Tell us about yourself?
Ian has over 30 years’ experience in intellectual property commercialisation as Managing Director and CEO in media, financial services, biotechnology, software, property, and agribusiness.
Ian has operated extensively throughout Asia and Europe. His experience is in taking early and development stage companies into commercial growth and in reinventing enterprises with new technology and business models.
Ian was a co-founder of NASDAQ listed biopharma Benitec. Ian has won multiple awards as Executive Producer of television properties.
He is Chair and co-founder of Carbon Asset Solutions, a leading climate technology platform, a Director and co-founder of NaturesCoin, a carbon reduction network, former Chair of ABC Honey Group and former Director of PierAlpha, a property focused SaaS platform.
What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?
Many new entrepreneurs think it is just about having a brilliant idea. Yes you do need insight and the ability to see solutions that others do not. However It is largely down to the execution, in other words how you deliver the solution.
One thing I have learned time and again is that you cannot fall in love with your creation, you have to be prepared to ruthlessly change or even toss out your pet ideas if a better solution is required. That can be hard.
If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?
Don’t believe people when they say “we have tried this and it doesn’t work” or “it cannot be done that way”. There is always a better solution, you just have to find it.
What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?
Persistence. You have to be really tough and learn to take the knocks. Vision. Being able to see solutions that others don’t.
Communication. Taking complex ideas and presenting them in a way that people immediately understand and go, oh yeah, that make sense.
What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?
The ability to handle multiple tasks concurrently. Being organised and disciplined is critical. And delegating efficiently is also super important.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
In 2018 myself and co-founder Hamish Macdonald felt that the next big trend would be the shift of capital towards climate action and sustainability and we were looking for opportunities.
We read a UN climate report that said soil carbon sequestration provided the highest volume and most cost effective way to remove atmospheric carbon dioxide, but it was not happening. We decided to find out why.
While investigating this we discovered to our shock that traditional agriculture, particularly ploughing soil, was contributing up to 20% of global carbon emissions.
We just could not reconcile these two positions: on the one hand soil was the best solution to removing carbon from the atmosphere, yet here it was being one of the major contributors to the problem. That was when we decided that this was the problem we had to solve.
Where do you see your business in five years?
We aim to be the dominant soil based carbon credit supply chain to the emerging net zero carbon markets.
What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?
Breaking down conventional thinking around old standards and processes. Up until now the Voluntary Carbon Markets have been tiny and a handful of players have become the accepted and unquestioned authorities.
But we are seeing a completely different system being created and new and innovative thinking is starting to emerge.
This is unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory for some so we have to spend a lot of time explaining that following the same old pathway does not always make sense.
We are getting there!
Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?
The biggest obstacle to soil carbon sequestration as a climate solution is the ability to measure carbon in soil with sufficient precision to create a Carbon Credit that meets the standards of the financial markets.
We knew we had to solve this or we wouldn’t have a solution. We searched the world for many months for the right technology and happened to read a publication in a scientific journal in July 2019 about very accurate measurement technology developed by the US Department of Agriculture and Auburn University in Alabama.
We immediately got in touch with them and in July 2020 we were granted a global exclusive license to commercialise their patented technology.
We have taken that core technology and built a new digital global standard that revolutionises soil carbon measurement, recording and verification.
How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?
We develop strategic partnerships with large operators in the markets we work within and look for key influencers. We are always, always selling.
What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?
Think big. Be bold. And to quote Winston Churchill, never give up. Startups are tough, I have done 14 of them. Some have been wildly successful, some have done quite well and a couple we had to rapidly close down before they blew up.
It is the satisfaction of solving something that no-one else has done that keeps me going.
I was convinced in 2017 that I would not do another startup but discovering the soil carbon problem and understanding that we could make a massive contribution to climate action was too good to pass up. And here I am!
And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?
Personally I am at the end of three decades of startups so I will ease down and sit on Boards and guide both the companies that I helped develop and also mentor young entrepreneurs if I am asked.
For Carbon Asset Solutions we will put a young dynamic team in place to grow the company into what I hope will become a model for innovative technology solutions to climate action and sustainability for years to come.