Allen Alexander Coppin, currently studying Business Management (Entrepreneurship) BA Honours course, was selected as a top ten finalist in the Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition for his Electric Vehicle Charging Network project. What an achievement!
Since the competition we have caught up with him to find out more about his experience.
Allen, what attracted you to enter the competition in the first place?
‘In one of my classes, working in small groups we had to brainstorming potential ideas. I am a huge tech nerd and like following businesses that are growing quickly. I know that we have been trying to switch to electric vehicles for a long time now and the market is growing quick, especially in different countries. But it is extremely difficult to switch due to lack of infrastructure in the UK. I jokingly thought of a concept for home electric vehicle charging like couch surfing (Or Airbnb), someone who has a home charger can provide it on a platform and allow other people to use it. I presented it to the class and got good feedback, so when going home I started researching more into charging infrastructure and really took a huge interest in it. I then decided to do this for my class project, and submitted my coursework poster to the competition out of curiosity just to see what would happen, I never expected to get this far at all!’
What has been the highlight, and what have you gained from entering the competition?
‘Starting a project this big and constantly working on it for fun has definitely been the highlight! I don’t take a huge joy or learn a lot when having to work/study in something I am not interested in. But being able to combine my love of cars and technology, and working on a business idea that involves both of these is amazing! I’ve gained so much more knowledge on not just the technology and driving side, but also health problems, costs, and future UK/global plans. Since my original idea, I have thought of a much more detailed plan on how to approach this, what else I want to do, what the company goals are and how to achieve them, I know how big I want it to grow and know where to start. I think the biggest gain I took away was you quite literally have to go out and do it. Although I think everyone knows this, it is difficult to see where to start. I am lucky I could see where to start as I know what I like working on, yet I don’t consider this to be “work”.’
What has been the most challenging aspect in taking part in the competition?
‘Making my idea and business plan into a sweet, short, easy to understand and fun 2 minute pitch. I have over 50 videos recorded of me pitching, and around 20+ pitches constantly being rewritten. Although I know my idea, plan, revenue model and short/medium/long term goals. Try explaining that all in 2 minutes to the average person who doesn’t fully understand electric cars.
Think of what you spend most of your time doing and that you actually enjoy, then think about what you don’t like or what is missing/lacking. Grab a camera, some beer (I like to call it creative juice), and just talk to the camera. It sounds crazy, and you will probably think of some crazy things. But just go with it, see where it takes you, and focus more on the problem not the solution. Once you get to the point where you actually can not stop talking to the camera/people around you/writing down ideas/recording ideas on your phone on public trains while everyone is looking at you, you probably just found something that you are passionate about. Then look into how to get capital (if you need it) to start growing your idea. I didn’t get the award, but the results of the competition haven’t negatively impacted my work at all. In fact, it makes me want to working harder to helping people understand and transition to electric vehicles whilst aiming to do it in less than 2 minutes. So I am still looking for capital to kick start this.’
Other students may be thinking about entering such competitions, do you have any words of wisdom or encouragement for them?
‘Alongside this, do things for curiosity and not expectation. Don’t expect anything from anyone (like wining the award), but that is not to say you shouldn’t “work” as hard as you possibly can. Otherwise you build the expectation of winning, then picturing what to do with the capital. When you find out you don’t win, you now can’t do what you were aiming for, and from what I have seen that normally means people giving up.’
What are your plans for the future?
‘Finish university, and get a flexible job. In the mean time I am thinking of my company name so I can register it and the website. When I am not working at my job (for food and beer), I aim to keep working on my idea and developing it more. Alongside this, attending as many networking events as I can, applying for competitions/pitching events and slowly building a team. I am currently looking for web/app developers, for those who want to help put that spark into electric vehicle driving get in touch!’
Thank you for your sharing Allen! Congratulations again for achieving Top Ten in the competition!
The Career Development Centre offers a range of support for those with great business ideas, including Business Coaching and also a dedicated Creative Enterprise Centre in Harrow. For more information please feel free to contact us!