Geoff Baker has co-founded and sold two successful companies in a pioneering example of mechanical engineering’s entrepreneurial spirit. His professional journey has taken him from the initial stages of the Concorde jet’s supersonic development to the intricacies of the industrial, defence, oil and gas markets.
Geoff learned from his early business experiences to ensure success in his future ventures and now shares his expertise as a Chartered Engineer and Vice President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (iMechE). He encourages innovation in engineering through his blog www.entrepreneurialengineers.com.
“I think engineers are natural entrepreneurs,” he says. “They fundamentally have a curiosity into how things work and have been the drivers of inventions for society throughout the ages. They also understand risks which is important in starting up any business.”
Geoff wants his accumulated expertise to support those starting new entrepreneurial journeys in his role as a Future Worlds mentor.
“The advice I can give covers the spectrum of starting, growing and selling a successful company,” he says. “I’ve gone through the process several times; from raising venture capital finance to the challenges there are in growing a business and the final stages of realising the investment.” You can get in touch with Geoff using the contact form on this page.
Geoff was raised in Cardiff and learned his trade in a five-year apprenticeship with the British Aircraft Corporation, in Bristol, where he was involved in the early development of Concorde.
“It was a very exciting time to be involved in engineering,” he says. “We used to watch the test flights with the Olympus 593 engine strapped under a Vulcan bomber. It would travel past and put on the afterburners, leaving the runway scorched and on fire.”
Geoff completed a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering at Cranfield University before securing a role working on the next generation of reactors for the nuclear industry.
He gained his first entrepreneurial experience at the Structural Dynamics Research Corporation (SDRC), a startup company from the University of Cincinnati. The business was leading cutting-edge research in computer modelling for vehicles, which helped produce the more efficient and reliable machines of today. Geoff remembers being impressed by the startup’s innovative environment, however the company was eventually bought out and he gradually observed a damaging change in the work culture.
“My advice to anyone creating a company is to have a clear vision for their exit route,” he says. “When a large company wants to buy a small business to get access to its technology, products or services, its culture is totally mismatched with the entrepreneurial culture that should exist in a startup organisation. That certainly happened with SDRC.”
Geoff broadened his business experience in a sales role before stepping in as a Managing Director of one of the University of Southampton’s first spinouts, Acoustic Technology. The business had recently been acquired and Geoff identified that, like SDRC, it was at risk of losing its purpose. Reacting to this danger, he put together a management buyout which transformed the company into the ATL consulting group. From this position, he managed a decade of substantial growth in the company before it was subsequently sold on to a French multinational.
Spurred on with the success, Geoff next co-founded Plant Asset Management (PAM) and channelled the potential of the increasingly influential internet to create a new service to help major oil and gas companies manage their equipment. The business has since become part of the Petrofac Group. Under his watch, PAM has maintained its entrepreneurial spirit and returned 100-fold the value of the initial investment from its sponsoring company.
Geoff is a spirited example of the entrepreneurial ability of engineers and is supporting Future Worlds to inspire a new wave of fledgling companies in Southampton.
“One little bit of advice can make all the difference to a person or company to make them do something they would not otherwise do,” he says. “Universities are a tremendous place for innovation and it’s very important to get these ideas out into the market.”