A lifelong automotive passion and a dream to start a car company led to a Motorsport Engineering degree from Oxford Brookes University and a Startup Visa. Since designing his first car at age 16, Spencer has combined his passion with entrepreneurial experience and a desire to battle climate change, emerging as a leader in the sustainability revolution.
What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I grew up revering automotive icons figures like Ferry Porsche and Sir William Lyons. They said things like, “In the beginning, I looked around but couldn’t find the car of my dreams so I decided to build it myself,” and, “the automobile is the closest thing we will ever create to something that is alive.” They inspired me to build my dream cars. From taking broken scooter engines apart and sketching cars in school notebooks to working summer jobs at the local racetrack, I always planned to start my own automotive company. During my Motorsport Engineering degree at Oxford Brookes, I became much more concerned about global climate change and saw that no one had created a sustainable car without sacrificing its character. I was compelled to find a way to build sustainable cars that retain everything we love about the classic driving experience while removing carbon emissions from the picture.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
In my mind, entrepreneurship is being brave enough to try something new when others are unsure. To be happy as an entrepreneur means doing something you love that makes the world a better place.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
After three iterations of my project, I reached a point in my feedback cycles where I had a compelling answer for every question and I had addressed every critique. While my enthusiasm carried the initial momentum, the constant support from my team, friends and family that increased with every revision is what eventually showed me the idea was ready for the next step.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Resilience, confidence and passion. It’s easy to read facts about business survival rates and get discouraged or reach a mental wall and feel like there is no way forward. The will to continue will often be the only thing carrying you forward, especially in the beginning. Confidence is key to genuine resilience; if you know it will work, others will see that. Confidence will attract people who believe in you, and in a startup you need a team that believes in you. Lastly, none of this will carry much weight without passion. For me it’s the most important ingredient and it should be the reason you get out of bed every day.
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
Feeding my passion directly into a project that I know will make the world a better place. I felt like there was no other way for me to do that as effectively and as immediately than doing it myself.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
If I had to pick one individual it would be Horacio Pagani. The hypercars his company produces are best described as sculptures that feel alive. I share his belief that art and science can (and should) walk hand in hand. I also feel inspired by a multitude of environmental and wildlife preservation organizations like the World Wildlife Fund. To be honest, I also get inspired from the YouTube channel “The Dodo”. Seeing different species of animals share a genuine connection, like a dog and a rescued dolphin who play whenever they see each other, makes me want to fight for their survival in the face of hunting and deforestation. We only get one home; there is no Planet B.
If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
I would ask Horacio Pagani if he ever considered giving up when trying to create his own car company, and if he did, how close he came and what got him through that time. I think low points often produce the most growth and insight, and learning from other people’s experiences is truly invaluable.
What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
Being introduced to a role model and having a conversation as peers.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
My biggest realization is that everything takes more time than you expect. Everyone hears it, but living it is a different thing. Lessons learned from earlier iterations of my project iterations have greatly sped up certain aspects of the current version, but I didn’t fully understand how much time starting a company takes when I began. With that said, every experience teaches something. I don’t feel like there have been any “absolute” failures because I have always learned more than I have lost and I haven’t given up. The best example of this is making the decision to switch from a mass produced, low cost vehicle to a much more expensive, limited production car after realizing that we needed a different launching point into the market as a new company. I learned a lot about what investors look for during that process, and how to get the most out of a small team. I think the only real failure you can make as an entrepreneur is to not try.
How have you funded your ideas?
To date, all of Beckman’s operations have been self-funded with some additional support coming from various awards (Oxford Brookes Spark Award) and sponsored business support (OxLEP, Oxford Innovation Services, Brookes CATALYST accelerator, etc.).
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
Winning the Oxford Brookes Spark Award gave me the confidence to continue developing my project, which continued with my acceptance to the CATALYST startup accelerator program and Brookes FUEL Awards.
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
I really don’t think there are any negatives. Oxford is home to some of the most brightest and most talented individuals in the world, and being able to tap into that network as a startup is an opportunity that very few other locations can provide. I have also benefitted from the rich automotive industry in the area surrounding Oxford, and I can’t think of a better place to look for skilled designers, engineers, and manufacturers.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
I would point them immediately to OxLEP and Oxford Innovation Services – both of which have been extremely helpful to me and were able to provide tailored support to get me through various stages of my startup experience. I would also suggest getting connected to universities if possible as they can often provide introductions and support within their own networks.
Any last words of advice?
Life is a game, just roll the dice.