Start-ups on the Right Track with the CRL Accelerator Programme

The new CRL Accelerator launched this June and, as usual, the support team is really excited about working with a whole new set of entrepreneurs designing innovative tech to solve life’s problems. 
The latest cohort of six start-ups were selected, out of 50 outstanding applicants, to join CRL’s 6th Accelerator programme which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The programme supports a range of hardware entrepreneurs, from sole traders to small teams, and helps them to focus on business growth, resilience and job creation. 
Competition is fierce but the rewards are well worth it. As part of the Accelerator support, each cohort member receives a £5,000 start-up grant, a ‘meet-the-manufacturers’ trip to Shenzhen, in China, advice on funding strategies, and ongoing guidance from industry mentors. Previous CRL cohort members, including Aceleron, Design by Sol and Makers Cabinet, have gone on to raise substantial investment, while Cosicare – a female-led tech start-up focused on alleviating the symptoms of Eczema – recently won the Mayor of London’s Award for Innovation.
This year, the CRL Accelerator has seen an increase in products centred on improving lives (human and animal), with a focus on energy and sustainability, business efficiency and mental health. We caught up with one of the new cohort members, to find out if he’s as excited as we are about his journey. 
New cohort member, Leo Meng, founder of SenTrak Technology, describes his product as a next generation indoor tracking system which significantly reduces operational costs, improves productivity, and provides an intuitive user experience. According to him, traditional indoor location technologies, including RFID, QR code scanning, WiFi and cameras, are expensive, high maintenance and hard-to-install. He says, “SenTrak’s innovative technology, and Location as a Service platform, solves these problems and has the potential to help industries, including retail and manufacturing, to improve efficiencies in warehouse management and logistics”.

What made you come up with your idea/product?

LM: I do online shopping, a lot, and I’ve found I don’t always get my order on time from some online shops. Nowadays, I can see fancy fitting rooms, interactive mirrors, mobile payment in stores… but I believe smart things should also happen behind the mirror… in the supply chain. So, I had this idea to provide just the right way to manage it all.

How did you get to this point in your start-up journey?

LM: I started this project 2 years ago, as my part-time project. I’ve been full-time since April, because I know I have to put more time into SenTrak if I want to make it happen.

What challenges have you had to overcome so far?

LM: I have 10 years of product R&D experience in the IoT industry. I think one of the challenges was to quit a lead engineer job and start over as an entrepreneur, but I’m always challenging myself and I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t make the move. The most challenging thing for me was how to jump out of the tech box and think with a business head and it’s taken me a long time to overcome it. During the day, I learned a lot from books and my advisors, and I attended lots of entrepreneurs’ competitions to practice. I even made it to a UK top 10 in one of the competitions. 

What are you hoping to get from the CRL team (that you can’t get anywhere else)?

LM: CRL is the only hardware focused accelerator in London. I’m looking forward to getting good support on hardware designs, and linking up to manufacturers, supply chains and market opportunities.

What would you say to anyone else thinking of taking the tech hardware journey?

LM: We’ve learned from history that tech hardware is the real winner in industry. All the services are based on hardware like smartphones, laptops, and smart sensors. It’s the right journey and maybe you’re going to be the next one to change the world. Find a hardware focused accelerator, if you can, because hardware companies have different requirements to software companies. 

How do you see your product changing the world?

LM: The supply chain is like spaghetti these days. The logistics are neither transparent nor real-time, while the warehouses have bad inventory accuracy on average. SenTrak will provide the future supply chain management system to change this industry. By using SenTrak, everyone will find their products anywhere, anytime.

Finally, as a busy entrepreneur, how do you take time out/kick back..?

LM: I have my own ‘reward mechanism’. I only take time out after I’ve achieved something in my journey. It might be a big order, a good customer interview, successful fundraiser, or just great traction. The breaks and holidays, after a great achievement, are definitely a 1000 times better than any birthday, summer holiday or even Christmas.
If you’d like to find out how you can join this illustrious band of makers why not pop in and take a look at what lies at the heart of the CRL community? Whether you’re looking for an inspiring co-working space, or a supportive accelerator programme for your tech start-up, or you just need access to some world-class prototyping facilities, we’ve probably got what you need. Contact Katia Padilha and we’ll see what we can do.

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