Arnab Basu - Building a Startup, Attitudes to Innovation & STEM Education
So. On a tell, me all about the the, journey with chromic what, de chromic do. It. Has been an incredible, journey for the last 16 years from, the de chromic was founded, in a university, lab in Durham University we. Are a, radiation. Detection technology, company working in three, global. Markets, nuclear. Detection medical, imaging and security. Screening and, what. We provide are can. Be described as the next, generation of radiation detectors, which had color which a digital, very. Similar, to what happened, in the world of photography everything, went from black, and white film basecamp, photography. To color high-resolution. Digital, photography. We. Have the enabling technology, for the world of radiography, to go to that jet and the. Drivers are very similar to get much more information so, when, we look at a digital. Color, image our. Viewing, experience, is really almost like a reality, hi high-definition imaging. And that's why we like looking at very, high definition, imaging, the, information, content, within that imaging is lots. More than, black, and white. Film. Based cameras. World. Of radiography, is going that way because we want more information out, of imaging whether, it's a normal tissue tissue, versus, cancer tissues whether. Its water. Or something. More dangerous hidden, as water in our bottle or something. Benign, being, made. To look like a, emitting. Radiation which could be used by a terrorist as a dirty bomb so so, having, those kind of information, enables. Customers. Or, users to, take more intelligent, decisions, ultimately. Leads on to, operational. Cost savings and that's why we exist and that's why our customers wants to buy a product in. Terms of the applications. And and markets, that you're going, after, cancer. Treatments, and an equally or, diagnosis. And an equally the the anti-terrorism. Environments. How. Is chromic, having an impact on the market look. Fundamentally, what we do is we provide better. Quality, of detectors. For. X-rays, and gamma-rays which, ultimately. Enables, our customers, to take, better. Quality, of decisions. Based on the information that is there in those imaging, now let me take an example of off in. The medical market, it. Is very widely known that early diagnosis. Of diseases. Like cancer and conditions. Other conditions, like heart disease. Ultimately. Leads to a better patient, outcome because if you can catch something early you can have. A better patient outcome at the end of it but, more importantly, the overall cost, of care comes down so. Diagnostics. Is a very important. Part of the. Overall healthcare. System, which enables, both. To have you. Know save lives on one hand but also to make the health care much, more efficient and that's why our detectors. Which does exactly that provides. Better quality, of diagnostic. Imaging. Helps. In those two things if. You look at the airport, security market for example the. Driver is slightly more different of, course Airport, security is all about. Having. The most efficient, way of moving, people. And bags through, a airport. In. This in within a safe environment. Now. Detection. Of explosive, is opposed important, because that's ultimately what, we are doing in, an airport but.
Having. The ability to, say. Reliably. That there is no, explosive, it's very important, because every, false alarm, means, your. And my band when we go to an airport has to be open every, time somebody opens a bag. That. Stops the process of that efficient, movement of people and bags and that costs money so, our detectors, again play a very important, part in providing, reliability. Of detection so. Lowering of false alarms in an airport so again, moves. People faster it moves back more efficiently, in a very safe manner and. That reduces cost of operation. By increasing, operational efficiency. Very. Similarly. In. The nuclear detection space, having, the ability to say whether that's a harmful radiation, coming. From something that can be used, in. A, harmful manner by a terrorist. Or, somebody, trying to do something not, naughty. Versus. Something which is just emitting radiation as a natural, phenomenon. Like. Concrete. Blocks or ceramic, blocks or, bananas. In certain. Cases all. Those makes a difference when you have handling, a situation, in a border where with high traffic coming through you, don't want to stop anybody because you've, got false alarms from the existing detection, system we, provide, detection. Systems, which are accurate. In. Detecting. What is dangerous, but. Equally, accurate in telling, there. Is nothing dangerous so again. Increasing. Bad confidence. Of taking decisions in, those situations, leads, to better quality of operation, and ultimately reducing. Cost and, I. Read correctly online, that, it. Isn't just you, know the threats of terrorists, like you know bombs being brought through the, aviation, terminals, but there are actually ways now of detecting, you. Know a homegrown, bomb within, with your products, sure. I mean you know nature. Of threats everywhere, is changing. Because we are dealing with. Pretty. Organized. Pretty sophisticated. You. Know people. Who are trying to do harm. So. The nature of thread, the sophistication. Of those threads have, changed, over the last you, know decades and it. Is a challenge, for industry. To keep up to that together. With the regulators and and, who specifies, what needs to be there and what, we bring into the picture is is, a very advanced, capability, in providing. Very good quality of information. From. Those extra, machines or handheld. Radiation, detectors, like we do, with with DARPA. And Department. Of Defense in in US or odd. Similarly, in, European. Commission. Just. To go off on a different one chroma, key you, were a start-up, and then. Obviously you've significantly. Expanded, what is turnover, now and where are you going overall is business, we. Just. Reported all results last, month. Our. Revenues. Where'd 14.5. Million pounds. Since. We came to the markets in 2013, we have reported. An annualized, average, growth of 30% here on year so, we are we are we're, a growing company and. If. You look at overall opportunity. Within, the space we operate, we. Are still, at that very early stage, of growth because. We've got two very big growth drivers, one is in medical imaging which is called. SPECT nuclear. Medicine which. Is. Is. A huge opportunity for us at the moment because, there. Is a generational. Change going on in the market led by the, market, leader in this space and and. We have got a very strong offering, to help on an OEM basis to help the, competitors, of that market leader to to, get into the market and the. Second, is in handheld, radiation, detectors, that we developed, together with the US Department of Defense with, DARPA which. Is all about protection, very large infrastructure, even a whole city by using network, detectors.
And We. Have a real disruptive. Product in terms of usability form factor. Even. Even, price so, and, and. That. Particular, market, to us is worth. About a billion dollars over the next decade or so so. What, you're seeing today in chromic is a steady, buildup, in that commercial, place in the, last three financially. As we. Have announced. And secured hundred forty five million dollars worth of contracts. Those. Contracts, are flowing through as revenue, and and we have got two really, really, big, growth riders which. Have. Got to have got the potential to make us into a really big, successful, company in this place so. 14, is from a limb turnover the myths, how, large could chromatic return if, you look at our end markets, these markets are big and if. You look at the macro drivers. Why we are going to grow in these markets, those, are fairly robust, I mean let's take talk about diagnostic, imaging, if. If you look at. Diagnostic. Imaging, there are two principal. Drivers one, is the. Emergence, of the, middle-class population in, China and India it's. A huge population. That, is now. Unable. To afford better lifestyle, better, lifestyle, includes, better healthcare, and. If you look at the diagnostic. Imaging. Systems. Per, capita, in those. Markets, compared, to. The. Western markets the Western more established, markets it's 5% of the Western markets so there's a whole market, that is not addressed yet and needs, to be addressed where there are no incumbents, solutions, already so. The. Growth, driver in that market, is huge, in terms of the growth potential. Similarly. In the more established, marketing in the West, we. Have had a very. Large, under, investment, since the financial crash and. And. And. Just to stand still to. Our service what we are used to in the Western world we, will have to make up that investment, over the next decade, or so so. The, macro, growth, drivers, within. Fraud for, diagnostic, imaging where we have a big opportunity very. Robust, and that is going to drive us at. Four to growth I look. At again on the nuclear, part of the business nuclear, detection or the security part of the business, our. Borders. Are getting harder. Something. That is a, reversal, of trend if you look at over the last 3040, years the, trend had been borders, were getting open. Politics. Was becoming more liberal and, people. Were becoming a little bit more friendly. Borders. Are hardening which. Means our. Security, concerns are hardening the instabilities. In certain part of the world is also. Giving. Rise to those, concerns, and and. General. Spend, in, defence. And security as, a result, of that is actually. Increasing. Which means again from our handheld, radiation, detection product, those. Drivers are very strong, very well aligned to what our products, are so in the two big growth markets, we've got the, macro. Drivers, are very strong, and that's why we believe we will grow on a, sustainable, basis, over the next decade, or so and and, obduracy, huge 40 billion dollar markets for us over the next 10 years you. Have. Also had chosen to list chromatic. As a listed business was. That always the intention or to the other consider the private equity which it's. A natural, course. That, you take I mean we we were initially funded through, angel professor. Max Robinson was the first investor, in. The business and and, following. That we amassed quite a shareholder. Following, in the private markets all. Small. Institutions, but also a lot, of angel, and individuals, and and. I think 2013 was the time when when we thought that was the right time to get get into the private, into. The public markets and the, public markets have served us well as, a business, it has served us well in, terms of access to capital like earlier. This year we raised 21 million pounds. Worth of capital to, really. Aid, growth. We. Secured a near, sixty million dollars worth of contracts, from the medical market earlier this year and and. And that you know that is fueling, the, growth in, the business at the moment which. Whereby, we are expanding our capacity of, the CZ d part of the business by. 4, to 6 volts so, there is a huge capital expansion, going on in terms of capacity and and. By, end of this year we will have. These. State-of-the-art. Czt. Growth facility, and processing, facility. In. The, world so our.
Customers, Feels very good about it, we. Have we will bring capability, to this market that previously, was, very difficult to get so so, as a business as a market, you know from. Public market I served as well tell, me about the organizational chromic your had offices during but what about the wider functions, with I I always, say you know the area's very small company operating, with eight time zones so, we've, got two principal. Manufacturing. Facilities. One in we're, sitting here to missus this is our headquarters this, is where the journey started, and. Our. Other, manufacturing. Center. Is in Pittsburgh, where, we can build, a new factory, brand. New facility, 30,000, square foot manufacturing facility. Last year and. And, we have got two engineering offices one in Midlands. And Huddersfield, in in UK and the. Other in California, the California site, was in a quiet site we acquire two businesses, along our journey one. Was in California, which made, specialized, electronics, for our products, and continues. To do so and we have got a very. Talented group, of people within that organization. Which still, is driving. That part of the business and that capability and in, Pittsburgh we acquired another company, which was a competitor. Of ours and so we have part consolidated. That sees that the supply, chain in the market and. Which we now moved into a much larger better. More. Fit. For purpose facility, last year, do. You think chromic. Is, right to have his headquarters where as in such field or do you think it would've been better having it in London or in the US or any, other major, capital city look, we are proud where we where we are we, we are a northeastern, company and. Our. Technology, came out of Dharam we. This is our home but. At the end of the day our markets, are global we sell in 40 more 40 different countries and that's expanding, on a on a, monthly basis. Yes. On one hand we could be anywhere but at the at the end of the day the. Region. Has served us very well we. Have. Been supported, very well by the local. Authorities, and the, region itself of. Course there are challenges being. In the northeast that. She'll like there will be challenges being in in in other parts of the country but. Those. Those are challenges, that businesses, have to cope with ranking, access to skills, access. To you. Know connectivity. And all of that but but I think that's getting better. I don't, think we are being held back because just because we had in the Northeast in fact I would say. Infrastructure. Wise what we have is a business I think, we are at an advantage of being honest tell. Me about your story, I know how to actually, begin for you Starling, chrome Rock here where. Did life begin for you before come, here I, grew. Up in India I, was.
Born, In. A business family back in India and. I. I. Did, my first degree in India and in, Calcutta, and. Worked. In our family business for a while and then realized that's not where I wanted to spend my entire life I. Came, to the UK as a student because that was really, one. Of the easiest route to come. Out of a family business and. And. And since then I worked I did. An engineering degree in not Humber University, went. And worked for Invensys, in. One of their North Tyneside plants, and. Surrender. Pitously I I ended, up in Durham doing a PhD and. Instead. Of becoming a banker, I came, and, started, leading the company, from b1 so. It has been an interesting journey how things. Have happened but I'm. A strong believer you got to take opportunities, when it when as and when it arises and. Even. If you look at the history, of chromic. Of. Lawful. Business like. Nuclear business and, and to, certain extend the aviation, security business, started. Off based on events some, of them not so good events but. But, we we, responded. To certain, meats. In markets. And that's how things started so taking. Opportunities, as and when arises, and and and be positive, and being, you. Know make the best out of it is something. That I firmly, believe in doing so. You start off being very technical with your PhD, would. You describe yourself as a technical guy now or how do you move, more into the commercial world. I'm. Not the technical guy in the business I was never the technical guy in the business in in, in chromic I do have a PhD which which means as a CEO. IIIi can't, be fooled into believing things. That are not real so, in, that way I but I've got a basic advantage. But. Look. I think, having a technical background in a technical business leading a technical business helps, but. Ultimately, on the CEO of the business my job is making. This business commercial, my. Job is to ensure we, have the. Right shareholder. Return my. Job is to ensure that we build a solid team to, take this business and create the vision where. That team is aligned and.
Executing. On that vision so that's that's what my principle job I've got a lot of intelligent, people in there in the company led by our CTO and other, other. Technical, people who does the, more, scientific. And technical, job, and. They are very clever people I wouldn't want to take, the role or. Do. That. You've. Clearly been through this journey from startup through to where you are now and muscle. Expansion, if. You were doing the journey again oh no what would you do differently I. Think. One of the key things that a lot of Fuca startup companies, face. I think is access to capital. Having. Access to capital, quite. A large amount of capital at very early stage helps, because. It just accelerates, the. The. Development cycle which, means you get to market faster. And. Probably. In a much more efficient, manner and ultimately. Your capital requirement, perhaps, is, lower if, you do that, so. Having. Access to more. Capital at an earlier, stage. For. Any startup, is is is much. A much, better model to work on and there you can see some of the u.s.. Startups and and things like that their access, to capital is very different, to what we have in the UK but, that's that's a that's a that's much more macro, issue in in the country rather than ours in. The UK are now do you think that we know how to manage innovation, and the development, of IP properly. Look. If. You look. At the overall UK. Picture. We. We. Punch we above our weight in terms of research, from our University, we we are world-class per, capita research we are we, are ahead of most, of our most, of the advanced countries, but. When it comes to commercializing. That research, we're. Not so good at it. We. Look bad but. We could be much better and and, I think the. Government is taking a very, proactive role, in in. Defining, the targets, where we need to be to. Be among the best in the world in converting, research into, products. Ultimately. Innovation. Is about. Matching. Up what. Is needed to what is possible which means it is all about, delivering. Solutions and, and. Research, is a way to convert money. Into knowledge and and, an innovation. Is about converting, that knowledge. Back into money, providing. Solutions, whether it's a business, solution not a product solution or a services, solution. So. We. Have got a long way to go, but. I think it is, things. That's structurally. Starting to happen and. And, the. Investment needs to go you. Know go on I, remember. Saying. Quite a few, years back. That. You. Know innovation, is is not a t20, cricket it's a Test cricket it's it's a long process and it. Is, so. Government. Strategies. Investment. Strategies, together. With privates. Investments. And how we incentivize, private. Investment, to come into this innovation, space is, that's. The ecosystem. That we need to build up and of course there's many other facets to that skills. There's.
There's. Infrastructure, there is access, to market, there is how we do trade, internationally. You, know it's a it's the whole it's. A whole system that is important, for creating a great innovation culture and, culture. Is important, every company, needs to be innovative you, don't. Need to be technical to be innovative and and that, is a common, misnomer a, lot of people has that. Innovation. Is about invention, innovation is not, about invention, innovation can. In, in, services and in how we do things innovation, what, we are doing with Jackson hog is an innovation from. Your model so you. Know so. It's it can happen at every level and I think businesses, will need to be innovative at every level and. More. Innovative, we are we are going to do better as a nation. Even. If you go back to you, know centuries where we're doing Industrial, Revolution, that's. What drove UK. To where it UK. Ultimately, went. To to, be one of the global leaders a global powerhouse. Not. Only inventing, things but how we move, those products, and goods and services around the world how we traded, so, I, think, innovation needs to be, part. And parcel, of our culture, work culture and but. We need to get better at it do. You think there's anything that the government can do to support CEOs. To make sure that innovation actually happens, or I. Think. There are multiple things that governs, how, successful. Innovation, can happen I mean a a very close link, between. Research. And industry is one thing. Having. A very agile. And proactive. Skills, agenda. Within within, the country is another thing access, to capital how. We attract. Private. Capital how. We incentivize, in terms of tax regimes, in terms of you. Know having. A private. Individual, invest, in something. Which. Has got a higher risk but a higher, return. Which. May take a long time compared. To something which is much safe and. And conventional, sort. Of way of doing things these, are all you. Know will play a critical part in, how. Innovations. Can be successful, and how CEOs, can make, companies, grow.
And CEOs, can take. Risks within, that the, other thing is. Important. As well is that, risk. Culture, how. We perceive, risk, as. A nation, is it slightly different, to how risks, are perceived in countries. Like American, who are who are really successful in their innovation. Stigma. Attached to failure, in the UK is still pretty high and and, as a result, of risk appetite often is is lower. Than. Risk, appetite, in for, example in California where you know it's an innovation hotbed web so. I. Think. There is many, facets. Again many aspects. To innovation, where that, culture, needs to change but. I think it starts, with a, direction, it starts with a strategy and and I think the. Government's, bold strategy of making the 2.4%. A. Target. For in. Spending. R&D, as. A two. Point four percent of our GDP as an R&D spend is a, great, place to start and, I think I hope that looks really stimulate, things and, that's probably a good thing a touch on with the risk, strategy, we, do know in America you can take you know bigger, risks and yes as you know failures. But. Everyone. Always wants to tell me about the good things Oh happen and the successes, what, about the dark times have they ever been dark times on this journey absolutely. I mean you. Know very few people who. Has gone through journeys. Like like, us will. Say it was just a straight line it's never a straight line, and. Very seldom I'm, sure there are straight lines but most. People that I've spoken to are interacted, with the. The journey is is a tough journey and and, and. I think it, is, you, start off with, a vision. And. Then. You have to take a lot of people along with you around along. That vision and and. And, there are many aspect, to that is which is very difficult you know you've you you. Have to raise, money when you don't have, particularly. Anything to show, you. Have to bring those shareholders with you and understand, and make them understand what you're trying to do. You've. Got you, know you're trying to do business internationally. Different. Cultures different, challenges. In each of those markets you're. Trying to do business with very large organizations. Very large government, entities, when you are a very small tiny company, to start off with and and. That all brings its challenges, and and then you're trying to build a team, based on a vision and and and these I. Think. I think resilience, is, is one of the things that is very important, as.
A Quality, of being. Leader of a business like ours and, and and any business really so, yes, it's not a straight line and, you've, obviously built a team from quite a small team and the early days to now, I'll see as it expands what you're looking for for. New employees that are coming for the journey, look. I mean as we. Rightly pointed out I mean I was the first employee and the only employee for a period of time in, this business and. At. Different stages, of the business you need different skill sets and different type. Of people, and. And, not all everybody, is suited for that entire entire. Journey now. What. We're looking for now is. This. This is the time when when when the company is growing this is a time when all that hard work that went into research, development. Validation. Proving, out getting early customers, making, convincing. Somebody with an idea to adopt, something. We. Are just about past that stage we are now we're now into products we have got customer, base we have is selling in 40 countries we it's, all about expansion, eggsy and an execution, is a big part of that it's it's it's the most interesting if for, some people this is the most interesting part of it because this is where you. You you are seeing traction, in the market you're seeing grow - you're seeing expansion, here and and all the challenges that come with it so. People. With you, know with. An ability to sustain, a very fast-moving, environment. Often fast. Moving and changing environment so, be adaptable, but. Really excited about you, know they're. Fast. And. Healthy skills are almost ride through. Through, this journey is. Is something, that we look for in people really, people. Who are excited, about you. Know that the trajectory, of growth people, who are excited about not. Having just a sheltered structured, environment. You know we're we're a nine-to-five really, works but some some some people who, are excited about what we do because ultimately what. We do is save. Lives. Or make. People's lives safer so there is a bigger vision to attach to chromic but, at the same time the, big growth curve that we are going through comes with its own excitement, and challenges how do you describe the culture within chromic, driven. And. Equally. When you're recruiting, in America, and in the UK do you have different challenges, planning those driven people in different parts of world of. Course we, do you. Know, what. Culture in America and you care very different, what culture between, different. Age groups is very different and. So. It's, it's about finding. The right people in the right match that's, that's always that's always the case, you know me, the. Best skill person, in a. Particular, category may not be the fittest person for chromic and and we just have to accept that and and vice versa, so it.
Is About finding the right person for the right job ultimately. What. I personally, look for in. A team member are other, soft skills are. Other. Skills as how. You operate, as a person, because if you're if, you're recruiting an electronics. Engineer you'd. Expect them to know the electronics, and but it is about how you interact is it within a team how you interact, in a customer environment, how, you fit, into the culture in that driven culture so those, are as important. As the core skill set absolutely. And. Thinking. About skills, and the whole kind of skills agenda, which obviously ties into your business. Do. You think we're doing enough to get the, right stem. Students, coming through to come into companies like yours achromat, look. Overall, trend, is better in the UK at the moment, one. Of the things that. Culturally. Again the big difference between us and UK because, those are the two markets. We operate in as an employer. Technology. Is technology. Professionals, are more valued, in the US and compared to the UK we. And, and. I think there is a there's a whole roll. From. Learned societies to. You. Know to to, the. Government probably and, industry, itself to. Value. Our. Professionals. In technology. More. To. Have more active, role models, within this so, that a. Young. Person not, not when you're sixteen but when you're eight you're. Excited, about science, you're excited about maths you're excited about physics, because everything, that goes around you is governed by those rules. So. You. Either win, or lose people ready at very early stages, and, and I think we all have a duty to really. Be, those ambassadors and be those people, who ultimately inspires. Young. People in schools and, to. Continue that journey into the STEM. Workplace. Is changing and, and. The jobs are changing because. Technology's, moving at such a fast, pace and, and. I think skills, upscaling. And. Keeping. People skilled, to do the job in ten years time is going to be a challenge, that will face worldwide, how, we cope with it is going to be interesting to see. Thinking. About UK industry as a whole should we be optimistic over, the next five years, look. We are going to we're going through an interesting change, you. Know period. At the moment. We. Have seen, the. Effect and currency there's got positives, and negatives we. You. Know whatever is happening in politics is beyond industry. Generally. Industry. Can cope with mistakes as long, as it can plan. So. I, think the. More, certainty. We, have as industry, in the overall, direction.
Of Travel the. Better it would be but. We have a resilient. Set. Of industries within the UK and I think the, future is bright and and our, brand, is still very strong as a. UK you. Know made product, so so, I think the future is optimistic, and. When, you're not leading chromic, do you - find time to switch off what do you do with this part time I I. Do, quite a few other things I, chair. The regional. Academic health science Network which is. Which, is a NHS. England body, you. Know sort. Of regional body which is not is not company but nationally. Looks. At innovation, in and out of NHS, so I've, shared that for the last five. Years. It's. Going through an interesting journey and and, I think it's it's a very you, know exciting, space the health space itself, so I do, that I. Also, sit on the innovate, UK Council. Which. Is the main. Innovation agency for the UK government. But. I am, I also chaired the local cricket club and in Durham City which is a cricket is one of my passions and and I think it's a it's a great sport so. Spending, time with the family as well is, an important part of my relaxation. As well I think it's so important to get the balance of work and family. Life and the wider interests, absolutely. I know it's been a delight to meet you and thank, you so much for your time thank you very much.