I’m Charlie Cook, founder of Rightcharge. I originally trained as a Civil Engineer at Nottingham University but caught the bug for thinking about the climate challenge when I was at Melbourne University, where I was given the chance to study areas outside of concrete and steel.
Learning about the scale of the climate challenge in 2012 was scary, but equally every area of climate mitigation (the economics, politics, technology and business opportunities) fascinated me. I decided then that I wanted to dedicate the rest of my career to something that makes a dent.
I genuinely think the world is going through a technical and economic revolution that makes the previous industrial revolution look like small fry. There are infinite opportunities out there for entrepreneurs to apply their brains to areas that will do something to reduce emissions.
What inspired you to launch your business and what is the end goal?
I’ve been thinking about business ideas since I was very young. My grandfather started a company, which took him out of poverty in Swansea and launched our family into the comfortable band of middle-class. This company was then run briefly by my mum until I was born – and then from then on, (and for most of my life), by my dad.
So, from a young age I was keen to start something but, whilst I considered it at every stage, I never jumped off the conveyor belt of school, university and a graduate job. In hindsight, I don’t regret that because it was my experience in the industry that gave me an idea. For the first time, I could really visualise how I would bring it to market.
My role before Rightcharge was at the energy supplier (and now tech unicorn) Octopus Energy, where I was heavily involved in building electric vehicle charging propositions. I noticed an opportunity where automotive companies (those selling the electric cars) were not introducing drivers to the products that could reduce their bills and help them charge on cleaner power. So, that’s what we’re looking to change with Rightcharge – by giving those automotive the tools they need to do so.
Do you have a morning routine or ritual to get your day started on the right foot?
Not in the slightest. And I hope this makes other night-owls feel better that you certainly don’t need to be up at 6am, in the gym and at work by 8am to be successful.
My alarm goes off at 7.30 every morning. I rarely make time for breakfast, and I often get a breakfast roll and a coffee at work that I enjoy while opening my emails.
I think there’s a lot to be said about learning your own rhythm and finding your flow. I’m writing this at 7pm because I know it will take me half of the time doing it now than it would in the morning. Everyone is different – go with your own rhythm!
How did you conquer those moments of doubt that so often affect entrepreneurs or stop many with great ideas – what pushes you through?
I considered giving my investors the remaining money back in December 2020 (6 months after raising £100k from friends, family and angels).
9 months later, we have landed some enormous partnerships, the team has grown and things are looking tremendously positive.
I got through this moment in December by talking to people that know me and know my business. They told me to hold out and give it time. They were very right.
How did you fund the business in the early stages?
I had saved up £20k and I continued to work 2-days per week for 12 months while I started the business, which kept enough salary coming in to pay rent and food. The savings were then used to cover some small business costs and to supplement my monthly income. I then closed the first round 16 months after I incorporated the business.
Alongside the two-day job, being very efficient with my spend was key. The first version of the website was built for around £1,500 (inc. two days’ work for a freelance designer and one month of a student’s time, who I met after putting up posters at a London University).
When did you decide that the DIY approach to building your business wasn’t enough to boost growth?
I proved as much as I possibly could for around a year before I raised money. I knew that as soon as I had the money in, I could grow.
I remember being frustrated that things weren’t progressing fast enough and on a couple of earlier occasions I had explored raising money. However, I had some very good advice which was that if you don’t know exactly (to a degree) what you’re going to spend the money on, you don’t need it.
Money won’t fix your problems until you know exactly where you need to spend it. Get as far as you can without raising. And if you never have to raise that ideal – although it often is necessary.
Describe your business in three words.
Cheaper, cleaner charging.
Do you prioritise self-care as an entrepreneur?
I don’t push myself harder than I feel comfortable doing and I try not to sacrifice time with friends and family unless there’s a very clear reason to do so.
I’m lucky that I run a business that is not operationally intensive. I would say designing a business model that mostly handles itself is possibly the best thing I’ve done. When this is the case, you and your team can spend all of your energy on the business instead of in the business, i.e. on growth, rather than just taking care of the day today.
What are your thoughts on ‘no sleep’ culture as an entrepreneur?
Definitely get some sleep. You’ll be useless tomorrow if you don’t.
Sleep Cycle (a great app) tells me I’ve had an average of 7.5 hours in bed in the last week.
How do you believe the evolution of tech will impact your industry over the next 10 years?
The automotive sector is going through radical change. Led initially by Tesla in the 2000’s and the 2010’s, it’s now being pushed forward through legislation like the ban on new petrol and diesel sales in 2030 in the UK as well as tens billions of pounds of investment from major car manufacturers.
The progression of technology in the 2020’s will see electric vehicles become ubiquitous on our roads. There are around 500,000 plug-in vehicles in the UK today and by 2030 there will be 10-15 million.
That is an enormous shift that requires an equivalent change in how we refuel our vehicles. 70% of this charging will happen at home.