Carbon Masters founder answers the questions
Having served in senior positions with the likes of Procter and Gamble, IBM and Pricewaterhousecoopers Kevin Houston walked away from corporate life after seeing the film An Inconvenient Truth. He decided he wanted to help preserve the future of the plant and went to study for a masters qualification in carbon management at Edinburgh University. In June 2009 Carbon Masters was formed. Here Houston tells us how the business has grown.
What do you do?
We map the carbon footprints of businesses and organizations and provide them with software solutions to measure, manage, report and lower their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. From next year, the Governments Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency scheme (CRCEE) will oblige companies and organisations that consume more than 6000 megawatts per hour (MW/h) of electricity per year to pay a tax of £12 for every tonne of carbon they produce. Almost 4000 UK companies and public bodies will see their energy bills rise dramatically over the next four years. Our products and services can help them to offset that.
Where did the funding come from and which organisations have supported the business?
My business partner and I invested share capital of s9,000 and we were able to use an interest free loan of s10,000, provided as part of the Edinburgh Pre-Incubator Scheme (EPIS), a joint project between the University of Edinburgh, Scottish Enterprise and the European Regional Development Fund to promote and support innovation. We have accessed further support from the Scottish Enterprises Investor Ready programme to support us in part funding of the costs incurred in seeking more external investment to staff the business.
Who are the key people in the business?
My Business partner Som Narayan and I started the business and we have two full time staff at the moment with plans to hire more consultants ,analysts and modellers as the business grows. Som is a native of Bangalore and has degrees in engineering and environmental law as well as his Msc in carbon management. He has worked for Greenpeace India and well as Friends of the Earth in Scotland where he focussed on the energy industry.
What is unique about what the company does?
The carbon management industry is very much in its infancy and we aspire to be a market leader. While there are larger companies that offer a range of environmental products and services, there are fewer, like us, who can use our significant expertise and industry insight to help businesses save large sums of money. As important is our commitment to tackling climate change
What has been the single biggest investment?
Investing in a software programme that measures lifestyle carbon footprints It allows us to measure the emissions produced by schools, colleges, universities, right up to the scale of entire communities. As well as factoring in the energy used in buildings, it maps carbon levels derived from the food people eat, the goods and services they buy and the travel choices they make.
Has there been a key moment or turning point?
Being hired by the European Commission as an adviser on a three year study to help reduce carbon emissions in the information and communication technology industries of member states. This is a terrific consulting engagement to be involved in and is already using our past and present knowledge and skills to the full.
What is the business plan and how does the company intend to grow?
To generate licence and services revenue by assisting the 4000 companies registered for the CRCEE, to produce a carbon emission reduction and certification scheme -The Carbon Masters Standard- that encourages rewards and recognises organisations who commit to reduce their emissions and to universities, schools and colleges an easy to use cost effective carbon accounting solution focussed on a communities lifestyle carbon emissions.
Do you have any non-executive directors, mentors or key advisors? Who are they?
Dr David Reay, programme director of the Msc in Carbon Management at Edinburgh University; Dr Andy Kerr, director of Edinburgh Centre on Climate Change; Franciso Ascuil, programme director of the Msc in Carbon Finance at Edinburgh University; Duncan McLaren, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland; Bill Gilmour, general manager of IBM Consumer Products; Rod Street, executive vice president of IRI Resources inc; Paul Bateman, former main board director of Boots PLC and now chairman of Greenbottle.
Who are your key customers/what are your key markets?
Any business or organisation which consumes 6000MW/h or more of electricity per year. They include large firms, including retailers, banks, insurance companies, universities, airports, local authorities and government departments.
Does the company have international sales or does it intend to grow internationally?
We have plans to open an office in Bangalore later this year to support our UK operation and build the business in the rapidly growing Indian market. Our vision is to establish Carbon Masters as a leading company in the key carbon emission markets of the EU, India, China, the US and Japan.
What has been the best achievement so far?
Establishing a successful business in a new sector during the deepest recession since the Second World War.
What has been the biggest hurdle which has been overcome?
Being taken seriously by clients and convincing clients that carbon management should be one of their most pressing priorities.
What will the next 12 months hold?
To execute our current sales and marketing plan, to drive more leads/clients amongst companies, to secure external investment, to set up Carbon Masters India, recruit new staff and to establish a summer intern programme for Edinburgh University MSc carbon management students as a basis for future recruitment.
Where do you want the business to be in 10 years time?
As an established presence in the key carbon emission markets of the world, with a reputation for excellence in client delivery of cost-effective carbon mitigation solutions.
If you were given s1million to invest in the company, how would you use it?
I would hire more consultants, analysts and modellers in the UK expand to India and China at a more rapid pace and invest more in software solution development to round out our solution portfolio.
What's the best part of running a business?
The freedom to do your own thing, to take risks and yet be fully responsible for the outcome. After 30 odd years as a corporate suit I am having more fun now than at any time in my life so far.