Sometimes you have to pause for a moment and take stock of how far you have come.
Today is one of those days. Today eg technology turns 20 years old. We are often a little reserved when it comes to shouting about our achievements, but in the transient world we live in, turning 20 years old feels like a huge achievement.
2002 was a tumultuous year. It was the year which saw the (last) Queen’s jubilee, the release of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and the 2nd generation iPod with a huge 20MB of storage! It also saw the passing of the Queen Mother, Justin and Britney break up and the release of the very first camera phone in the US, by Sanyo. Obviously, none of those has huge relevance to our story, but they provide some context to how the world has changed in the past two decades! iPods are now few and far between, and most phones have cameras to rival those of many photographers. But eg has had its very own evolution, and not only are we still here to tell the tale, but we have grown and developed into a company we are very proud of.
eg technology is the brainchild of Andrew Ede and Danny Godfrey (the ‘e’ and the ‘g’), who are certainly worthy of a shiny corner office, but still sit amongst the team and remain heavily involved in projects. In 2002, they both sat in the Kingston Arms to write their business plan, which Danny refers to as ‘cautiously ambitious’. They spotted a gap in the product development market, with small start-up companies requiring engineering design skills and experience without committing to the long-term overhead of employing their own staff or of working with the larger consultancies. From this, eg technology was born. The aim was to help start-up companies develop their first iterations of products within the high-tech sectors of Cambridge. By applying engineering and industrial design, eg helped to transform ideas into successful products, generally using a phased approach to match their clients’ funding rounds and in-house IP development cycles. With a couple of clients under their belt, Danny and Andrew took on an office on King’s Parade when Helen Coppen (Director extraordinaire) joined in 2003.
The standard development cycle for a new product within the MedTech sector is not short…it can in fact take years, especially when ground-breaking technological advances are involved. Many start-ups have an incredible design, concept or idea that they believe will have a significant impact on the medical landscape. They are therefore eager to get their development underway and get their potentially life-saving innovation onto the market! However, this hasty approach is not only fraught with risk but can be somewhat unrealistic. I have mentioned previously the importance of following a strict process when designing and developing medical devices. It may at times feel like the wind is being taken out of your sails, but it is important not to mistake end-to-end programme planning and risk analysis with antagonism or even programme sabotage! Product development is often a complex journey and things take longer and cost more than anticipated, so a clear process will provide you with a definitive roadmap, which details your route to market in the most direct and efficient way. Each programme should therefore have a clear outline from the very start. Detail is key and a clear list of focal areas for your project will stand you in good stead. Your list may include finding (or developing) the right technology, raising finance, establishing the target market, working out the shape of the team that you will need to build, understanding the regulatory requirements and confirming the user needs.
“I joined eg when my family were young and Andrew and Danny were starting their families too. I agreed wholeheartedly with their leadership values; they resonated with my own moral standards. They understood my need for flexibility, the importance of attending school plays, despite them always being in the middle of the working day, and the need to be able to drop things when there was a call during holiday clubs saying that one of the kids was on their way to Addenbrookes A&E. In my case, that seemed like an annual event for one of my children! They were eight and four when I first joined; they are now 26 and 22. And as they grew, I was able to grow in my role and take on more and more responsibility, becoming a central part of the success and growth of the business and, like all employees at eg, benefitting from its profitability.”
By 2008, eg had a successful portfolio of clients and moved to a larger office on Newmarket Road to accommodate their growing team of ten. This upwards trajectory continued. Now based out in converted barns in Stow-cum-Quy, we have custom-built laboratories and workshops on-site, large spacious open-plan offices, breakout areas indoors and outdoors and a team of over 40 people.
Over the past two decades, the team has grown, office locations have changed, and we have worked on some incredible projects, but the company ethos is as strong as ever. It is a well-known fact that corporate culture can cause companies to fail. Culture trickles through a company from the top down, and if there is a broken link within that chain it can cause enormous issues. Thankfully, our chain is not only intact, but representative of the great leaders we have in Danny and Andrew. We talk about our people a lot, and that is because we believe that our people are the root of our success. Our mission is to be the chosen product design and development company for our clients and employees. The ‘and’ in that sentence is crucial. Our people are the reason we are celebrating 20 years today… and although the team doesn’t include everyone who was here 10 or 15 years ago, the skillset within eg is exceptional and something we are careful to nurture.
Both Danny and Andrew are modest about their achievements, with Danny saying:
“It is hard to believe that 20 years have passed since Andrew and I boarded a train together in Cambridge and headed to London to sign up our first client. Our aim was simple – to provide excellent product development services at a fair price. We had a business plan, lots of ideas and, perhaps most importantly, lots of energy and enthusiasm. We had agreed between us that we’d never grow beyond a team of five people… In a couple of years that became 10, then 20, and now we find ourselves working alongside a team of more than 40 bright, talented individuals. The two of us, both mechanical engineers, were joined first by industrial designers, then electronics, then software and more mechanical engineers. More recently, human factors and quality teams have rounded our offering to cover all aspects of medical development. Our original office, in the loft of my house, was replaced first by a small office offering the best view in town of King’s College Chapel, then a former Brewery Headquarters, and now our lovely Barn in Stow-cum-Quy. This summer we are expanding into the second wing of the Barn, allowing us to continue to grow over the coming years.
“We have had the privilege to help shape the journeys of some great companies, often from their earliest days. It is that sense of making a difference that continues to drive us as a business today. The journey from Joe’s first project in 2002 through to today has had many twists and turns. There have been a few downs, but far more ups. We are very grateful to everyone who has made that journey possible – the clients who have placed their faith in us, suppliers who have helped us to create some fantastic products and, of course, the eg team who have brought their experience, creativity, energy and resilience.”
Andrew added “what he said…” – a true reflection of the synergy between our founders! He backed this up by saying:
“We are extremely fortunate to have worked on some fantastic projects, with some really talented people over the past 20 years, which have enabled us to really showcase some specialist engineering skillsets. As technologies change and the team grows, we spend time upskilling to ensure that we all remain at the leading edge of development. I think this is one reason we have experienced growth and success; our desire to keep learning, the drive of our team and our ability to solve complex engineering problems has enabled us to create some magnificent products.”
So, how will we be marking our 20th year? Well, we have come to realise that one of the joys of getting older is that the birthday celebrations seem to last longer. So, we are going to take our time and spread our celebrations out across the year. We have already had some frivolities with the team (pictures to follow), but over the year we plan to celebrate how far we have come by giving back. We will be running a ‘20 for 20’ initiative, through which we would like to share some of our learnings, whether that be with small/growing businesses, students, schools or in general. For each of our 20 years in business, we will host a talk, webinar or workshop, invite a selected applicant to benefit from some of our engineering expertise (watch this space for more info!) or host a celebration in honour of how far we have come. There will be plenty of content shared and hopefully some other exciting events throughout the year. More details on all of this will follow soon!
But for now, we are pausing for a moment, taking stock and enjoying reflecting on how far we have come. If anyone wishes to jump in on the celebrations and feels the need to join us eating cake, we won’t stop you (and may well take some pics on our vintage Sanyo Camera Phones). Thanks for being part of our incredible journey… here’s to the big 2 0!