There is no manual for starting your own tech business. But there are many inspirational entrepreneurs forging their own paths to drive tech innovation in the UK. Victoria Edwards, co-founder and CEO of FIDO Tech, is a shining example of the diverse range of backgrounds leading our tech sector.
Edwards is a former concert pianist who majored in music analysis, before spending 15-years delivering large complex software and operational projects for household names. She then drew upon her knowledge of big data analytics and management of infield and technical data centres to start FIDO Tech.
This pioneering tech company, which uses acoustics and AI to revolutionise leak detection in the global water sector, blew the judges away last year when the company was crowned KPMG’s Tech Innovator in the UK 2021.
The inspiration for the company came from physicist and data expert Neil Edwards, now FIDO Tech CTO, who saw the potential of using a mathematical technique called differential analysis and machine learning to determine fluid from pipelines. It took a dedicated team of scientists, technicians and business people to turn it into the whole process solution it is today.
Warren Middleton, UK lead partner for the Emerging Giant Centre of Excellence at KPMG, caught up with Victoria Edwards to talk about scaling her business and the water scarcity challenge.
Warren Middleton: Your business has gone from strength to strength but what have been the biggest challenges in scaling your business and how did you overcome them?
Victoria Edwards: One of the biggest challenges in scaling the business is keeping the FIDO ethos or as we like to call it – the FIDO Faith. Maintaining our agility to adapt and invent at speed has always been at the centre of our business.
We keep this agility and belief by recruiting people with the right attitude, not necessarily the right skills. Our values are at the heart of FIDO Tech and are shared and owned by every one of our employees.
WM: As a business with sustainability at its core, how has the ESG agenda helped with your growth story? Why is ESG important?
VE: Quite simply the world is facing day zero – the day the world runs out of water. We will not even get to net zero without facing the challenges of a world where four out of 10 people face water scarcity and insecurity.
The realisation that we cannot continue to plunder the earth’s most precious resource has allowed us here at FIDO to smash adoption barriers to our sensor agnostic, open data AI.
WM: How are investors viewing ESG businesses?
VE: The huge shift in focus to ESG since the pandemic and COP26 means impact investment is prevalent and we have been lucky to be approached by some of the largest and most reputable impact investment funds in the world.
WM: What are your predictions for the growth of ESG related tech businesses?
VE: Any sustainable business with tech at its core that solves a real need or problem should thrive in the current environment. What is important is not to have “technology for technology’s sake”. True innovation is transformational, not transactional.
WM: What advice would you give anyone looking to start a business that has environmental or social impact at its core on how to guarantee longevity?
VE: ESG may be incredibly topical and on trend at the moment, but just calling yourself an ESG business will not guarantee longevity. You have to understand the problem and the challenge and create a solution that meets that need head on. My advice to anyone looking to start their own tech enterprise is lose the arrogance, listen, adapt and have the courage to embrace failure.
WM: What did you learn about yourself and your business through entering the KPMG Private Enterprise Tech Innovator in the UK competition?
VE: It was amazing to network with some great global businesses – many of whom shared our same values for really wanting to use technology to make the world better. The competition made me think hard about what challenge FIDO AI can address, how it needs to be agnostic, flexible and have clear actionable data as an outcome. It honed our service offering, sharpened our focus and gave us the extra spring in our step to keep pushing, against what are now, open doors welcoming FIDO AI.
Throughout the whole process – from filling out the application, through to presenting to an audience of global businesses, investors and innovators in Lisbon, we learned a lot about ourselves and that we can have real conviction that FIDO is saving the planet one megalitre at a time.
Applications for KPMG’s Tech Innovator competition are closing on the 24 May. Don’t miss your chance to tell your story (just like FIDO) to a global audience – KPMG Private Enterprise Tech Innovator – KPMG United Kingdom (home.kpmg).