In the first of a new series of conversations with friends of Cambridge Wireless, Chris Pateman-Jones, CEO of smart cities infrastructure specialists Connected Kerb – winner of CWIC’s Most Innovative Startup Award this year – talks about his lockdown experience, how teamwork, empathy and a people-focus have been crucial, and looks ahead to EV in 2021.
Well, what can we say that has not already been said this year? I thought I’d take the opportunity to review and recap.
Joining Connected Kerb two years ago as Head of Strategy, I then became CEO in November last year. I think the founders wanted me to have a nice run-in before taking the reins and getting stuck into 2020.
It's been a breeze, as you'd expect…!
We anticipated six to nine months' worth of disruption in advance, and reworked our mid-term strategy to reflect this.
The long-term strategy for the business remains as it always has – an innovative UK-owned solution, aiming to build the biggest, longest-life and most sustainable infrastructure network for EV and smart cities around the world – and were delighted to be honoured earlier this year with a Global SEAL Award for sustainability and more recently, to partner with the UN and UNESCO for their 75th year anniversary celebrations.
Thankful for opportunities
As with the mentality within most start-ups – run, run, run as fast as you can – this year has also been a welcome enforced break at times. A time to pause, take stock, think and prepare.
As an industry and wider economy, there are many challenges facing us all right now, and we feel fortunate to be in the position we are. I am personally very lucky to have such a brilliant team around me, and a group of hugely supportive investors.
Connected Kerb is in a unique position too, within the burgeoning green sector.
We are continuing to close deals and have positive client conversations that, in many instances the pandemic has actually accelerated. The desire for our offering has scaled dramatically, with discussions now around the deployment of multiple thousands of charging points, when just months ago, at the beginning of 2020 most of our clients were considering far smaller numbers.
People, people, people
In this challenging time of remote working, building a team can still happen.
We're proud to have brought on five new people since March – even though (as a result of lockdown) I'm the only person they have all met in person (!) – and are planning on bringing on two more before Christmas.
The new folk have integrated fantastically well, and our culture is openness, and fostering collaboration and teamwork – again, we aren't perfect, but we're working hard at it. Credit to my team and all our staff for welcoming the new starters.
At the beginning of lockdown, in order to secure the long term stability of the business in a time of major uncertainty, we asked the team to consider a deferment (not reduction) of salaries. The figures were all agreed with the team on an individual basis, but ranged from 10-40%, depending on personal situations.
As a management team, we're hugely grateful to the team for being open to this and ultimately it was this step, together with their hard work, which has meant that we've been able to avoid any redundancies or use of the govt furlough scheme during the pandemic.
In recognition of the sacrifice the team made – and with a view to building longer term shared investment in what we do – we decided to offer the team the opportunity to take their deferment as either cash, or as stock in CK. Happily salaries are now all back at 100%, and we’re well on our way to becoming the John Lewis of EV charging.
We're also upgrading IT systems and funding home connectivity upgrades as we'll be going back to the office next year, but still expect the team to be able to work flexibly, to maintain some of the positive remote working lessons from 2020.
So, keep an eye out for us in 2021; we've got big plans!