Tim Haynes answer to redundancy was to create his own job. Having spotted that energy efficiency was to become a growing issue, in 2002 he founded Nujira to tackle the acute inefficiency of the base stations that power our mobile and TV basestations.
By investing in R&D at a time when other vendors were focused on cost reduction, he was able to implement a system designed in the 1940s, but never commercially deployed. Several rounds of funding ensued – including £7.5m led by SAM Private Equity this September – taking Nujira’s total fundraising to date to a remarkable £45m.
The latest investment came with a change of direction, as the infrastructure business has largely been wound down to focus on developing the envelope tracking technology for mobile handsets. As he celebrates Nujira’s 10th birthday, Tim tells us how he made it – and what’s next.
How does it feel to turn away from your founding idea?
It was quite hard to do, because there is a sense of ‘Have we failed here?’ But with the benefit of hindsight I can say that was probably the best decision we made. It now looks certain that this technology will be in every smartphone – that’s a billion phones – by 2016.
How has the fast growth of the tech world dictated your path?
Even though we’ve pioneered everything and we’ve got chips, other companies come into the market. So in the past 10 years we’ve invested heavily in patenting.
That’s resulted in a portfolio of about 175 patents. That really is the ace we have up our sleeve. I challenge anybody to build an envelope tracking system without infringing some of these patents.
Was there ever a time when you wanted to quit?
A funding round without some trauma is not a funding round. But from my perspective, you just have to stay calm and work your way through the thing. I’ve never wanted to quit.
People say, “You’ve been successful.” But my view is we won’t be successful until we make a profit on a yearly basis and are able to return funds to shareholders, through an IPO or some other form of exit. So I’m looking to the future.
Do funding rounds get any easier the more you do?
The later-stage you become, generally it does become easier, because you’re de-risked. Over the last couple of years funding has got harder, but we’ve been lucky because our power saves energy, so we’ve been able to exploit the clean tech side of funding.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking to venture funds over many years. They don’t necessarily invest the first time you meet them, or even within a year. Some of my funds have followed us for five years before they’ve invested.
How have you held on to your role, with so many investors coming on board?
I guess I’ve evolved with time – and presumably satisfactorily because I still have my job 10 years on! I think you’d have to ask others.
How would you describe your relationship with your investors?
A good relationship with an investor is about trust. They don’t want fluff and nice words. They want the situation told as it is; they want your opinion and they want to see somebody that’s in control. When bad news comes along, they want to know what the answer to the bad news is.
Looking back, is there anything you’d have done differently?
The UK is a great place for innovation, but we don’t have the resources (people) that are there in the Valley and other areas. So I’d definitely put an office in California.
Who have your learnt most from?
Members of the board have been helpful in terms of a sounding board. There are also a number of people in the Cambridge area that are very astute and have been helpful along the way.
If you could say one thing to a young entrepreneur starting up today, what would it be?
If you’re not a determined person, don’t do it. Those first few years are by far the hardest and you have to have determination to succeed. Otherwise, it would be too easy to give up.
If you were to sell Nujira tomorrow, would you consider starting up again?
I’ve learnt a lot of lessons, which I’d like to reuse. I think it would be more efficient next time round – but I wouldn’t go back to ground zero.
My preference would be to join something that was 10-20 people, with first generation technology done. That’s still, in my opinion, a company in a certain degree of chaos. That’s the bit that I thrive on: the chaos. Love the chaos!