With the conclusion of Stage 2 of this year’s ECCI EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator approaching, we caught up with the entrepreneurs pulling the strings behind some of UK’s most promising climate start-ups. Meet Gareth Claase, Founder of Gecko Glazing...
What is your company and product all about, in a nutshell?
UK residential CO2 emissions rose 5% in the last five years. To hit environmental targets, we must improve our homes. The problem, however, is that improving buildings is just too disruptive and expensive. For example, we still have tens of millions of single glazed windows, which raise heating emissions hugely, because upgrading them is just too difficult or expensive.
Gecko Glazing solves the problem. Our product is unique, innovative secondary glazing which reduces the heat loss of any window far more cheaply, quickly and easily than any existing product.
Tell us about your background.
I’ve been an ardent environmentalist since high school in Stirling and studied Engineering and Economics at Cambridge University, but, with renewables a nascent industry, I pursued a career in economics, banking, project management and risk management. My entrepreneurial, multiple business building parents (now key mentors) were highly disappointed.
However, this gave me the skills and background to find a solution to the glazing problem – our unique “Gecko Panes” – which works practically and financially, to start a business and to overcome inevitable obstacles.
In October 2019 I finally took the plunge, giving up my job to pursue Gecko Glazing in earnest. With a large mortgage and two small children, it’s a wonder my wife didn’t kill me. But I believe in the problem and our solution. Despite a global recession, I will not consider finding a conventional job, and remain fully committed to Gecko Glazing.
What plans have you moved forward while taking part in ECCI's EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator Stage 2?
All of them! I’ve reached a fairly mature product design and secured several customers. The lead conversion rates have been great, and repeat orders are now coming through. I’m nearly ready to submit a patent application. My customer, market, operations, financial, funding and other plans are significantly better developed and I’ve progressed all of them. I understand the net carbon impact of my product better, and my likely legal and recruitment needs. The only thing exceeding my rate of progress is the rate at which my to-do list grows…
What plans have you for expansion beyond?
This winter is a crucial period. Demand for our product will be highly seasonal, and we need to be able to evidence the extent of demand before the end of the heating season. That means engaging as many customers as possible, and responding to feedback and learnings, as quickly as possible. If demand is adequately strong, it will give us the confidence to invest to start scaling up as rapidly as possible.
What’s your ultimate goal?
In three years, we want to be:
- Reducing CO2 significantly: achieving run rate savings of 2,500 tonnes of CO2 per year (5,000 tonnes cumulative, equivalent to taking 2,500 cars off the road)
- Creating jobs: with a team of 19 FTE, paying living wage as a minimum and more for several high skilled roles.
- Producing at scale: installing in over 3,000 properties per year, having built a business achieving over £1 million turnover.
- Innovating further: There remains significant scope for further innovation in product and business model.
What is your greatest achievement?
Persuading my wife that ditching my well-paid senior management job, with two young kids and a big mortgage, to pursue a green business vision was a good idea.
More seriously, I’m very proud of our product. The feedback has been extremely positive. While our product is simple in many ways, it’s taken a lot of research and development, long into the night on many an occasion, and it really meets the needs of homeowners, landlords and others, giving them a cost effective and easy way to reduce their heating costs and emissions.
I derive an enormous amount of satisfaction from every customer who tells me that their heating bills are down, their homes are comfier, and they’ve cut their emissions thanks to us.
Your views on Scotland and Edinburgh’s sustainability scene?
It’s thanks to ECCI’s EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator that I even understand that there -is- a scene, and that it’s so vibrant.
It’s hugely encouraging to see there are so many smart, innovative, effective propositions out there, with great, engaged and energised teams behind them, all united in trying to solve the climate emergency, which is the challenge of our time.
It actually gives you hope in what can otherwise be a depressing time.
What role has the support offered to you by ECCI's EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator Stage 2 played in your success?
I evangelise about the Climate KIC stage 2 probably to a nauseating degree! The exercises I’ve engaged in, the skills I’ve learned and the advice I’ve received have been transformative. I’ve managed as much progress in the last couple of months as I did in the previous couple of years. I have a plan and I’m marching along it rapidly, and that’s largely thanks to Climate-KIC. But the ‘softer’ benefits are probably at least as important. It’s been massively engaging and energising – I’m bouncing along now whereas things previously felt like a grind.
Why are competitions that support green innovation important during Covid-19?
Because things are hard anyway in normal times. Now, everything’s just that much harder, which makes the support that much more effective, because the climate emergency isn’t going away – our time is growing ever shorter.
How do you relax?
Hanging out with my family, getting outside (as much as humanly possible regardless of the weather), getting exercise and reading.
EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator
ECCI's renowned Accelerator programme, which gives low carbon start-ups the funding, tools and coaching they need to grow into great businesses, has adapted to the challenges of COVID-19 by switching coaching and mentoring sessions online.
Since launching in 2017 ECCI's EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator businesses have secured more than £2.5m worth of investments and won more than 70 awards.
Stage 2 helps participants understand their target audience and comes with up to €5000 funding. The innovative 2020 cohort included six companies progressing from Stage 1 and three new recruits - with entrepreneurs from all across Scotland and the UK taking part in the wholly online programme.
Innovations range from off-grid solar technology which will enable people in refugee camps to become more self-sufficient, to a product that helps forestry organisations meet government goals on tree planting and a super-fast carbon measurement software tool for SMEs.