06/10/2011

The Essence of Innovation - Will you be the Lorenzo to Phil Pauley’s Leonardo?

By Modwenna Rees-Mogg, AngelNews

I am not sure if Leonardo da Vinci is someone you would normally associate with entrepreneurship. He made his name painting, but I cannot help wondering if he ever thought to himself, as he sat drawing his various inventions – the prototypes for machines that today we would call the helicopter et al. - whether he should chase the commercial opportunities that might open up should he actually try to build and sell them? Or was it that his patrons the Dukes of Medici and Milan thought the whole painting thing was simply more important and sent him off to paint their churches and palaces? No doubt there will be someone reading this article - an expert on the subject - who will be able to enlighten me.

If you look at the image above, I am sure you will get immediately why I liken Phil Pauley to Leonardo Da Vinci. It may be displayed using the latest CAD and web technology, but here is a man who designs the machines of the future. What’s different about Phil is that a) he keeps getting orders from people to make them and b) he is channelling his visionary designs into practical applications that are receiving a lot of attention from the business world. He is the essence of innovation, with a fair splattering of businessman – and in my book that makes him an entrepreneur!

Who is Phil Pauley? Born into an entrepreneurial family, he trained in the school of business at his mother’s knee (she founded a successful private schools business). With two older brothers, Phil clearly inherited the necessary DNA to do it himself. Not a natural conformist, he did not fit well into a normal academic education. (In fact, his tip to parents of children like him, who are more interested in dreaming than learning how to add up 2+2, is to do what his parents did – hand over piles of bricks, meccano, pens and paper and tell them to let their imagination run free). He served his time in the family businesses, but then, unwilling to live off the bank of mum, he decided to strike out on his own, to build a business that would exploit his own inventiveness.

And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t if you know you can invent a flying motorbike? And a Sub Cruiser! And a Halo Interceptor!

Patron is an old fashioned word and concept. It smacks of superiority and subservience between one party and another. But it was not the patronage of the Medicis and Moros which really enabled Leonardo da Vinci to achieve what he did – it was the financial power that accompanied it. Today, the necessary elements of “patronage” are obtained by people like Phil Pauley from investors, customers and champions. In Phil’s case he has already started to crack the latter two categories.

One of his most important champions is David Molian at Cranfield University who has been instrumental in linking him with the University’s School of Power and Propulsion, which is helping him to take his visual concepts into physical reality. And customers are approaching him from all over the world with orders for prototypes that they can display at their exhibitions and in their offices. One day, of course they will be ordering the actual products, but inevitably there is still a long road to travel before the FlyBike and everything else can go into mass production!

Meanwhile, the practical side of Phil is focused on earning a crust. He works with corporates like Eurostar providing them with 3D visual training aids to help them in areas like staff training. This is what pays the wages. His services are in demand because he can save each one £100,000s a year by using 3D visual technology to replace antiquated training tools with ones that are quicker, cheaper and most of all, which deliver better results.

Despite this; despite the 3million page impressions he is getting on Google; despite having thousands of fans (including me and a certain 8 year old boy sitting opposite me as I write this!), I know Phil would also like to meet some angels who would like to invest in some of his innovations. I cannot promise you the epithets often ascribed to the Medici and their ilk if you help him, but I can promise you an incredible journey and the chance to help change the world.

Find out more about our upcoming VCT and EIS Investor Forum. A stellar range of fund managers will be there on the day to debate amongst themselves and with you about the key issues facing entrepreneurial finance today.

And don’t forget to book your Pitching for Management ticket, with events coming to Manchester, London and Cambridge this October! See www.pitching4management.com for more details.

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