We interviewed Robert Walker and Craig Fenton, Co-founders of smart building tech startup Data Innovation.AI, to find out more about the role that Covid-19 played in driving them to start their own business, their experiences on their entrepreneurial journey so far, and how the AI Accelerator, the University of Edinburgh, and the DDE programme have helped them connect their ideas to the world.
Robert: Craig and I met a decade ago, and at the beginning of lockdown we started talking about what we might be able to do that could be of use. From there, the idea for Data Innovation germinated as a way of combining our expertise in emerging techniques around data and smart building systems.
Craig: The idea for Data Innovation is straightforward. We want to reduce the spread of infectious diseases in buildings - including but not limited to Covid. From the outset of Covid, it was clear that aerosol transmission is major, but we lacked a solution. We saw this as our opportunity - to work out how we could combine an understanding of how Covid behaves and human movement inside buildings to inform businesses and building designers on how to reduce aerosol transmission of diseases.
Robert: We’re combining silos of data that have never been combined before - epidemiological data with human movement data.
Craig: Someone infected with a virus will breathe out hundreds of thousands of particles that stay in the air for hours. Our solution will track every single molecule as it moves around, creating huge volumes of data. And that's where AI and machine learning come in, to understand how the particles function within that space.
Craig: The first success was seeing an embryonic idea on a whiteboard, and working out how we'd get from this to a proof-of-concept, and then to a prototype. Also, gaining a place on the AI Accelerator was massive for us as it adds credibility to what we do.
Robert: As a startup, you have to do everything on your own. The access to training and support on a one-to-one basis has been incredibly valuable to helping us work out how to do this and hone our business model.
Craig: We’ve really benefited from the expertise of the cohort. Being a part of this entrepreneurial community suddenly takes you from a small company of two people to 15 organisations.
Robert: EIE has accelerated our knowledge of how we could work with investors. We were able to do a session about investment strategy, and that crystallised a lot of the things in terms of what we want to do next.
Robert: We want to be able to sit down with somebody and convince them that we're a business worth investing in. Our ultimate goal is to look at decision intelligence, the ability to use AI to support human decision making at a much higher quality.
Want to learn more about Data Innovation.AI, click below to head to their website.