Ryan and Elena Aeropowder

The 2016 Low Carbon Entrepreneurs one year on

01 March 2017

One year on from winning the Mayor's Entrepreneur, we have finally had a moment to look back at the how things have gone so far.

Back in those days, we couldn’t have imagined how things would turn out for us a year later. The only thing we knew was that turning our idea of converting waste chicken feathers into sustainable insulation materials was going to be a lot of work!

So while the end goal was clear, the journey along the way was not. Question marks remained about where we were going to do our product development, and how we would run the day to day of the business. Fortunately, we managed to secure a PhD project with the Dyson School of Design Engineering for Elena to study the technical capabilities of feathers. Meanwhile, we were accepted into the InnovationRCA, an incubator where Ryan spends most of his time working on the commercial aspects of the business.

But startups are more than just the place in which you work. This is our first time as entrepreneurs. Every week, we are facing new challenges and decisions to make. Some days are easier and some days of harder, but we have learned how to work together as a team to get things done. But it has also become very clear when we need to get external help, and reaching to others has been one of the best ways to make meaningful progress. Our meetings have been surprisingly varied, from conference rooms at CitiGroup’s headquarters in Canary Wharf to visits with insulation experts in a cold stone Welsh farmhouse. We closed out the year by attending SLUSH 2016 in Helsinki, Finland. With around 20,000 participants, it is one of the largest startup events in the world. From listening to keynote talks from industry leaders to meetings with potential investors, it was a valuable learning experience for us despite the freezing temperatures!

The Mayor’s Entrepreneur Award wasn’t the only competition success we had this year. Aeropowder also won the Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Futures award, the NACUE Varsity Pitch Competition and we have been featured on the Forbes 30 under 30 Europe list for Social Entrepreneurs. Elena was also selected by InnovateUK to be the recipient of one of their INFOCUS Women in Innovation Awards.

The big question is, what will 2017 bring? We have some clear goals about what we want to achieve this year. We are focusing on product development and are contacting potential customers to understanding their needs. We want to make sure our feather insulation is the best product that it can be and startups are successful by being agile. So regardless of the path, hopefully Aeropowder will be found in homes sooner rather than later!