product to get revenue.

Five years in Brixton stuck in this circle, continuing to graft for every opportunity and for every penny through demos and competitions, he kept the dream alive. Finally, Pavegen was even given a chance to participate in the 2012 Olympics with a minimal check to keep them afloat. Staying focused on the end goal, Laurence looked to moments like these as well as festivals providing mobile dance floors to gain customer insight and continue to self-fund and step by step improve the experience.

Pavegens first pivot came out of these moments where Laurence realised that it wasn’t just green energy but also engagement that was being generated. A demo at Heathrow airport showcased this shift. The experience where footfall generated a lighting experience was so popular a six months installation lasted five years. This lead to an impactful partnership with Shell, where they installed the technology under a football pitch in a low-income area of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where at every game, each step on the field would generate power and light the stadium. This transformational moment cemented the connection of the dream of new green energy from footfall to the powerful emotional engagement and experience of light and joy. On the back of this connection, Pavegen has continued to go from strength to strength and plans on being a critical component of the global green energy movement.

Lessons learned:

  • Funding is hard. Make every penny count and get to revenue quickly to give yourself power in the discussion. As much insight, and awareness as you can gain and have under your belt can make a huge difference when evaluating the good vs the bad deals.
  • New hardware is hard. Over 700 versions of Pavegen have been designed and built and still going. Need to be agile and flexible and scale up and down to handle the fluctuation of a new business
  • Marketing is critical. A new product category needs messaging and a mission so that people can understand the power of the opportunity. Pavegen focused on capturing the world’s imagination to allow partnerships to be created with those holding similar missions. Laurence highlights “work with clients, work with customers and work with celebrities – this triangle is powerful. Capitalise the brand-building piece to establish yourself. Be creative.”

What’s the future strategy?

Quick wins/fast fails. Be agile, discover new opportunities. Try ideas and leave them quickly behind if they don’t work. Right now, Pavegen is exploring energy as a reward. Energy could be a digital currency with your footsteps creating compensations and linking people and businesses through the energy and the power of a footstep. Pavegen’s team are even thinking about how cars could but used to produce energy. Laurence believes that all companies have to be agile in Covid19 times. Businesses need to think about areas of risk how to de-risk through flexibility. For Pavegen, it’s about having a product roadmap that can change and overcome hurdles when things get disrupted. 

What does it take to be an entrepreneur or intrapreneur?

Laurence at the Pavegen office

Entrepreneurship is not a linear journey; you will take steps forwards and backwards all the time. It can be a battle every day. For Laurence, he likens the journey to climbing MontBlanc at two in the morning during a snowstorm, wondering why he was doing it; “it’s like pushing a rock uphill in the dark with no oxygen crawling over glass.” There can be extreme suffering, but the competitive nature within yourself will drive you. 

  • Believe in yourself and never give up. But also learn not to worry and not be overloaded. 
  • Be a great ‘story teller’ – your story is all that you have at the beginning.
  • Be able to motivate people. Be good at networking and finding a tribe! But watch out for sharks.
  • Have an eye for the details. It’s the small things that can make the difference.
  • Never accept ‘no’ for an answer – find solutions.
  • Listen to experience. Coaching and mentorship are critical, but stay true to your passion. Sometimes it’s okay to go against advice and listen to your heart. Make judgement calls, not snap panic decisions.
  • Mindset is essential, both in yourself as well as the people you hire. When you bring talent into the business, they are the right sort of people who want to be part of the business and understand your culture.

Laurence’s steps for building something:

Get an idea, and it must solve a big problem and validate and validate quickly with an addressable market. Distil the vertical to a small user group to connect and understand the competitive market while making sure you really understand who you will be selling to.

  1. Self-fund it – don’t raise money too early.
  2. Build MVP as cheaply as possible
  3. Make some revenue quick!
  4. Create a business structure
  5. To build a better product
  6. Raise investment

The future and opportunity for energy

COVID19 is driving a green recovery. For Pavegen, this means focusing on collaborating with governments around the world to believe that the world can eliminate all carbon from coal power stations. There is already a Supergrid working today, which could make ASIA carbon-free. We can make changes. Simple and easy to install solutions like Pavegen should be included in all new initiatives to drive a green future. Laurences’ parting advice is to make sure you develop a business model that suits the times and place and has the flexibility to handle the disruption we now have to live with.

BeInspired Events from ASPIRE

As part of our commitment to provide the most amazing human-centric learning experience in a digital world when possible we look to included opportunities for workshops, thought leadership events and moments to meet people who are challenging the status quo and building new opportunities. If you’re interested in finding out more about the workshops and events that run alongside the digital training, community support and coaching contact us today!

person with ideas

The Age of Disruption continues.

2020 saw the surprising combination of the global pandemic and technology advances which resulted in a “decade in days” adoption of digital. As we come to the end of March 2021 we continue to see a normalisation of the disruption.

In 2020 we saw an unprecedented change across all industries experienced at a global scale and at a speed rarely seen in living memory. For example, in the UK alone four in five (81%) nightclub venues closed by Christmas 2020. The travel industry has seen a 70-90% drop in air and intercity travel compared to the previous year leading to a much larger knock-on effect around the world. According to preliminary estimates, Italy alone could lose £6.4bn ($8.3bn) in tourism revenue due to coronavirus. In the US, the restaurant industry lost nearly $120 billion in sales during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic alone.

On the other hand, there are certain industries that have seen a boom.

  • Ten years in 8 weeks for an increase in eCommerce deliveries. Right now online shopping makes up 16.1% of retail sales worldwide, but that figure is estimated to rise to 22% by 2023, according to eMarketer
  • 20x participants on videoconferencing in 3 months. It is expected that 25-30% of the US workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. In the UK, 60% of the adult population worked from home during the Coronavirus lockdown, with 26% planning to continue permanently or occasionally after lockdown.
  • Disney Plus in November 2019 had more than 50 million subscribers, a target that rival Netflix took seven years to reach. 

So how do you take this new reality of massive disruption and adapt your people strategy that aligns to the new strategic needs of the business? The first step is to recognise the need for greater agility across the organisation. Companies need to be able to pivot, maximise opportunity, be driven by customer needs, enable innovation to come from all areas of the business, and create a new framework that prioritises speed of decisions through data-driven evidence that allows you to double down on viable ideas quicker and kill projects faster. Or simply put, working like a startup.  

This advice is different from the old adage of “act like a startup.” There is no faking it until you make it in today’s new normal. Many companies are going to have to make fundamental shifts in their DNA. Between COVID and technology advances, we’ve officially hit a global acute adapt-or-die moment. Few organisations will be able to weather the current conditions without making significant changes. Making the assumption you are one of them could be signing your death warrant.

The second step is to recognise the evolution of key skills within your organisation to address this DNA change. Complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity became the top 3 skills required for survival in the 2020 Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum and these three skills will continue to gain focus. The challenge for all organisations will be around instilling these core competencies at scale to drive speed for resilience and adopt startup creative thinking as a business as usual approach.

Disruption can mean opportunity

A few months into 2021, do the prophecies made in the new year continue to unfold? Yes, organisations that lead the recovery will be focused on these elements:

  • There are no silver bullets but scale remains important. We were reminded in 2020 that there is no such thing as an easy one size fits all solution. But as we look to return to a new normal as vaccines take hold, there are steps that organisations can take to make themselves more flexible to meet the impact of change. Organisations need to think big. You can’t limit agility approaches or test-and-learn cultures to just small parts of the business. When strategic plans can be impacted on a daily basis complex problem solving and creativity need space to counter the disruption. As process-driven jobs continue to be automated and value commoditised, there is no better investment than an organisation can make, in its often largest and most valuable asset, it’s people, than to strengthen its startup thinking skillset at all levels of the organisation to weather the impact of change and create flexibility into strategic and tactical approaches across the business. This means teaching people how to think, create and operate with the skills, tools and mindset of an entrepreneur.

    In a MIT Sloan Management Review article early in the year authors Tucker J. Marion, an associate professor of technological entrepreneurship at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business in Boston, Sebastian K. Fixson an associate dean of innovation and the Marla M. Capozzi MBA ’96 Term Chair of Design Thinking, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts and Greg Brown, senior director of Worldwide CAD Business Development at the global software company PTC shared that “For more than 10 years, we’ve been studying the impact of digital design and product development tools on organizations, their people, and their projects. We’ve found that the competencies companies need most are business-oriented rather than technical. That’s true even for brick-and-mortar companies that are trying to become more digital.
  • Always be building ambassadors. Resilience through upskilling, reskilling and considered outskilling for an empowered workforce at scale. As also reported by the World Economic Forum: “The double disruption caused by automation and the pandemic is likely to displace 85 million jobs by 2025. Among those set to remain in their roles, 50% will need reskilling by 2025.” The impact of the pandemic and increased automation is going to continue to rumble through organisations and industries. 2021 continues to be the year you start or double down on empowering and supporting your talent at any stage of their employment journey with you to become innovators and creators of new value. This isn’t just about doing the right thing, this is about good business. By empowering your organisation and employees at all stages of their life cycle, you create more powerful and loyal teams that can grow with the business, stronger communities and local economic strength as well as drive industry innovation. Don’t let employees just go, let them grow.
  • Speed of innovation is critical. Learn to manage risk and be comfortable with failing fast. Again, we can’t say this enough, don’t just get stuck focusing on the technology transformation. What is ultimately more important is the skills and freedom you give your talent to be able to take advantage of the technology transformations that you are doing not be left behind or your business stuck because of them. There is an opportunity for learning from entrepreneurs in high-tech startups, and that’s their ability to be risk-tolerant. It’s time that intrapreneurs, or innovators in established companies, followed in their footsteps, by learning how to not wait for things to be”right”, being able to pivot fast and be much more agile. Being built for speed of innovation opens the door for powerful outcomes from improving the lifecycle and value of your existing products and services lines as well as launch new ones at pace successfully meeting the evolving needs of your customers.

Discover how ASPIRE can help your talent across your business learn and implement startup first approaches, building new critical skills.

Brand Advocates

Don’t let employees go, let them grow: Creating brand advocates

By empowering your organisation and talent at all stages of the employee lifecycle including when they depart, you create more powerful and loyal teams that can grow with the business, stronger communities and local economic strength as well as drive industry innovation. Creating brand advocates i.e. your biggest cheerleaders.

Creating brand detractors?

Employees, the lifeblood of the knowledge economy, distinguish one organisation from another. In today’s continuously changing business world, the success or failure of a company is largely dependent on the calibre of the talent they employ and attract. A bad employee brand costs.

  • According to a study by Randstad USA, 57% of job candidates avoid companies with negative online reviews. 
  • A bad reputation costs a minimum 10% pay increase to convince a candidate to take a job.
  • Nearly 50% would entirely rule out taking the job regardless of any pay increase.
  • Even a 10% raise would only tempt 28% of them to join such a company.
According to a study conducted by Randstad USA : 57% of job candidates avoid companies with negative online reviews.

Many companies globally have been hit by the pandemic and forced to make unexpected changes. Departure driven by employee desire or a business requirement for redundancy can see organisations losing a tremendous amount of brain trust and insight as well as seriously detrimentally affecting their employee brand.

Existing outplacement programmes can become much more strategic through the use of startup outskilling. The mantra being “don’t let staff go, let them grow.”

By creating startup innovation programmes, you can provide the opportunity to divert talent from your organisation into startups but keep the opportunity within your sphere of influence and more importantly support. A holistic approach to offboarding is a much smarter and successful approach.

“Despite the high rate of churn in the labor market today, many companies pay scant attention to offboarding employees. That’s a mistake, say the authors, who argue that offboarding is an increasingly vital part of talent management—and an opportunity” according to Alison M. Dachner and Erin E. Makarius in their article in Harvard Business Review, Turn Departing Employees into Loyal Alumni.

Or brand advocates!

Effective talent management is a business-critical issue for passionate C-suite teams and Senior HR professionals. Evolving Leadership with Purpose approaches need to include Leadership with Care. 

Startup outskilling can create lifelong ambassadors for your business while ensuring your own business continuity. How an organisation treats its departing employees has a direct impact on the consumer relationship and brand.

This approach can create a positive a win/win environment for everyone. We know that innovation from within, especially around industry problems can be incredibly difficult or confining to solve from within but by giving departing talent innovation pathways through startup creation, you can see a significant return for a relatively low investment. Nokia ended up investing in 20% of the startups generated during their Bridge redundancy programme enabling new business opportunities.

This opportunity allows your talent to explore solutions and build companies around issues and opportunities that they feel passionate about. Supporting their development and growth ensures a strong positive engagement even during a redundancy scenario. It turns a potential moment of risk into a powerful transition of positive opportunity.

Discover how Nokia used this strategy. Their Bridge Programme is now considered best practice. By adding a startup pathway they allowed over 600 startups to be created and also built fantastic brand advocates even during redundancy.

Purpose-driven outskilling is a strategic mandate in today’s work. Discover our whitepaper here.

Pavegen Inspired event

BeINSPIRED: Pavegen, from failure to launch.

View our post event overview and video here!

25th March 2021
12.30 PM – 2:00 PM GMT / 7.30 AM – 9:00 AM EST 

Normally only available to our ASPIRE participants and alumni, we are opening up the doors to one of our BeINSPIRED events. With access to leading entrepreneurs or gurus in their field, our BeINSPIRED events are designed to give insight into all elements of the startup journey for those both looking to start their own business or are part of an internal team developing new businesses lines or products and solutions.

Join us for an inspiring presentation and Q&A session with the exceptional eco-entrepreneur Laurence Kemball-Cook, Founder and CEO of Pavegen.

Pavegen is a ground-breaking business that believes in the potential of clean technology to power a sustainable future.

Laurence will share the challenges and lessons learned from the early failures and successes, through the challenges of rapid prototyping, to launching a new tech business. 

  1. Get excited.
    Be empowered by Laurence’s quest. Discover what it has taken to build an eco-friendly business from a leading light.
  2. Tips and tricks.
    Discover some practical tips and learn the shortcuts from Laurence’s incredible entrepreneurial journey.
  3. Get galvanized for change.
    Discover how Laurence endured the highs and lows of building a business based on making the future brighter.


We’re being Covid-19 friendly and running this over Zoom. Join from anywhere!

ASPIRE event Pavegen
Someone getting remote coaching

Coaching is powerful.

We always read stories of successful Founders, and sometimes wonder how they made it? Could coaching be part of the answer?

Well, the truth is that if you ask them they will tell you they had a coach as part of their support team/group. Having someone that can objectively talk to you, help you think about your ideas/business from a different angle, help you think bigger, share his/her experience, make you accountable for your actions and execution, listen to you and/or challenge you throughout your entrepreneurial journey is in my view a “must” have.

It is about been able to receive feedback, been stretched, learn from it and then be able to apply the learning, make new decisions. When coaching is done properly, with the right intentions, it is a powerful support and motivational element for any individual. There are positive ripples effects on both the business and the individual.

And as a Coach, it is empowering to been able to see the changes, the progress the other person can make with their business, and also personally.

At ASPIRE, we understand that the road towards entrepreneurship, launching and building a successful commercially viable product/service is challenging, fast-paced, full of hurdles/failures while at the same time can bring many rewards. That is why we have coaching group sessions for teams, individual joining our ASPIRE LIVE level on any of our programmes.

We’ve found some interesting stats on coaching:

  • An internal Personnel Management Association report showed a significant increase in employers’ productivity by an average of 86% when training is combined with coaching compared to 22% when training alone.
  • The benefits of coaching are many; 80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence, and over 70% benefit from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills. 86% of companies report that they recouped their investment on coaching and more (source: ICF 2009).
  • A study by Manchester Inc. reached a conclusion that businesses who work with a business coach saw an average return on their investment about 5.7 times the amount that they paid for their coaching service.
  • A similar study by MetrixGlobal LLC showed that the businesses that spent on coaching saw a $7.90 return for every $1.00 they invested in executive coaching.
  • A recent study by MetrixGlobal LLC of executive coaching in a Fortune 500 firms reported a return on investment of 52.9% and significant intangible benefits for the business.
  • A study of 100 executives conducted by Manchester Inc. found that coaching produced an average return on investment of nearly 6 times the coaching expense.
  • 53% of business owners and managers say their productivity had increased when they took business coaching.

Still not sure about coaching? Click here for a great article in Sifted about why it’s so important.

CEO Today Logo

The Future Of Work

Our CEO, Chris Locke, shares his vision for the future of work and why organisations need to think across the employee relationship and build in the opportunity for reskilling, upskilling and purposeful outskilling to enable organisations to become more flexible and agile to manage disruptions while accelerating growth and helping everyone secure jobs for the future.

As reported by the World Economic Forum: “The double disruption caused by automation and the pandemic is likely to displace 85 million jobs by 2025. Among those set to remain in their roles, 50% will need reskilling by 2025.” The impact of the pandemic and increased automation is going to continue to rumble through organisations and industries.

To adjust to the new norm of disruption and automation, organisations must adopt an approach or core strategy of flexibility and agility to be able to pivot, maximise opportunity and address the speed of change. How companies encourage the adoption of this across their business and within the DNA of their talent will be the difference between those that survive and those who face being left behind.

New skill sets and new types of employee structures will need to be instilled across your business. Organisations will also need to think big. You can’t limit agility approaches or test-and-learn cultures to just small parts of the company. When strategic plans can be impacted daily, complex problem solving, and creativity need space across the business to counter the disruption. 

What skills become important

Complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity became the top three skills required for survival in the 2020 Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum. The challenge for all organisations will be around instilling these core competencies at scale to drive speed for resilience and adopt startup creative thinking as a ‘business-as-usual’ approach. These skill sets are integral to startup creative approaches deployed by most if not all, successful startups. Upskilling and reskilling your teams with these fundamental skills along with startup methodologies and approaches will enable businesses to start gaining the benefit immediately. This enables businesses to gain the flexibility and agility to operate at the pace of a startup with the skills to navigate the current climate of disruption. A culture shift for many organisations but one that will separate the companies that survive from those that won’t be able to weather the disruption.

Upskilling and reskilling for strategic innovation and opportunity growth

Industry insight and company knowledge do not need to be, nor should be lost during the transition caused by digital transformations and the speed of technology adoption. By strategically deploying and instilling startup creative skills across the business, you start to open up the opportunity for game-changing innovation opportunities to occur. When incorporating this with more practical upskilling initiatives to move from labour roles into more tech-heavy future-proof positions, you can start to create a powerhouse of change lead by those who truly understand and have a passion for your business. Plus, from a purely business perspective, it can often be more straightforward and cheaper to develop in-demand skills in-house rather than looking to hire them in. Businesses that recognise that their existing talent already possesses much of what is needed can actually find additional urgency to tap into as with new talent you can wait a year or more for them to get up to speed with the inner workings of how a company operates.

Allowing innovation to come from those closest to the inner workings and most likely problems or the customers’ pains will enable you to find unexpected gems of insight. By making startup creative thinking a core competency within your organisation, you start to build in innovation at the velocity of a startup; naturally being able to pivot fast and be much more agile with those opportunities. Being built for speed of innovation opens the door for powerful outcomes from improving the lifecycle and value of your existing products and services lines by allowing you to find new ways to create value to more successful new services or solutions at pace, successfully meeting the evolving needs of your customers or even addressing internal issues that have slowed the pace of opportunity.

Bridging the skills gap with more than just technical skills

As quoted by the corporate philosopher, Chairman of Expothon Worldwide; a ThinkTank on Image Supremacy of Innovative Excellence & Entrepreneurial Leadership, Naseem Javed: “Unlimited, well-designed innovative ideas and global age skills can quadruple enterprise performance.” This combination of skills provides organisations with the core competencies needed to manage through this time of disruption and can turn it into a time of great opportunity.

For large companies, where the sums invested in new product development are in the tens of millions, this means only a fraction of the potential return on investment undertaken is delivered back to shareholders. And for existing successful product lines, value can still be unlocked with the right innovation approaches. Did you know that according to Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, each year more than 30,000 new consumer products are launched and 95% of them fail? (Harvard Business School)

The key is in combining skills with ideas. Just capturing innovation ideas without the ability to quickly implement on the insight leaves you still stuck.

Organisations that are looking to rapidly empower their teams internally with a combination of startup and technical skills are seeing an immediate impact turning ideas into action and ultimately revenue or competitive advantage. For example, Rambol adopted an internal innovation startup training programme which has resulted in 7 new spin-out ventures from idea to launch in 20 weeks which are now on track to deliver a 29% net new revenue by 2023. By creating new tech-enabled business models, they can serve existing clients needs better and identify new customer segments.

According to a survey done by McKinsey, nearly seven in ten respondents reporting reskilling say the business impact from the programs has been greater than or equal to the investment in them. What’s more, 48% say the programmes are already enhancing bottom-line growth.

Amazon logo

Amazon has invested considerable amounts of money into their outskilling programmes and in return has gained a competitive advantage.

Adding strategic outskilling to the mix

Unfortunately, as we see now, businesses can’t always afford to keep all their employees, or there is a natural progression of departure within the organisation that has a short employee lifecycle. In either case, there is a substantial opportunity to be made to extend startup creative training at all stages of the employee lifecycle. And even more critically, provide an opportunity to those who have been, by no fault of their own, made redundant. In the UK alone according to the ONS redundancies hit a record 370,000. If the study from Direct Line is correct, then over one-third of those 370,000 people will be considering starting a business. There is a moral argument to be made that we must do our best by departing talent to help them make this transition as successfully as possible. But it isn’t just about doing the right thing for your company; there is a broader picture that benefits all. Startups and new business in the wake of large redundancies may be our economy’s way out of the recession. You don’t just help an employee; it helps build local economies and in return, future customers. Additionally, within our connected universe of feedback and reviews, creating a powerhouse of people who are your active ambassadors can also be a game-changer.

Providing startup training, as part of traditional outplacement, can have a significant impact on employee satisfaction and even external consumer brand recognition. The Nokia Bridge programme discovered that they could reduce or counter the traditional 20%+ drop in productivity that surrounds layoff and redundancies. All in all, done right, you can expect a 15% ROI into improving outplacement processes.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For organisations that look to incorporate the full suite of reskilling, upskilling and strategic outskilling, there are substantial potential benefits.


McDonald’s and Uber have both extended the outskilling practices to become part of the employee cycle even without any redundancy or layoff programmes. McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity programme knows that employees will ultimately leave McDonald’s, but this programme typically increases employees’ tenure at the firm, reducing turnover and hiring costs. Uber’s programme has had mixed reviews, but at its heart, the idea is to enable departing drivers who might in the future be displaced anyway to leave into positive positions to continue as riders and ambassadors. As Uber states: “We want to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business, and backing business owners, creators and doers regardless of their background is essential to that goal.”

Amazon has invested considerable amounts of money into their outskilling programmes and in return has gained a competitive advantage. By empowering drivers, who they know will depart as there is a well-documented cycle of employment, to start their delivery firms, they have naturally extended their reach as well as ensuring that the external firms they are hiring can meet the expectations of the Amazon brand as they’ve been upskilling in the Amazon work ethics.

Many companies globally have been hit by the pandemic and forced to make unexpected changes. Their outplacement programmes could still become much more strategic through the use of startup outskilling. The mantra being “don’t let staff go, let them grow.” Departure driven by employee desire or a business requirement for redundancy can see organisations losing a tremendous amount of brain trust and insight. We also have seen a considerable reduction in innovation that can be the difference between success and failure for many organisations. By creating startup innovation programmes, you can divert talent from your organisation into startups but keep the opportunity within your sphere of influence.

We know that innovation from within, especially around industry problems can be incredibly difficult or confining to solve from within but by giving departing talent innovation pathways through startup creation, you can see a significant return for a relatively low investment. Nokia ended up investing in 20% of the startups generated during their Bridge redundancy programme enabling new business opportunities.

(Discover more about Nokia Bridge here by watching our recorded webinar with one of the team who lead the programme)

Looking ahead

COVID-19 has increased our speed of change and added to a challenging future for many workforces as more elements become automated, and companies need to re-allocate employees to new business opportunities. What will separate the long-term winners from those that might fall behind? Organisations of all sizes need to:

  • Rapidly instil startup creative training across your business to drive competitive advantage.

By building in the powerhouse of three skills: complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity, with the tools and mindset to operate at speed along with the focus of a startup creates a powerful engine. It enables your talent to drive value out of your existing products and services as well as start the focused space for innovation to develop new and exciting value for your business.

  • Deploying strategic upskilling, reskilling and purposeful outskilling as the tools by which to empower your workforce with startup creative skills at the right stage of their employee lifecycle.

Upskilling and reskilling existing teams can be a much more successful and supportive approach than looking to bring skills in-house which requires a significant time and energy investment in onboarding them into your process and methods. Allowing innovation and agile thinking to come from all areas of the business enables those closest to the problems and opportunities a voice that turns your whole company into an innovative machine for value creation. Purposeful outskilling is an underutilised strategic operation that can lead to huge gains when linking your talent’s lifecycle to opportunity building where both sides can benefit. Again, the mantra of “don’t let your talent go, let them grow” enables you to think differently about how you empower life-long learning with natural evolutions as well as continuing a positive connection that allows strategic growth for everyone.

  • Maximise your current assets and build for the future.

Using startup thinking to sweat your current assets for maximum value while building new products, solutions and services to meet future requirements. Did you know that 9 out of 10 product launches fail? But changing that success rate by 1 by empowering your talent with new skills and new ways of working will significantly impact your bottom line.

This article originally was available in the CEO Today Magazine March 2021 Edition

Discover our reskilling and upskilling programmes: ASPIRE Foundry

Discover our outskilling programme: ASPIRE LaunchPad

Business Chief logo - reskill for growth

Opinion: Reskill your workforce to navigate the new normal

The following article on reskilling, upskilling and purposeful outskilling for growth was written by our CEO, Chris Locke and was originally published in Business Chief.

By exploring startup thinking and embracing entrepreneurial programmes, businesses can ride the next wave of growth, argues Chris Locke, CEO, ASPIRE.

Business leaders have found staying positive an increasingly challenging exercise whilst COVID-19 rips through our communities and economy fuelling a huge rise in unemployment and redundancy. 

According to the Office of National Statistics, in the UK, more people were made redundant between July and September 2020 than at any point on record as the pandemic laid waste to large parts of the economy. In January, UK unemployment rose to 5%, the highest level in five years. 

The good news is that, recently, there have been signs that the economy will rebound strongly, especially with the vaccine’s continuing rollout. However, even with recovery looking better than expected, we have to acknowledge the hard facts around some of the roles caught up in the redundancy programmes. Many won’t come back. 

The amount of disruption combined with automation, digital transformations, and even changing customer expectations, will be sending some roles to the out-of-date pile. 

So, what can business leaders do to mitigate the impact?

The easy answer is that business leaders need to not just think short term but start reskilling or upskilling their talent with a skill set that is going to be essential. But what exactly does that mean?

Right now, everyone is talking about reskilling or upskilling, but it can be increasingly complicated to understand what this means in practice and where to focus limited resources. Making sure the right choices are taken in this process will make a difference. It can be easy to focus on technical skills but in reality, as automation and the speed of digitalisation continues, other skills are actually becoming much more important. 

The World Economic Forum has highlighted the critical skills for 2025 and beyond. The top five are as follows:

  1. Analytical thinking and innovation
  2. Active learning and learning strategies
  3. Complex problem-solving
  4. Critical thinking and analysis
  5. Creativity, originality and initiative

Internal entrepreneurship as a pathway for success

The fastest way to evolve a corporate to be ready for the future and build in the agility and speed that will help navigate the disruption is to empower teams in all areas of the business with these identified critical skills and the freedom to implement them. The challenge of reskilling and upskilling becomes how to instil these skills into an organisation at scale. 

The answer for many is internal entrepreneurship as a pathway for success. Entrepreneurism has often been considered a bit of a dangerous tool at many businesses. With the standard approach of control, point and direct, this craft’s unexpected nature can often seem at odds with the corporate way of life. 

But what most organisations have learned or are learning the hard way is that today, due to the speed and impact of the disruption and change, it isn’t just about acting like a startup, it’s about operating like a startup. It’s the only way to gain the flexibility and pace needed to succeed in today’s world. And that means embracing entrepreneurship internally and the critical skill set that it builds. 

When looking at how to implement this strategic imperative across your business fast, the most effective way is to tie it back into real life, learn-by-doing opportunity building moments that don’t just share a concept but instil the mindset of startup thinking. Theory is not enough to embed the skills into your organisation. Attaching entrepreneurial startup thinking upskilling and reskilling programmes with your innovation programmes or new initiatives or product lines to build while you learn will give it the buy-in to take hold. 

Product line or solution owners should be jumping at this approach. When 9 out of 10 products fail, internal entrepreneurial programmes are a unique approach that could reduce failure rates. They create space for these new skills to drive creativity and innovation to change the game. The impact can be limitless.

But it’s not just about upskilling or reskilling. We know it’s often cheaper to use upskilling and reskilling rather than release and employing new staff. However, sometimes, as COVID-19 has shown, it becomes inevitable with our current business structures as they are. But what if you could extend how you manage your talent requirements with a startup outskilling programme to build in more flexibility and reduce the risk of forced redundancies? 

Create a startup outskilling programme

Businesses could circumvent redundancies on mass and help their talent manage their careers by strategically moving people who choose into startup outskilling programmes. This approach quite possibly could make an impact on the unemployment figure and on those hardest hit. 

Living your corporate values and acting responsibly, this approach increases the opportunity for success for everyone involved, from a buoyant economy rebound through programmes focused on solving industry issues, you will benefit from or even world problems. Organisations who approach talent management and skilling across the entire lifecycle with entrepreneurship opportunities would become the future beacons for rock start talents to join. Helping you hire not fire the best.

By exploring startup thinking and entrepreneurial programmes internally, organisations as a critical element of your reskilling, upskilling and even outskilling strategies can redefine the relationship between the business and their teams and improve chances for everyone to create value. 

Finding and launching that next wave of profitable growth at pace while managing talent across their lifecycle will be the difference between those that take this time of disruption head-on and survive and those who are taken down by it.

Discover more about ASPIRE LaunchPad our outskilling solution here

The original article can be found here in Business Chief posted on Feb 20th 2021

Our CPD accreditation in process!

We are thrilled to announce that we are in the process of getting the CPD accreditation for the ASPIRE programme with the CPD Standards Office, which is part of the Professional Development Consortium.

We know that it’s important to keep updated with your skills and that some organisations give extra attention to the numbers of hours people spend on training, on building their skills and that the training meets quality standards. This is where CPD accreditation comes into action.

At ASPIRE we have decided to go through the rigorous accreditation process to obtain CPD accreditation status to show we are totally committed to providing the best online learn-by-doing entrepreneurial training programme to help people, teams and organisations develop the mindsets and skills to deliver innovation, opportunity and growth.

We want to help you have an impact on your work, project and also on your personal development journey. When taking the ASPIRE programme, we aim to give you the skills, tools and mindset to launch and to grow a business, be able to quickly assess its feasibility, desirability and commerciality…and while you are learning soon you will also earn CPD credits! So watch this space.



Ramboll is a leading engineering, design and consultancy company founded in Denmark in 1945 employing more than 15,000 experts worldwide throughout 300 offices in 35 countries.

Despite significant growth since 2001, margins were being squeezed and Ramboll acknowledged the impact of competitors and startups on the value chain of their industry. The sheer speed of change led Ramboll to recognize the need to leverage and systematize their ability to innovate and future-proof their organisation.

To leverage Ramboll’s enormous reserve of expertise, Rainmaking designed the inaugural ‘Ramboll Innovation Accelerator’. Ramboll was able to increase speed to market for commercially viable ideas while eliminating non-viable ideas based on data, much faster and more consistently than had previously been possible.


Applications from across all business units


Growth ventures launched in 2018 and 2019

Embedding an innovation framework to test ideas quickly and develop a portfolio of solutions

Recognising the risks of stagnation within their organisation, Ramboll made the brave choice to focus on rapidly improving their innovation capabilities from the inside out.

By combining robust methodologies, including design thinking and lean startup, the Ramboll Internal Accelerator provides a governance, training and communications framework for developing new ideas, rapidly assessing their commercial potential and growing them to innovative businesses that unlock new revenue streams.

It also functioned as a vehicle for cultural change towards stronger client-centric based business development.

Drive an internal culture of innovation

The programme helped Ramboll €1.34m in new revenue in Year 1

Open to all teams globally, the 2018 program attracted 270 applications from across all business units. 95% of ideas were rejected within the first ten weeks. This ultimately left three final teams pitching for follow on investment at demo day.

During the program, the 3 final ideas were able to generate over £300k in revenue and secured partnerships with companies such as Google. By end of the program, the 3 teams all received investment and are forecast to generate over £1.5m in new revenue in 2019.

Discover more from the Galago team who are part of #YouMeEntrepreneur

#YouMeEntrepreneur meet Richard Sams and Ben Blomerley

Richard Sams and Ben Blomerley are founders of MOHARA who help new startups create their technical businesses. They are also an amazing content partner for ASPIRE.

Meet Richard Sams

Image for post

Why did you decide to start your business? What was the motivating factor(s) that pushed you into this pathway?

I have always been entrepreneurial, from selling my grandparents summer house contents back to them when I was six to writing a property portfolio business plan in my last year at 6th form college. I entered a career as a teacher aged 22 and loved the people and the profession. Teaching allowed me to teach in New Zealand and Thailand (where MOHARA was born as a concept) for which I am so thankful for. After 8 years in education I just began to feel a little restless, I felt the career I had in front of me was a little too prescribed and I knew it had a ceiling. I wanted to build a legacy, I wanted to build something from the ground up and say “we did that”. I knew I wanted to continue in technology, my degree was in Computing and Education, I knew I wanted to continue working with people, so I thought building technology products would be worth a shot. I guess the overarching motivating factor was ambition, ambition to create, build, collaborate and create a legacy.

Emotionally what sort of process did you go through or did you not think much about it and just jumped? Was it important to get buy-in from anyone?

I absolutely got buy-in from my Mum and Dad, we discussed it at length and Dad, in particular, had a strong influence on the type of business we founded. Emotionally it was a real rollercoaster, I recall many a long email or video call with friends about the idea, hearing all of their thoughts. I am not risk-averse in any way really, I love a challenge and definitely favour optimism as a default. However, the concept of giving up a steady paycheck and moving to a world where you only get paid if you can find the work, you have employees straight out of the box, a limited financial runway and it will only work if you are good enough, took some adjusting to.

Did you try to de-risk the process?

Absolutely… well kind of! Before starting in August 2011, I signed up with a few supply teaching companies haha. Confidence in my own abilities right there! We had enough money to operate for 3 months thanks to the money I had saved teaching abroad and I knew that Patty and the guys in Bangkok would be in high demand if it didn’t work out. Also, I knew I could re-enter teaching should things not work out, so I thought there was little downside to just going for it.

Looking back is there anything that has taken you by surprise in the process of building something from scratch?

I think the number of hats you have to wear at the beginning and the huge gaps I had in my knowledge. I had to learn and I had to learn at a frightening pace. Coming from a teaching career, I had never hired, I had never written a contract, I had never produced cash flow forecasts, I had never set up a business development pipeline, I had never priced work or had to write a brand and marketing plan. I knew tech and people. I had to learn the rest.

What is the best thing about becoming an Entrepreneur? Why would you recommend it? Why would you not recommend it?

Creativity. You can go your own way and build whatever you want. I love this. Freedom to create. There is tremendous satisfaction to be had along the way, from your first deal, seeing your ideas become a reality to the people who join the organisation from all walks of life with their own stories. The career is not without its downsides. The stress can be immense, you have to work very hard, you have to have the emotional strength, grit and perseverance. You may have to sacrifice a lot along the way and be willing to do it if needs be.

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business?

Following a particularly tough stretch, both personally and professionally in early 2020, my Dad sat me down recognising my struggles and offered this advice: “It’s not about the goal, it’s about the journey. Love the process and the journey and you’ll get where you are going”. I think it holds true for anyone looking to start a business.

Meet Ben Blomerley

Image for post

Why did you decide to start your business? What was the motivating factor(s) that pushed you into this pathway?

I was at business school and had originally thought to go into banking. But I kept going to interviews and the feedback was like ‘it seems you know how to do the job, but it doesn’t seem you want the job’. And they were right. That led to me starting my marketplace start-up (along with a classmate) back in 2011. I guess the motivation was to be doing something for myself, and not just following a treadmill of something I hated, just for the money.

Emotionally what sort of process did you go through or did you not think much about it and just jumped? Was it important to get buy-in from anyone?

I probably should have got buy-in from the girlfriend I had at the time (we split up fairly soon afterwards). I think it places an enormous emotional toll, because of the volatility. I was in an environment and atmosphere at business school where anything felt possible, and it was only the reality of plugging away at something, and being very lonely whilst doing it that I could have thought about first. When I joined Rich at MOHARA it was a relief because I wouldn’t want to do something on my own.

Did you try to de-risk the process?

I tried to de-risk in some ways, and I think that was actually a mistake. I always had a second job, as the part-time CFO at Quick Release. So I always had a little money coming in. That kept me — and therefore the idea — going for longer. I didn’t de-risk where I should have done — much more validation of the idea, much more challenge on my ability to actually build the business, or bringing in a business partner.

Looking back is there anything that has taken you by surprise in the process of building something from scratch?

Not really taken me by surprise — it’s just hard work!

What is the best thing about becoming an Entrepreneur? Why would you recommend it? Why would you not recommend it?

The best thing is when your team has achieved something special, and they’re all inspired by what you’ve all done together, and you think ‘I brought them here’. That feeling is amazing. That feeling that you’re in some way responsible for creating something that wasn’t there before, and that people value, is really special, and I am not sure you can get that in almost any other way. Why wouldn’t I recommend it? Because you’re never sure how much money you’re going to have, and the spaces between the peaks and the troughs are never very long. It’s a rollercoaster!

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business?

What I always tell people is to think strongly about the ‘build-sell-finance’. Every business in the world needs to make something that they can sell to customers, and fund it whilst they are getting going or growing. So how are you really going to do that build/sell/finance? Who have you around you who can help do it? And if you don’t know how you’ll do it, be prepared for a long and potentially painful journey…

ASPIRE ©Rainmaking Innovation Limited
All rights reserved. Company number: 08433320
Registered office: Soho Works 180 The Strand London WC2R 1EA