Be Daring, Be Bold and Follow Your Dreams by Dr Soraya Jones

Be Daring, Be Bold and Follow Your Dreams by Dr Soraya Jones


Dr Soraya Jones, Entrepreneur in Residence at SJIC, talks to Rupert Baines, the new Chief Executive of UltraSoC and Dr Rosemary Francis, Founder and CEO of Ellexus.

I recently interviewed Rupert Baines, the newly appointed CEO of Ultrasoc, a company that builds technology for system on chip (SoC) based at St John’s Innovation Centre, and his technology offer is a groundbreaking innovation within the semiconductor industry. Rupert is a respected figure in the telecoms industry: he was formerly the CMO of the innovative company PicoChip, which later got acquired by Mindspeed Technologies – and is now part of Intel. He has experienced and navigated his way through the plethora of stages of a company’s growth and therefore understands the challenges and opportunities of building a business.

When asked what advice he would give to aspiring entrepreneurs, he said: “Just go for it. You will figure out your motivations and aspirations by experience. There are some really good mentors around but for most people ‘I’m waiting to figure out my motivation’ is an excuse to procrastinate.”

Rupert Baines UltraSoC

So one piece of advice from a distinguished entrepreneur like Rupert is not to wait too long to pursue your dream. If you have an idea for a product or service and are passionate about it, be daring and be brave and follow your dreams. Start talking to trusted friends and experienced investors or mentors and get their early thoughts and feedback on your idea or key inspiration – believe you me, initial feedback and ideas are significantly useful and will help you to build and refine your proposition better! If nothing else, doing this will at least tell you to bin the idea at an early stage if you think it is a no-goer! A lot of people are very protective of ideas and want to keep them secret: Rupert says, “Don’t stress too much about keeping it secret. If it is no good, you want to ‘fail fast’ and improve it. If it is good, then have the self-belief to go for it, start selling it and go loud”

Rupert admires people like Robin Saxby and James Dyson, ‘these are people who made a difference, created business and created a lot of value, people who changed things and who did it with integrity.’

I admire people like David Cleevely who ‘tells it as it is’ regardless if you have a good idea or a terrible one; he is a person who always has time to see budding entrepreneurs no matter how busy he is. David has a mission to ensure Cambridge still leads in innovation nationwide and he gives so much of his time back to the community to make this happen being on the board of three membership networks: Cambridge Wireless, Cambridge Network and Cambridge Ahead. I also admire people like Jack Lang, who is very honest and straightforward. He usually keeps quiet but when what he does say is often embedded with valuable pearls of wisdom. Jack was one of the original cofounders of the well-known Raspberry Pi Foundation, whose low cost, credit card-sized Raspberry Pi computers have achieved viral marketing success. In terms of its ingenuity and innovation, who would have thought such a small board could be a powerful means of influencing the next generation to be more interested in computing. Indeed, Cambridge has been blessed with exceptional role models who are willing to take the time to spend an hour or so and listen to ambitious entrepreneurs about their ideas, because they feel it is important to do so—it is about giving back to the community but at the same time to encourage and stimulate the next big thing or great idea!  These are people who care and mentor entrepreneurs because they care about promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in the region. I am naming a few here but I know Cambridge has a very strong group that ‘gives their time’ to do this: David Gill, Alan Barrell, Charles Cotton, Herman Hauser and Andy Richards.

This sentiment is very much echoed by Dr. Rosemary Francis, Founder and CEO of Ellexus, a company that is rapidly scaling up with multinational clients including ARM, Cancer Research and Mentor Graphics. After gaining her PhD at Cambridge, Rosemary founded Ellexus to create its inaugural product Breeze, which helps IT managers and engineers to solve software build and installation issues quickly. Ellexus is now developing a new product, Mistral, which will use the same tracing technology used in Breeze to throttle jobs that are overloading a high performance computing storage system, solving a common problem in a way that no one has been able to do before.

Dr Rosemary Francis, Ellexus

I have personally seen Rosemary create a business with multinational customers from its small start at St John’s Innovation Centre five years ago, and the company is still actively recruiting for more team members. It is very inspiring to see her company growing into what I believe will be a company to watch out for in the future.

Asked if having a mentor is important in growing a business, Rosemary comments: “Through various schemes for start-ups, as well as competition prizes, I have benefited from several different mentors and I have found them extremely useful. When starting a business it is essential to be able to learn from others, whether or not this is through a formal mentoring scheme or not.

A mentor doesn’t necessarily need to be in the same industry as you. While I value the advice I have gained from those in the industry, I have also gained a lot of useful insight from companies external to the technology sector.”

And she goes on to explain that the ‘the main benefit of being based at St John’s Innovation system’ is that  ‘there are other start-ups located in the Centre and we occasionally work with them. Cambridge is the technology hub of the UK and St John’s attracts a wide variety of entrepreneurs with really interesting business ideas. Over the years I have got to know many people in the building, which has often resulted in introductions to potential clients through other start-ups’ networks.”

People like Rupert and Rosemary give me reasons to believe in what we do at St John’s Innovation Centre. Providing flexible accommodation that allows start-up companies to scale up or scale down, with a one-month notice period to cancel the tenancy, is an attractive proposition for most start-up companies where cash flow is always an issue. More importantly, ensuring that there is an ecosystem within the building where some 10-15% are service provider companies (eg. recruiters, legal, accounting, marketing consultancies, etc.) enables our start-up companies the opportunity to cross sell, network with likeminded entrepreneurs and have access to expertise they don’t necessarily have in their team.

Throughout the last few years we have been able to tap into funding to provide further business support or coaching and mentoring on a one-to-one basis. We will continue to do this with the current activities of Enterprise Europe Network and Innovate to Succeed programmes, all designed to help SMEs to scale up and internationalise their products/services to the world!*

*This article was first published in October 2015 issue of Cambridge Business Magazine

Dr Soraya Jones

Dr Soraya Jones is Entrepreneur in Residence at St John’s Innovation Centre.