21 June 2021|Brand Story, Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
Dr Tom Mason, CEO & CTO at Bramble Energy, is an experienced engineer with a demonstrated history of developing and commercialising novel high-impact technologies with a global reach. His developments include a revolutionary advance in hydrogen fuel cells. As a co-founder of Bramble Energy, Tom joined the company as a Director and Chief Technology Officer when the company spun-out of UCL and Imperial College in 2016 before taking up the role of CEO in September 2017.
With over 10 years of electrochemistry experience, Tom is the foremost authority and a recognised world expert on all things PCBFC™. The printed circuit board fuel cell represents groundbreaking and innovative technology that solves the inherent problems faced by the fuel cell industry, identifying and utilising a fully established supply chain with a preexisting capacity to supply gigawatts of fuel cells. Since Tom’s appointment as CEO, he has brought a fresh and dynamic approach to Bramble Energy and led the company through a successful Series A funding round during these most challenging times. We caught up with Tom recently to learn more about his entrepreneurship journey.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Bramble Energy was formed over a decade ago at two of the best universities in the world, University College of London and Imperial College of London, with the core purpose of helping the world achieve Net Zero.
Bramble was operating out of loaned offices from UCL, with just three team members right up until the pandemic hit last year. We literally packed up our stuff in a day and moved into my garage – very Steve Jobs esque! Setting up our very own garage laboratory so we could carry on testing our products, working night and day (as I literally couldn’t leave work!) & virtually pitching investors. With the significant funding we secured in July 2020, Bramble Energy has now achieved exponential growth and is in the position to scale up to its largest competitors.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
The motivation was relatively simple, having in-depth knowledge of fuel cell technology, a major problem stood in the path to commercialisation: Cost. To get traditional fuel cell tech to be competitive on cost, large volume production was required
When I finished my PhD in 2013, I was given the opportunity of leading the engineering and manufacturing development of this exciting technology. It was immediately apparent to me that this technology solves key questions that needed answering in order to enable the widespread adoption of fuel cells and hydrogen as an energy vector.
The key benefit being that from a manufacturing perspective, the capacity is already in place. A key motivator for our team is to be a part of the solution to tackling Climate Breakdown. For humanity to keep climatic warming below 1.5°C we need rapid and decisive movement towards adoption of renewable power. This power must be stored during times of surplus and mobile so that it can be used when and where it is needed. These attributes are going to be what makes hydrogen such an important part of the story as we transition away from the global use of fossil fuels. Bramble Energy is able to provide a cost effective, scalable hydrogen fuel cell technology and as such is poised to play a major role in the protection of our fragile planet.
How did you achieve awareness?
I wanted to inspire like-minded people in my network to become a part of the Bramble Energy journey and help build the brand. Getting our voice out there within our industry through our social media channels and website is where we started. Following that, were certain events that we attended where we had the opportunity to raise awareness of the Bramble name and get people talking about our technology while also offering our perspective on current movements within the industry. We also identified a lot of opportunities for Bramble to become a part of campaigns and councils that supported our values as a company, and these can lead to great introductions as well as awareness.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
When you are going for the biggest investment round you have ever looked for, you certainly do not expect to be locked down against an invisible virus that has completely caused the global population to grind to a halt but we had a plan and although everything needed to be done virtually, we persevered to get those introductions we knew we wanted and needed.
We wanted to target specific Venture Capitals in the clean technology sector that could add real capability to the team. We sought out high quality investors early on that would go beyond just funding like IP Group who work to evolve great ideas, mainly from universities, into world-changing businesses.
What are the key successes?
The biggest success has been growing the company from just three people including myself, to our team now of over 20 highly skilled people. After securing our Series A funding in one of the most challenging times the world has faced, Bramble is starting to become the company I always knew it could be. Launching not only our first product but a range of products this year and working with our integration partner, MAHLE Powertrain to develop our first vehicle demonstrator. It is really exciting to see our technology out of the lab and being put into real life applications.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
All of the above – our successes have also been our biggest challenges! There are always going to be challenges at every level of varying complexities when scaling a business, but you cannot be afraid of making mistakes. Every single person involved in the process is learning daily, but it is really important to have those people around you that can support you in that growth.
What are your plans now/ for the future?
The goal is to see Bramble grow further and faster than we ever have before and that includes reaching international markets. We are currently in the process of securing our Round B funding later this year which will allow us to support and reach our international goals and hopefully work with more great partners as the whole world is coming together in solving the climate crisis. I truly believe our technology to be limitless.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
There are always going to be tough times as your business grows but you have to know yourself well enough to know you can weather any storm. I find it hard to believe there are start-ups that experience a completely smooth transition from one stage to the next, but it is what you learn from each stage that brings success. If you have perseverance and are willing to put in your everything then you are ready to start your journey.
Can you share your top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
Never give up!
Know your markets and customers inside out.
Find high quality capital
Build a high-quality team – without the right team around you, you will not go anywhere.
Never be afraid to ask for help and build as big a support network as you can.
Who are the people who inspire you the most?
This was a tough one…
Steve Jobs – Disruptor & Visionary. From his garage to the biggest brand in the world.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson – Hardest worker in the room (as well as one of the funniest and down to earth) @therock
My parents – Might be cliched but I wouldn’t be here without them and all the opportunities they have given me.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.” John Templeton
“What’s the key to success? The key is, there is no key. Be humble, hungry, and the hardest worker in any room.” Dwayne Johnson
“People who know what they are talking about don’t need Power Point.” Steve Jobs
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomjmason/
Find out more about us – www.brambleenergy.com
Twitter – @BrambleEnergy
About Bramble Energy
Bramble Energy is powering a Net Zero world – today – and is proving to be a real game changer in solving key challenges in the production of hydrogen fuel cells including: lead times, up-front investment, manufacturing cost and scalability.
Founded in 2016 by Dr. Tom Mason, in the research labs at Imperial College of London and University College of London, Bramble Energy through revolutionary fuel cell design and manufacturing techniques, has developed the unique printed circuit board (PCB) fuel cell – the PCBFC™. A patent protected fuel cell that can be manufactured in almost all printed circuit board (PCB) factories worldwide.
After raising significant capital in 2020, Bramble Energy has rapidly grown from a team of just three to 25 and is fast becoming the leading hydrogen fuel cell provider for a cleaner and more sustainable world.
Home for Bramble Energy is a state-of-the-art facility in Gatwick, UK, where they have launched their portable power product range and are developing their high-power density, liquid-cooled fuel cell systems under the same scalable low-cost technology platform.