Listen to this article
Listen to
this article
Text to speech by Listencat
Text to speech
by Listencat

Founder Feature: Gavin Neate, CEO of Neatebox

Neatebox, Founder Features, Founder Feature: Gavin Neate, CEO of Neatebox

In this week’s Founder Feature, we’ve partnered with the Super Connect for Good Competition powered by Empact Ventures and Hays. We are talking to the CEO of Neatebox, Gavin Neate, who last month was announced as the competition’s Regional Winner for Scotland. Neatebox also claimed the top spot as the HealthTech Industry Winner for 2020.

Read on to find out more about Gavin’s remarkable founder journey, and how Neatebox are creating tech for good.


Could you tell us about your company and what you’re striving to achieve?

Neatebox has two truly innovative #Tech4Good products, both solving very real challenges faced by disabled people and society in general. “Button” lets people interact contactlessly with their environment i.e. pedestrian crossings and doors. “WelcoMe” is the world’s first proximity-based staff training and awareness tool that ensures staff know who is about to walk through the door and how to interact with them in advance for societal and commercial advantage. 


Who are you and what is your story? 

In 1996 I left the RAF Police and joined Guide Dogs for the Blind, where I trained blind and visually impaired people with their new guide dogs. I loved it. I was, however, increasingly excited by tech and how it was being used by my clients. My journey into accessible solutions came from the internal question, “I wonder if”. By 2011 I had invented the world’s first smart-phone controlled pedestrian crossing. 


What’s most exciting about your traction to date?

I’ve been increasingly excited by the power of people to be the change they wish to see in the world. The users of our services are empowered to dictate what they want and where they want it. I have found a route to building and improving the social balance I cared so much about as a Mobility Instructor whilst at the same time building a truly customer-led sales pipeline. 


Do you see yourself as an underdog?

I think anyone who does something truly innovative is initially an underdog. I’ve always loved the quote “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”.  It sums up the process you are likely to go through when you do something completely new. I used to be an underdog but feel that increasingly people are listening and rather than fighting me, are joining me. 

, , Next Level Trading with ForexTB, the premier platform for CFD Trading!
Neatebox, Founder Features, Founder Feature: Gavin Neate, CEO of Neatebox

How do you manage the duality between driving new business and overseeing daily operations?

I have an amazing team who I liken to characters from Toy Story. I’m like Buzz, always the activist and my COO Allan is very much like Woody who ensures that there is a plan. We also have a Jessie and a Bo Beep who provide cohesion. It is ok to be a Buzz but the truth is you always need the right people around you to truly function effectively.  


How far are you willing to go to see your idea become a success?

There is nothing in life more important to me. People who know me know this to be true. I might not get the route right all the time but it is obvious that I know what my destination is.


What are the future implications of the technology you are developing? Have you considered that it could have negative consequences for some people? How would you deal with that?

Societal cohesion. They say that a stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet. Our WelcoMe platform allows the visitor/customer to introduce themselves before you meet them and then helps you interact when they arrive.  We act very differently when we know someone and I hope that this leads to more empathy in our relationships. I see no negatives. 


Do you have a plan B if your venture isn’t successful?

There is no plan B. There is a fantastic scene in the movie Gattaca where Ethan Hawke’s character, Vincent,  finally beats his brother in a swimming challenge where they swim out to sea. Ethan Hawke always loses as his brother is fitter and the stronger swimmer.  One day Vincent wins and his brothers asks him how he did it. He replies “because I never saved anything for the swim back”.  


What was it like taking part in the Super Connect for Good Competition? Have the super connections before and after helped you?

Taking part in and winning the Health Tech Award in Super Connect for Good Competition was truly the icing on the cake to what was a remarkably well-conceived and run event. I would however like to applaud the Super Connect team for their pre and post-event engagement. There are many networking companies but few who push as hard with their engagement after the event as they do before and during. We have been provided with many connections moving forward and the Empact Ventures team most certainly has a new fan in the team from Neatebox.


Can you tell us who your mentors and heroes are, and what impact they’ve had on you?

Every day I meet people who are beaten down by other people’s expectations of who they are and what they can or can’t do.  They are disabled by people’s attitudes more than a medical condition or disability ever could.  They drive me to provide them with tools that will fundamentally level the playing field and defy society’s expectations of them.


Do you see this as UK centric or will you conquer the world by going global?

This is very much a global solution and is already being used in The Republic of Ireland with interest also being shown in North America, Israel and Australia. Fundamentally we are aware that proximity awareness is the future of not only customer service but also human interactions. It is unrealistic for Neatebox to deliver this alone, however, we are well-positioned to lead the field and prove what’s possible. 


What was missing from your business plan (be honest)?

I feel that explaining the problem before getting to the solution has been challenging. Henry Ford said “if I had asked them what they’d wanted they would have said “faster horses”.  So much of what we do is education and I have always found it hard to ensure that our business plan explains the challenge in a way which ensures the rest of the plan makes sense to the reader. 

I feel that explaining the problem before getting to the solution has been challenging. Henry Ford said “if I had asked them what they’d wanted they would have said “faster horses”.  So much of what we do is education and I have always found it hard to ensure that our business plan explains the challenge in a way which ensures the rest of the plan makes sense to the reader. 


What’s one piece of advice you’d give to budding innovators taking the same journey?

Fill your cupboard with Uncle Ben’s Rice and tortillas. I lived off them for three years. They are cheap, easy to cook and eat quickly. To explain, you need to dedicate yourself fully to your end goal. You must accept discomfort and financial hardship as part of the journey and embrace the solutions that present themselves knowing at the very least one day they will at least become a great anecdote. 


To learn more about Gavin and Neatebox, visit: www.neatebox.com

Neatebox, Founder Features, Founder Feature: Gavin Neate, CEO of Neatebox

Matthew Hughes

Editor in Chief at Top Business Tech, digital marketing lecturer, and previously creative director at Aurora Demand. A fan of all things marketing, tech and mindful.