Ellis is CEO and co-founder of neumind – a company dedicated to improving the lives of people with cognitive impairments. Neumind was founded in 2019 whilst Ellis was in his final year of his PhD. Neumind has two other founders: Rufus and Claudia.
What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
My brother had a brain injury several years ago and I saw first hand the dire need for better cognitive support for people with neurological injuries or conditions. Over a period of years, I investigated dozens of digital and non-digital tools that could support the individual and their caregivers. Without really knowing, I was building a concept that would eventually become our mobile app – Alfred. I realised that if I didn’t commit to building this, I would always be thinking ‘what if’. So, I decided that whilst I was still young and relatively optimistic, I would jump in at the deep end.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
For me, entrepreneurship is about identifying a problem you are passionate about. Then, going about fixing it using whatever resources possible.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
In the final year of my PhD, I decided to bite the bullet and apply for the Oxford ImagineIF competition. We built our team and refined our concept. On paper, we were an embryonic startup, competing against much more developed startups. Despite this, we won, giving us the validation and confidence to go all-in.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Impartial Observation – You may think you have a great solution that people will love. You may think you have a large market and can generate big revenue. But, it is the customers that decide. Listen intently, understand, test and test again. Make decisions impartially and based on data.
Process over outcomes – It’s true that having outcomes is important in management and goal setting. However, an obsession on outcomes will obscure your primary function – to help your customers. By committing to the right processes day-to-day, the outcomes will take care of themselves.
Balanced tenacity – I couldn’t agree more that entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster. The highs are phenomenal, but the lows are both inevitable and crushing. You have to have the passion and tenacity to endure this journey, whilst respecting the process and listening to your customers.
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
Feeling of purpose and variety of work. One week, I am a marketer, the next week, a UI designer. It can be overwhelming at first, but completely worth it.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Seth Godin – Amongst other things an entrepreneur, blogger, author and thinker. I love the way he communicates hard-earned wisdom using real examples, metaphors and stories.
Timothy Ferris – I was not first a fan of this self-experimenter, entrepreneur, investor and podcaster. However, his podcast, where he interviews some exceptional and diverse range of people has been an invaluable source of knowledge for me.
Benjamin Franklin – By all accounts a curious, intelligent and rebellious goliath of history. I was inspired by his motivation to improve, work ethic, genius and wit.
If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
Talking to a dead person would be pretty wild so Benjamin Franklin. I’d ask him how he feels about being on the $100 dollar bill.
What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
There have been a few. But, receiving positive feedback from real testers is always a highlight.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
Organising, prioritising and delegating tasks effectively. There are a million things to do. Deciding the best thing to do in any given moment is critical.
How have you funded your ideas?
We have received a 4k stipend from an Aspect accelerator program and have been working on zero salaries – funding is our priority right now.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
Innovate UK Grants.
European Institute of Technology Health.
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
Good – High density of intelligent and driven individuals to share and learn with.
Bad – Due to the above, start-up competitions are competitive!
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
Keep your ear to the ground for competitions and sign-up to the newsletters. A relevant competition or grant gives you clear objectives and deadlines to focus your work, as well as opportunities for funding, networking and publicity.
Any last words of advice?
Being an entrepreneur is incredibly rewarding. But, i’s a tough grind, make sure you are motivated and passionate about the problem you’re solving before diving in.