“Why doesn’t my satnav take account of predictable traffic problems in the morning rush hour when calculating travel times?” This is the question that started it all…and in 2010 Gavin Heavyside launched MyDrive Solutions.
How did you get involved in starting up MyDrive? What were you doing before?
I studied a multi-disciplinary Engineering course at Cambridge, covering mechanical, structural, materials, electronics and computer engineering. In my 3rd and 4th year, I specialised in computing, and information sciences and did my Master’s project on computer vision. After graduating, I worked for different companies; first for Nortel, a multinational at the time, where I worked on telephone exchanges and large scale telecoms projects. That’s where I first encounter the idea of five-nines reliability (systems guaranteed to work 99.999% of the time) because telephones – landlines – don’t stop working when there are upgrades at the exchange.
After the dotcom crash, I joined a small business doing software for smartphones back in the day when smartphones meant Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones running Symbian. Apple weren’t doing phones, and Google hadn’t yet created Android. Then I joined ARM, whose chips are inside every smartphone. They were a relatively small British business but to give you an idea, they sold 15 billion chips in 2015. The product that I worked on was discontinued and my whole team was laid off in 2008.
That’s when I met Journey Dynamics, a small company in Guildford that was looking for their first technical hire. They were doing data analysis of GPS data to understand traffic congestion. Over the course of a couple of years we struggled to find a big enough market for that data product, but started to look at personalising the predictions. By looking at individuals we realised that we could use the data to understand the behavioral profile of what somebody did, where they did it, and why they were doing it. We then started MyDrive Solutions to commercialise this as a product.
How has MyDrive evolved to the stage it is today?
Back in 2010, it started out as 2 technical guys, with desks in a technology incubator, sharing a room with half a dozen other startups. We brought in experienced business leadership in the shape of our CEO Linden Holliday and within a few months he had us in the boardroom of blue chip insurers.
From a technical point of view, I looked at all the organisations I admired, companies with excellent reputation in software engineering (Google, Facebook, Etsy…), and tried to pick the best of what they were doing and apply it to our small business to create software and infrastructure I could operate on my own, because in the early days I had to. I focused on automation, automated testing, infrastructure-as-code. I had vowed never to be called out to a datacenter in the middle of the night again, and this made the AWS cloud a natural choice for infrastructure, where everything could be on-demand and automated.
In 2012, we launched our first blackbox-based solution for one of Europe’s largest insurance companies. We also launched a smartphone-based solution for a British price comparison website specialising in insurance and financial services.
Our office relocated to London which allowed us to expand the Data Science and Software Engineering departments. In June 2014, the MyDrive App won the award for the Best Mobile Expanded Application at the UK MOBILE & APP DESIGN AWARDS.
In 2015, MyDrive was acquired by Generali, one of the largest European insurance companies to become the Innovation hub for the group’s Digital Strategy and entry into the “Internet of Things”. We now have over 30 employees.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what business related advice would you give yourself?
What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur setting up their first business?
Just do it! I started this business while my wife was pregnant with our second child. There is never going to be an easier time to do it than right now.
If the Internet had not existed – what do you think you would be doing?
I would still be doing something with computers because I was programming computers before the World Wide Web was invented. I got my first computer in 1986 and I had to learn how to program all by myself… you couldn’t “Google it”.