Josh Valman’s uncompromising focus turned a childhood fascination with engineering into a million pound business by the age of 19. Once a youthful contestant in the popular Robot Wars TV series, this teenage millionaire taught himself product design through an obsessive hobby and became a freelance consultant for multinational firms. He started his first company while he was still at school and has evolved the idea into RPD International, a design and manufacturing firm now operating in over 40 countries around the world.
Josh describes himself as “obsessively focussed” and says the mind-set is the best way to succeed. “I’m very analytical about things and think of everything as a calculated equation,” he says. “I’m not somebody who can do any mathematical problem you throw at them, but l look at things in a mathematical way. It makes decision-making less emotional when you consider the pros and cons of a situation. I’ve tried to boil that down to an ethos throughout our company because it allows us to move through things much quicker.”
Josh grew up in northwest London and was surrounded by engineering at a young age. “I was fascinated by how things work,” he says. “A lot of my interest started with Robot Wars. Behind the lights and the cameras was a proper engineering competition. I turned up to play at the age of 10 and was met by all these university professors and senior engineers – I just joined in.”
The experience prompted him to start designing toys and other objects at home. He trained himself in computer-aided design and began experimenting with 3D printing as time invested in his hobby escalated. Soon, he was engaging with the Chinese manufacturing economy as he investigated cost-effective methods for bringing his ideas to life.
“Word spread very quickly about the kind of crazy things l was making,” he says. “Senior engineers and their friends saw what I was doing and I started to do a small amount of contract work designing moulds for manufacturing, consulting on supply chains and advising how companies could be more efficient and save money. Soon, I was utilising the early stages of commercial 3D printing to design things like replacement parts for dishwashers and pieces for remote-controlled cars.” Josh consulted for international firms aged just 15, casting fresh eyes on the inefficiencies of manufacturing’s long-established practices to identify savings in the production of millions of units.
He founded the Miproto product design, manufacturing and prototyping platform in 2012 and grew the company before establishing RPD International in November 2013. The innovative business works with a global supply chain to help companies take product ideas from concept through to mass manufacture.
A typical day can start as early as 5.30am for Josh, with 12 to 24 meetings regularly waiting in his diary. He took more than 120 flights in the first nine months of 2015, sometimes visiting three or four countries in a day. “The beauty of not sleeping is that you don’t get jet lag,” he says. “I can sleep for three hours whatever time of day it is.”
Josh can draw on his expertise in supply chains and manufacturing to help staff and students bring products to market. He is looking to recruit talent from the University of Southampton but is also interested in supporting new commercial activities through professional advice, his network of connections and the occasional investment offer. You can get in touch with Josh using the contact form on this page.
Josh wants to see entrepreneurial activities succeed in Southampton and was one of the dragon investors at ECS Entrepreneurs’ Dragons’ Den event in May 2015.
“Future Worlds’ concept is so important because when I look at the educational system at the moment everything is so based on theory,” he says. “What entrepreneurs need is insight and input from people who have been there and done it before. They are the people who understand what the real world looks like when you leave university.”