We caught up with Jujar Panesar, Co-Founder of FactorAI, on how they’re changing the game for formulated products, the challenges of starting your own business, and what’s in store for the future of FactorAI.
Tell us a bit about your company, and your role, in your own words.
Formulated products are used daily by billions of people worldwide in every industry, from cosmetics and personal care to medicines and chemicals.
Formulated products manufacturers rely on costly and unsustainable trial and error to develop new formulations and to improve existing manufacturing processes. This is a consequence of a largely analogue production process inside the mixing vats that are used to combine the ingredients together. There are significant manufacturing savings that could be achieved if the mixing process could be digitised.
At FactorAI we are developing a passive IoT sensor for mixing vats. The device provides real time mixing data allowing manufacturers to use these analytics to mix formulated products first time right.
What was the inspiration behind setting up FactorAI?
The co-founders (Dr Jujar Panesar & Dr Andrea De Santis) are engineers and previously worked in industry before FactorAI. Having previously worked in the space we realised the immense potential and cost savings to the industry if formulated products manufacture could be digitalised. We understood the idea was super niche, but extremely scalable – formulated products are everywhere. The combination of the engineering challenge and economic potential excited us so we dived deeper and co-founded FactorAI.
What do you value most about being based here in Leeds?
Pre COVID-19 I had a 20 to 30 minute commute to the office. That might not sound impressive – but consider I once lived in London where it took 70 minutes to commute from Zone 3 to Zone 1. Living in Leeds I’ve come to value time a lot more, and I feel Leeds offers value for time in abundance.
From your unique perspective, what role will innovation-led businesses have in the growth of the regional economy?
Innovation-led businesses thrive in the Yorkshire and Humber region. They’re helping to stamp the region as the place to be for audacious and exciting early stage disruptive startups and scaleups. From businesses in the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Sheffield, to Nexus in Leeds and the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre in Huddersfield. The region has made its mark as the hub for innovation. These innovation-led businesses need to continue to innovate, attract investment and create jobs. This will attract more people to the region spurring the growth and local GDP and GVA. I also believe innovation-led businesses need to continue to include other local regions in business growth plans, helping us to come together to disrupt the London and South East status quo.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a Startup currently?
When you’re a co-founder you’re the director; you’re the engineer; you’re the accountant; you’re human resources; you’re the business development person; and you’re many more people. This is a big issue many startups experience. Over time we’ve come to realise we need to sometimes let fires burn as we can’t be in all places at once. From our experiences we’ve learnt to prioritise the most important issues.
Looking forward, what are your hopes and ambitions as a company over the next 12 months?
In the next 12 months we will have a working prototype of our device that we’re developing with industry which is very exciting. We’re looking forward to pilot trials and and getting our device out in the field.
How do you personally define success?
We start each year with clearly defined, measurable and achievable KPIs. We partly measure our success against these KPIs. It’s only a part measure as we have other factors we take into consideration such as general wellbeing. We might be able to meet our KPIs, but it should not be at the expense of overall happiness – otherwise we have not succeeded. As startup founders we have realised it’s easy to become detached and work to targets without taking stock of what you’ve achieved so far – startups are meant to be difficult, but fun. When you stop having fun, you need to pause and ask why.
Who, or what, has been the single biggest influence on your working life?
Twitter is an influence on my working life. You can connect and chat with like minded people on Twitter. Tweets are character restricted to they’re usually short and to the point. Most people on Twitter genuinely want to help when you reach out. It’s a great business development platform for startups, and best of all it’s free.