Who are you?
I am a designer and social entrepreneur, co-Founder and CEO of bio-bean. At the heart of my work is a desire to combine the practical with the aesthetic, the functional with the idealistic, and to meet the challenges of a modern world in an innovative way. I look to achieve this through a methodology of rational inquiry, undertaken in the spirit of curiosity and experimentation.
Whilst studying Architecture at London’s Bartlett School (UCL) I came up with the idea behind bio-bean and launched a pioneering non-profit organisation (Students for Happiness). I currently hold positions on a number of boards associated with Social Enterprise and Green Entrepreneurship. Follow @arthurkay_ for updates.
Can you explain us in 140 characters what bio-bean is about?
Bio-bean is an innovative green energy company which collects waste coffee grounds and uses a patented process to recycle them into biodiesel and biomass pellets…
How did you come up with the idea behind bio-bean?
As with lots of ideas, (Where Good Ideas Come From, When Ideas Have Sex) the idea behind bio-bean was derived from another project, in my case, the architectural design for a coffee shop and roasting facility. Investigating how to create a true ‘closed loop’, and designing a building which would be powered by it’s own waste. In doing so, I discovered a series of disparate technologies, which, if applied and applied to a specific feedstock (namely waste coffee grounds), within a business framework could become an environmentally and commercially pioneering enterprise… thus bio-bean was born.
I went on to win the Mayor’s Low Carbon Prize, and with this endorsement and funding took the business forward. Since graduating last year, bio-bean has grown significantly, and we are now poised to become one of the UK’s most disruptive social enterprises. London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, appointed me as one of his ‘London Leaders’ and the Chairman of Shell called me “the UK’s most Innovative Young Entrepreneur”.
When we look at entrepreneurs, they usually come from a dropout generation, business schools or computer science departments. On the other hand you studied Architecture, why and where do you see the connection between what you studied and what you are doing now?
Architecture may seem a world a part from what we do at bio-bean. However, I see strong parallels between the two. In both I have looked to draw from the worlds of art and science, and used the subsequent cross-fertilisation of ideas to enhance and when appropriate innovate.
I still draw and design a lot, keeping my eye in, as well as writing occasionally for relevant periodicals. Science, technology, business; architecture, music, art; these are simply mechanisms through which to channel human creativity and ingenuity.
We always ask this question because we feel that every entrepreneur wakes up in the morning because he’s motivated by something. Is there anything that keeps you awake at night and motivates you?
I am motivated by a passion to change the world for the better and make a real difference.
Have you received any funding? We have got a lot of people who struggle to find investors and don’t understand how the whole process works. Where did you start?
To date, we have been endorsed and funded by some prestigious institutions including the GLA, Shell Oil, The Mayor of London, TATA, Berkeley Group and the UKTI – through the incredible Sirius Programme, as well as receiving financial backing from several private investors. For seed investment we looked to secure a series of grants and competitions.
In looking for funding and investment from private parties we utilised both our personal and professional networks. My business partner and I simply put ourselves out there – we went to every networking and pitching event possible. We compiled a clean, simple and clear proposition and sold the idea. Money should chase good ideas and not the other way around.
bio-bean is a startup and as a startup should do, it’s focusing on where it was born, London. Are you going to operate just in London or export the bio-bean technology in other cities?
bio-bean is currently focusing on developing the company and infrastructure within London and the UK. However, through employing a flexible and scalable business model that will allow us to scale domestically and expand internationally. bio-bean has the potential to become a social enterprise with a global reach; a company which will deliver economic, social and environmental value.
How fundamental is a co-founder? Do you think you would have been able to start this company alone?
A co-founder if critical to building a successful business, providing entrepreneurs with energy, perspective, balance, and most importantly, filling gaps in each others knowledge and skill set. I teamed up with Benjamin Harriman (the co-founder of bio-bean) very early on in the bio-bean story. We first me in the suburbs of Istanbul when the two of us were locked on a bus together – we quickly got to know each other, bonding over the merits of the composer Johann Sebastian Bach.
He is an amazingly driven and talented entrepreneur and we have built the company together. I could not have done it without him. Today the team has expanded, and now employs a number of exceptionally talented and hard-working individuals, people on the cutting edge of innovation within London’s start-up community and the wider biofuel industry. From waste collection experts, to talented bio-chemical engineers, corporate financiers and sustainability strategists – we have a dynamic team with a broad range of expertise.