Spotlight Series: Interview with Mathew Holloway, CEO of Q-Bot

01 Jul 2021

Mathew Holloway Spotlight

Who are you?

I am an engineer and designer, having studied Engineering, Innovation and Design at Bath University, Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art. My career has focused on working for startups, or within innovation teams of more established companies, to get new ideas into customers hands.

I really enjoy understanding a need or problem, identifying ideas and then working to realise them in order to make people’s lives better. For me ideas are a little like children, you need to create a nurturing environment in which they can grow and scale. When you get this right, it is incredibly rewarding.   

I currently head up Q-Bot, a robotics and AI startup transforming the construction industry. Our goal is to replace centuries-old construction techniques with smarter processes that make it easier and simpler for contractors to inspect, maintain and upgrade buildings. These state-of-the-art tools can help to simultaneously reduce carbon emissions and fuel poverty.

What inspired you to start Q-Bot?

Co-founder Tom Lipinski came up with the idea for Q-Bot and started the company with Academy Fellow Professor Peter Childs (Peter is the Professorial Lead in Engineering Design and was the founding Head of the Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial College London). It sounded like fun and a very impactful idea. I thought I could use my prior startup and engineering experience to help realise their vision, so I jumped onboard and ended up leading Q-Bot shortly afterwards.  

How does it work?

Initially, Q-Bot was setup to develop a robot that could remotely apply insulation under suspended floors without having to rip a house apart. While developing and proving this solution, we uncovered other challenges frequently encountered by construction workers.

Today we offer a range of solutions that combine robotics, 3D scanning, digital tools and AI, enabling construction workers to: identify the needs of each property, automate repetitive tasks, reach inaccessible areas, track the work done, and seamlessly share information.

What makes working at Q-Bot so rewarding?

We have a diverse team of designers, engineers, scientists, business and construction experts. Together, this team creates a really rewarding environment where anything is possible.   

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in your entrepreneurial journey so far?

With a diverse team and range of stakeholders, combined with a really big goal, it can be tough to ensure that everyone is on the same page at the same time.

Sometimes I find myself providing advice to friends and fellow entrepreneurs which I should probably follow myself! I have learnt a lot, so allowing myself the space to step back and see what I have achieved and need to do next is really important – but it can also be quite challenging when I’m distracted by today’s emergency or priority.

What’s next in the pipeline for Q-Bot?

We currently have clients signed up in France and the Netherlands. Once we are able to travel, we are looking forward to getting our first overseas partners up and running.

2020 was a challenging year for everyone. What's it like to run your business through a pandemic, and have you got any tips on how to keep things going?

Q-Bot was relatively lucky. We had raised some funding prior to the pandemic so we were well financed, we were able to keep working and most importantly, no one in the team became seriously ill. The biggest impact was on our mental health, including the anxiety about what was going on and being unable to see loved ones. I am very proud of the team, as they really pulled together to look after one another and put in place initiatives to raise awareness about mental health.

Any words of wisdom you would like to share with budding engineering entrepreneurs?

Never get fixated on the end result - build great processes and focus on their execution. Innovation is not down to luck. In my opinion, innovation results from a systematic, predictable process combined with the right team and environment. Anyone can do it!

What impact has the SME Leaders programme had on your business? What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt?

Through the SME Leaders programme I benefitted from a series of leadership training and mentoring programmes which allowed me to reflect on my own leadership style and learn from my peers. I feel very lucky to have benefited in this way, by meeting and learning from a wide range of experts as well as my fellow cohort of entrepreneurs.

Hopefully the team have found me to be more open, clearer in my communication and even more motivated as a result of the programme.

 And finally, have you got any tips for potential applicants?

The Enterprise Hub is a friendly and open organisation (and network) so don’t be afraid to give it a go or reach out to ask for some advice. Just get started.

 

Quick fire questions

Who is your role model? My wife, she manages to be kind and patient even at the most difficult of times.  

Tell us a random fact not many people know about you. I used to love drawing and painting. I even had my work exhibited at galleries and museums.

What’s your guilty pleasure? Reading or watching sci-fi for a little bit of escapism.

When I was a child... I wanted to design and build spaceships.

If I wasn’t an entrepreneur... I would like to be an artist.  

I don’t understand why… there is not more collaboration and kindness in our politics.

What’s your biggest weakness? Patience. I like to get things done, but sometimes it is good to slow things down.   

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? Having not seen them for a while due to the pandemic I would just invite my friends, no one famous, or who I did not already know.

When I’m not working at Q-Bot, I am... entertaining my son, walking, cycling, designing and making furniture, or taking photos.

What are your top three desert island items? A sailboat, fishing net and my MP3 player (with solar charger attached).

Do you have any life regrets? With hindsight there are things that I wished I had learnt sooner, but no regrets.

If I could have a superpower, it would be… To breathe underwater.

If you could live a day in a life of another person, who would it be? My son, he is only two but it must be amazing to look at the world from his perspective.

Which Hub Mentor are you most impressed by? John Lazar as he invested in Q-Bot😊

And finally, if you could invent a new piece of tech, what would it be and what problem would it solve? Time machine, I would get 12 hours work done in eight, with my wife none the wiser. 

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