Meet our latest Catalyst Centre tenant!

We are thrilled to announce that Utonomy, founded by entrepreneur Adam Kingdon, will be the second start-up business joining the Catalyst Centre in September. We tracked him down, eager to find out more about his business and what he hopes to get out of his Catalyst Centre experience.

What is the idea behind your business and what will it offer?

Utonomy is developing a technology that will reduce the leakage of methane gas within the natural Gas Distribution Network (GDN) which transports gas to the consumer. It is critically important to reduce leakage of methane as it is such a potent greenhouse gas with 84 times the global warming potential of CO2 over 20 years and 28 times over 100 years.

The technology works by automatically managing the pressure in the network so that it is consistently at the right level no matter what the demand. As leakage is proportional to the pressure in the network, managing the pressure in a smarter way can significantly reduce leakage. We expect to reduce leakage by more than 20%, which will give a significant payback for gas network operators and make a big impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

What stage is your business at currently?

The business is currently early-stage and pre-revenue generating. We are ready to initiate the proof of concept phase on how we can optimise the pressure network. It’s a complex technical problem due to the tremendous variations of demand in the network from say a cold winter morning to a warm summer evening.

Once we have completed our proof of concept phase early next year, we will be looking to raise seed money to develop the complete solution which we can test on live networks.

Why did you decide to apply for the Catalyst Centre?

In 2005 I founded i2O Water, a company that has spent much of the last decade developing solutions to help some of world’s leading water companies reduce leakage and burst frequency. After building the company to 60 employees with significant revenue, I was looking for the next challenge, which is where Utonomy came about. Having built i2O Water at Southampton Science Park, I had seen the Catalyst Centre develop since it was established in September 2012, and knew it was the right place to develop Utonomy.

The Catalyst Centre will give us access to advice from a specialist mentor and key influencers within the Science Park community. This alone will help provide more clarity and direction on how to progress and expand. In addition, we aim to gain valuable knowledge whilst fine-tuning our ideas and business processes to accomplish our objectives.

How did the pitch go?

There was an incredibly high calibre of judges at the pitching session, who asked thought-provoking questions that weren’t easy to answer! That said, for my first pitch as Utonomy, it went exceedingly well! The judges advice led to us going back and refining the business plan and mission to move forward over the next six months.

Where do you see the business in five years time?

In five years’ time the ideal is that we are still a tenant on the Science Park  occupying one of the larger office spaces. The business will be profitable, with a significant revenue and a proportionate share of the market for intelligent gas networks. Whilst we will be focusing on the application of our product in relation to the gas industry, we will also be looking at other utilities and adjacent technologies and products which we can develop.

Which entrepreneur do you admire the most?

That’s a tough one! Personally, my biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur is the tech start-ups that have risen from Silicon Valley, an area which has given rise to Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Apple. I was lucky enough to spend time with some of them when they came to the UK last year including Megan Smith of Google and Reid Hoffman founder of Linkedin. They inspire for many reasons: successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs think big and scale their businesses faster than other entrepreneurs, whilst incorporating the try and fail fast philosophy. They put ideas and products into practice quickly, see what works and what doesn’t, and then adapt.

What piece of advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur?

The best piece of advice that I could give to anyone who hungers for founding a start-up company is to use the try and fail fast philosophy I mentioned before. Having no limitations or fears, a budding entrepreneur can just go for it! Another essential point of advice I could pass on is to get the product to market as soon as possible so that it can be trialled and tested, the main advantage of this is learning from the feedback of what the customers need and want.