Young Innovators Success Stories: Jack Peden Company, Druid Innovation Ltd, East of England
Developing wearable tech that generates electricity from body heat
Jack Peden joined the Young Innovators programme when his business was still in the idea stage. The aerospace engineering graduate had been researching methods and technology for generating electricity from body heat, but wasn’t sure how to take his idea forward.
“I had no funding, no direction and no clue how to take the project from the conceptual phase and turn it into a real business,” Jack says.
Fast forward 12 months and Jack’s idea has turned into a fully fledged business: Druid Innovation Ltd. He’s developed the company’s first wearable, plus a prototype app that demonstrates how customers will interact with the product.
The wearable, known as Druid Pi, is still in its early stages – Jack describes it as “a mess of electronics and wires hot-glued onto a rubber strap that fits on your wrist”. However, it’s been a critical step in proving his concept works.
“Druid Pi collects loads of data, like temperatures, power generation and acceleration, and logs it. It looks awful, but it allowed us to prove that we could generate useful amounts of energy from a wearable device,” he says.
“The second big technical milestone was the development of a prototype app that demonstrates our vision for how the user will interact with our product. It allowed us to get our ideas into customers’ hands and collect feedback to hone the product.”
In the early stages of the programme, Jack’s Innovation Champion from Innovate UK EDGE helped him to focus on the commercialisation of his idea.
“I’d spent so much time thinking about the technology that I hadn’t really developed a strategy for selling it. I used market research, competitor analysis and other techniques to pinpoint wearable health and fitness trackers as the product we should target.
“This created the commercial foundation that my business needed; it underpinned everything we did for the rest of the programme.”
Jack describes the financial support from the Young Innovators Award as being “groundbreaking”. The £5,000 grant provided the first cash injection into Druid, allowing Jack to purchase the hardware and components needed to make his energy harvesting system.
The funding also meant Jack could reduce his hours at his full-time job and dedicate more days to Druid. That freed up time in the evenings and weekends, which he explains was crucial for his mental health.
“Taking time off is really important for me to stay happy and healthy. When you’re running your own business, it’s easy to feel swamped. There’s never enough time to do everything, so you end up not taking any time off. I’ve done that in the past and burnt myself out,” he says.
“It’s especially hard when you’re working another job to pay the bills, as most entrepreneurs do while they establish their businesses. The living allowance has been really important. It meant I could dedicate time to Druid without sacrificing my own life too much.”
The biggest areas of growth for Jack have been in his self-belief and confidence as an entrepreneur – he no longer feels like an impostor at events and meetings with successful people.
“I feel capable of running Druid myself: I’m comfortable making strategic decisions, meeting with potential partners and investors, and developing a successful product.
Jack adds that his leadership skills have improved dramatically in the last year too. His role has shifted from engineer to CEO, and he’s now focused on getting the best out of his team.
“I used to think that leadership was about being in charge and getting people to do things for you. But I now see it as a way of facilitating everyone to do their best work and make sure the team is working together effectively to achieve our goals,” he explains.
The impact of mentoring
Jack’s advice for future applicants is to attend events in person where possible, take up every PR opportunity and make the most of the mentoring.
“My innovation champion Richard Basgallop, has helped me find funding, research competitors and set up meetings with companies like Sony and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC). I’ll happily say that Druid wouldn’t be where it is now without Richard’s help,” Jack says.
“For future applicants, make the most of your innovation champion. Ask them questions, give them work to do, spew your business frustrations down the phone for half an hour – as long as they are as patient and understanding as mine was!”.
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The Young Innovators Awards are an annual competition from Innovate UK that finds, supports and celebrates young people with great business ideas.