Rupert Cruise is the co-founder and technical director at Magway, a deep tech scaleup creating a network of overground or underground pipes to move goods at high speed.
Founded in 2017 by Cruise and Phill Davies, Magway is aiming to disrupt sustainable and efficient goods delivery. It uses linear motors and automation to move goods along a network that can span a distance ranging from a few hundred meters to tens of kilometres..
It has raised over £5m in funding from friends, family and high net-worth individuals. The company says it has “generated commercial traction” and is aiming to decarbonise logistics.
Cruise has a background in designing motors for high-speed transport projects, previously founding Linear Motor Technologies, a company helping to improve the efficiency of transport systems for government agencies and private companies.
In this week’s Founder in Five Q&A, Cruise explains why “funding is a full-time role”, discusses the benefits of robots in warehouses and reveals how he uses chess to measure mental health.
1. What funding advice would you give to a first-time founder?
Rupert Cruise: When you are an early-stage business, funding is critical. However, funding is a full-time role and often distracts from the core business. So as the founder, one must balance the need to focus on raising funding for the business on one hand, and on the other hand focus on building the business.
The best way to fund a business is by far sales; however, if one does need to go for equity financing, just consider that there will be a series of rounds.
The advice to founders is not to give away too much too early on. As a simple rule, the founders should give away no more than 10% of the equity at each funding round. This is because it’s likely the company will have four or five funding rounds before there is significant growth and/or the business becomes self-financing in terms of sales.
2. When should a founder CEO pass the baton on to a new chief executive?
RC: Founders are critical to the early growth stages of the business. As the business grows and expands it’s important for the founders to recognise that, whilst they can do anything, they cannot do everything! It is also important to recognise that as the organisation grows beyond a certain size there are others who would be better suited to take on the leadership position, particularly senior leadership positions, than the founders themselves.
This is a very common phenomenon with any high-growth startup. Often the company grows, and the roles develop faster than the capabilities of the founders. The recommended advice is to recognise that moment and to make sure you have the appropriate people ready to step into place.
3. How do you prevent burnout?
RC: To prevent burnout, it is important – particularly for founders, and anyone in the business – to completely disconnect from the business and have periods of rest and recuperation.
My way of doing that is through chess. I am an avid online chess fanatic and I spend at least two to three hours a day, particularly after a long and hectic day, playing chess.
I also use my chess score as an indication of my mental health – if my chess score is low then I am working too hard and suffering from burnout.
I then need to rest more, get some sleep, make sure I get enough nutrition and perhaps even take a holiday. After a period of rest and holiday, my chess score tends to improve. I use my chess scores as a daily indicator of my mental health and an important early indicator to prevent burnout.
4. Excluding your sector, which nascent technology holds the most promise?
RC: This one’s probably an easy one because it’s slightly outside of our technology and it’s significant for some of our customers as it pertains to what happens within their warehouses and factories.
What we are seeing is increased automation, particularly in terms of robotics and machine learning/AI. I firmly believe that the future lies in robotics and particularly robotics working in conjunction with humans.
This synergy will be crucial going forward, so for those interested in the direction of technology in the future, the key focus will be on automation and robotics in various industrial processes. That’s where the future is headed.
5. Who’s a leader you admire in your industry?
RC: It’s pretty simple: Roni Savage is the leader whom I greatly admire. She’s not only an incredibly talented individual who is an inspiration to everyone, but she is also a pioneer within her industry. She is the first entrepreneurial pioneer to run her own very successful business within the construction sector which, as we know, is very white and male-dominated.
Besides running a successful company, she has started an initiative called Inspirational Businesswoman in STEM within Construction. She has worked with other successful women across industry in terms of promoting and raising the profile of women entrepreneurs within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
Roni’s accomplishments are truly inspirational to me and many of the Magway team. Recently, we had the honour of participating in a unique event at the House of Lords, celebrating “Inspirational Businesswoman in STEM”, and although I was quite rightly outnumbered, I was proud to stand as an ally alongside Roni and her fellow successful women.
Founder in Five – a UKTN Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative tech startups, scaleups and unicorns – is published every Friday.