Starting a green tech business

Green tech entrepreneur Peter Hopton founded data centre cooling company Iceotope in 2011 and talks to SmallBusiness.co.uk about investment, knowing your market, and caffeine.

How did you think up the company?

Back in 2005 I was experimenting with computers and electronic fluids for cooling purposes. I filed a patent, pitched to investors and got seven figures of investment in 2008.

We’ve combined industry standard servers, liquid cooling and our own IP into a scalable Tier 3 ready solution that negates the need for massive capital expenditure on air conditioning, chillers, and humidity control systems.

What tips do you have for raising venture capital investment?

Raising finance is about making the best use of your network. I use LinkedIn as a tool to connect with investors and high net individuals, and get in touch with common contacts. Having that third party introduction and other third party endorsement you can call upon is key in securing funding.

Often we’ll get multiple entry points to a single venture capitalist through LinkedIn through various different people introducing me to others and building up momentum.

Venture capitalists are all worried about what their colleagues are going to say about certain investments so the key is to win over as many of their associates as possible.

What else should first-time entrepreneurs know about raising money?

Even after an investment you’re not going to be on a big salary. People think that when an entrepreneur secures an investment they’re rich, but entrepreneurs are often pretty much skint. They don’t want to appear skint in the bar, they want to get the drinks in and be centre stage because that’s good for marketing, but the reality is they’re broke, initially at least.

How did you go about the marketing?

I believe in immersing myself in the market. I get among the customer base and I talk technical with them, find out their problems, visit their sites. I want to know what they expect as a user experience, what the mandatory things are for them in a certain product and what the industry thinks is important but the customers don’t. I also sit on committees and chartered institutes to gauge the state of the marketplace.

Whatever industry you are in, don’t just say ‘We’ve got a product with these benefits and that’s the market it’ll slot into’ but rather say ‘This is the market with its problems and expectations, we’ve got to make sure the product fits in’.

What has been a big challenge?

Anticlimax affects many small businesses. Lets say you go to an expo or do something exciting. You spend a lot of time preparing, you turn up and throw your enthusiasm into it. It goes well, you go home, have a smoke, and you’re now in a position of anticlimax. After a successful project or presentation or whatever it may be, so many people just procrastinate for a day and not move on.

Every time I make a mistake I have a saying, always do something because you can’t sit there in a position of adrenaline burnout, you have to get on with it.

We launched our product at [tech exhibition] CeBIT and there was a real anticlimax afterwards. We took most of our team to the event and everyone got really excited, but we got back and everyone sat down and looked gormless for a week. We should have followed up better.

Any other advice for entrepreneurs?

When I was younger I had to do a presentation at a school in Washington DC to get a contract. I was in a coffee shop and there was a huge guy next to me. I told him I was very nervous about the presentation and he replied in a very quiet, whispery manner ‘I do presentations all the time’. I was skeptical and jokingly asked for some tips. He then suddenly puffed up his chest, waved his arms and shouted ‘Ain’t no presentation without caffeination’, lifting up his coffee cup. I learned that it’s not just about alerting your senses with coffee, but being able to come out of your shell and become a bigger, more engaging and confident character when you need to.

Related Topics

Tech start-ups

Leave a comment