Hexitime won this year’s Heropreneurs ‘Technology Business of the Year 2021’ award sponsored by Amazon Web Services and TechVets.
The award recognises a business whose main area of operation is in technology – either focusing on the development and manufacturing of technology or providing technology as a service. Hexitime demonstrated how technology is the cornerstone of their business and highlighted the benefits that it brings to their end users.
- How did you find yourself in the military?
It started with an Army scholarship when I was 16 after getting interested as an Army cadet. I then joined the Army Reserves at Uni and quite naturally joined the regular Army after that. Professionally I always saw myself joining the Army, despite not having any family members who had served.
- What was the highlight of your military career?
Parachuting. I absolutely loved it, and it’s the one thing I miss the most.
- Why did you leave the military?
It was becoming too bureaucratic and corporate for my liking, and less fun. I was determined to leave on good terms with positive memories, and get stuck into a new career before I hit my 30s. The world is a big exciting place and I wanted to experience it.
- What made you go down the entrepreneurial route?
I identified a need and an opportunity to provide the solution, and realised I had the basics to do something about it. I was very lucky at that point to find the perfect co-founder and allies to help me make it happen. I realised very quickly how much I enjoyed the freedom and excitement of being an entrepreneur, and increasingly prioritised it.
- What advice would you give to other service leavers thinking of setting up their own business?
Do as much research, preparation and development as you can while you are still in a salaried job. You’ll long for the days when you had the luxury to think about that sort of stuff without sales and money pressurising you. If you’ve already left the military, I’d recommend standard entrepreneurial advice; understand very quickly what the problem is you are trying to solve, and test it as cheaply as possible with a minimum viable product so you can act decisively and efficiently.
- Your business is enjoying huge success. Was this always your vision from the beginning?
We always designed the business with the basics required to scale and spread. For example we didn’t limit application by profession or geography, and we designed out as many process bottlenecks as possible. We made the business and the product to create connected and collaborative communities where individuals can share their skills, ideas, and problems as equals, to improve health and social care. We’ve always stuck to that vision, but have increased the scope over time as we realised we could help and benefit more users.
- What’s the secret of your success?
Probably purpose. At Hexitime we know why we exist, what we do, and how we do it. This clarity has really helped through tough times when perseverance and efficiency is needed.
- How long will you stay with Hexitime?
Until it stops adding value to our users and customers. I have no desire to leave before then.
- Where will you be in 5 years?
In a similar role personally, but overseeing more business processes rather than personally doing them. But Hexitime will be in a significantly different position. We have started to develop an international base, and in 5 years I’d like to see us coordinating platforms in international health systems and harnessing the benefits for users of linking them together.
- What projects/areas of tech should the UK’s healthcare and social care providers be focusing on following the disruption caused by the Covid pandemic?
The workarounds in the pandemic through online video consultations has made a strong case for them to be continued and expanded. This has big implications for how healthcare providers are physically designed, but also how staff work and the processes they need to do the job safely and effectively. Unrelated to the pandemic, there is phenomenal opportunity to use AI and machine learning to improve healthcare quality. I should also add that application to use tech to support the green agenda will become so important. Whether it’s the use of harmful anaesthetic gasses across the NHS, supply chains with high carbon footprints, or using huge amounts of disposable personal protective equipment, tech will play a significant part.
11. What’s next for Hexitime?
We support our clients with their purpose to improve health and care services. So for some that is environmental sustainability, and others it’s about reducing inequalities. The future for Hexitime flexes with these needs. As a business we will take our platform abroad to develop a network of international communities improving healthcare. We are also exploring the application of our technology into private sector corporate organisations.
12. Throughout your life who would you say have been your main role models and why?
There are a handful of people in my life who have significantly influenced how I view the world and operate in it:
Jack Sadler, a close friend through my late teens and into my early 20’s. We served together in the Army and he was unfortunately killed in Afghanistan. Jack taught me a lot about discipline, excellence, self-confidence and not suffering fools gladly.
My wife. We met when we were 20 and we’ve grown up together. She is the most intelligent and kind person I’ve ever known. She’s my role model for work ethic and being a good person.
My co-founder Dr. Hesham Abdalla. We’ve both been at Hexitime since the beginning and supported each other through its creation and execution. He’s a living role model case study in excellent leadership, and I learn from his style every time we talk.
Robert Woolf, Director at Made Open. Robert has taught me everything I know about timebanking and building communities. He’s a role model in honesty, trustworthiness and effective collaboration and has been instrumental in the Hexitime story.
13. Do you or have you ever had a mentor? What did you learn from them?
I have just taken on my first official mentor actually so time will tell. I asked him to mentor because I believe he will provide honest, constructive criticism and give specific advice on managing investment rounds for businesses – an area I don’t know enough about.
14. What mistakes have you made in your career? How have they shaped you for the better?
There’s a significant list, but I recall in the early days of Hexitime I was learning on the job how to run the accounts and I was making all sorts of errors from accidentally charging clients VAT and having to refund them, to getting fined for missing a nil tax return having confused the HMRC and the companies house returns. But now I understand the accounts processes and I’m a better CEO for it. I recently ran a workshop on a Miro board, and forgot to ‘lock’ the template I was using. People in the workshop were all over the place and started moving the template around and made it very difficult to work with! Making mistakes like these are a normal part of the entrepreneurial journey and a key part of the learning curve.
15. True entrepreneurs are renowned for their resilience. What is it that makes you get up again, when you’ve been knocked down?
I most commonly experience this when we get rejected for a funding bid or an award for example. These things take a significant amount of time, thought and effort to submit and it can be really disheartening to receive a one-sentence email rejection and no feedback. But throughout Hexitime’s journey we’ve always had our purpose and community to give us the drive required to put in the hours. It has always felt like there are so many exciting opportunities at Hexitime, so it’s relatively easy to get back into things and stay motivated for the next one.
16. What emerging technologies should we be keeping an eye on?
I recommend people focus on their own technology, and how they can maximise value for their customers and users. In close second, keep an eye on immediate competitors to your technology. In terms of putting money where my mouth is I have shares in tech companies innovating in the green space.
17. If you were to retrain now, what area of cyber/tech would you focus on developing skills in?
AI and machine learning. There is so much potential for these skills to have a massive impact in healthcare.
18. What more can the government do to encourage more veterans into cyber and tech training programs and jobs?
I wonder if they could develop an entry programme in their departments, which would be within their control. In the NHS we have something for veterans called ‘Step Into Health’ and I wonder if there could be an equivalent in civil service for cyber and tech roles. I left the military in 2012, so things may have changed. But I recall it being a very convoluted process to cash in learning credits for relevant training to civvy street. I also recall there being a limited amount of training providers on the eligible list. So I hope that has improved.
19. Why are service leavers well suited to cyber security and tech jobs?
Military veterans are used to going on training courses and learning practical new skills. I think cyber and tech jobs can be quite intimidating because of the perceived level of skill required, but veterans aren’t typically shy of such challenges.
20. How can the government and commercial sector work more effectively together? People? skills? Funding?
I think the Government could make its procurement processes fairer and more transparent, so they don’t miss the huge amount of talented entrepreneurs in the private sector who could be having a huge impact on their needs. But it does feel as though government bodies are being clearer about the problems they need solving for the commercial sector to develop in response to.