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Neil Pennington: TWO39 LABS Mentor


Your background:

“I am an innovator, implementer and driver of change; passionate and excited by the potential for technology to transform the experiences and connections between people and organisations for good.


Following a career in the Energy Industry including BG, PwC, IBM, United Utilities, npower, Innogy (RWE), latterly as Smart Programme Director and UK Innovation Director (where I covered IoT, Smart Grid, Smart Cities and delivered the EU Energy Partnership with Nest), I have for the last 4 years been involved with early stage businesses in Blockchain and Digital Identity, including micropayments, messaging and decentralised energy with Rivetz, DISC Holdings, Grid Singularity and the Energy Web Foundation.


I have recently helped the Fintech and Innovation Committee of Mauritius in developing the way forward for the country as a fintech/blockchain/crypto/AI Hub and am also an advocate for the ID2020 Summit, whose mission is to help solve issues caused through the lack of legal identity within the most vulnerable of people across the globe.


I am also a frequent speaker and writer on blockchain, identity and the impact of technology on the way we live our lives.


It’s not just work; from contributing to blockchain and innovation meetups to writing, presenting, sharing knowledge; energy and passion – being hands on as part of creative and collaborative communities (such as the "I,Awake" project whose mission is to create a community fusing art and culture with technology, starting at Burning Man 2018) – is at the heart of all I do. Look out for my forthcoming new blog-site: magicandrobots.com.


I have a BSc (hons) in Physics, a Ph.D in Electrical Engineering, and an MBA from London Business School.”


Why did you want to become a TWO39 LABS mentor?

Well, mine is a real kind of COVID-19 story, actually. So just before the COVID-19 lockdown, I traveled out to Iowa. I’ve done a bit of business backwards and forwards in the US, but nothing major. And in fact, the investors in the company that was doing the Commonwealth work and the disk payments work were based out of New York. I traveled over to Naples, Florida, just before lockdown without realizing the world was going to change to hook up with a friend of mine that was kind of getting into the business. And then the world locked down, really. And I ended up staying in Naples, Florida, for about three months and obviously networking quite strongly. I got introduced to a guy called Mike Daina, who's one of the guys with Denton's, you know, because you don't sit when you're relatively entrepreneurial, not trying to blow my own trumpet, you know, just kind of allow circumstances to dictate to you. And I got in a conversation with Alex and said, look, you know, I'm looking to do more business in Florida. You know, the company, incidentally, that's providing the software development for the block chain renewable thing I was telling you about based out of Miami, that good, decent labs, the luxury goods people, even though it's a global business model, they're based in Tampa. And maybe I can help out, you know, the world's “.com virtual” anyway. So, you know, hopefully I bring a reasonable mix of both having worked in the startup world. But also, you know, I know how corporates think and I know how they buy. And I know I know how difficult it is to start ups to try and kind of get their first contracts and make relationships in large businesses. Also, I've got the U.K. European angle. So, you know, if people want to talk about what it takes to be over there. So, yeah, it was very much lockdown network and then I realized that it was quite a fit. And, you know, my aim is to be coming back as soon as the world settles down to be doing more in Florida anyway. So. That was at least a bit of a bit of a strange one.”

How has your experience been so far?

Yeah, I mean, I think in terms of it being a remote and virtual (program) , it's as much as you put into it, really, isn't it? I got involved in the first week and it seemed pretty good. And the the people that I'm mentoring seem pretty well prepared. So, you know, I'm enjoying it."

What value do you see in TWO39 LABS for Southwest Florida and beyond?

"Southwest Florida doesn't have a massive sort of reputation for being, you know, a tech hub, so I think TWO39 (LABS) can act initially as a rallying point or a focal point for Southwest Florida. And I think being able to do outreach and being very visible. I mean, clearly, if the startups come out, start doing business in Southwest Florida and grow the economy in Southwest Florida, that's really helpful. Ecosystems grow when there's quite a strong academic base or there's a strong research base somewhere."


What is unique about the TWO39 LABS program?

"TWO39 LABS is an engaging way, I think, of bringing different experts (and) different levels of expertise that you don't necessarily have access to as a starter into your life-into your business. I think it's a free thinking place as well. I think, you know, some incubators will either put you through a really rigid kind of approach and or will demand equity for your participation, I think, to thirty nine.

I would use the word respectful is respectful of the challenges that startups have and startup founders have.

There's a need to support startups in touch with investors and sources of funding. And TWO39 (LABS) is stepping into that space. And that's the journey it will go on. I'm not too sure that there is a vibrant investment ecosystem at the moment in Southwest Florida rather than the small businesses and family offices. That's quite a challenge. And then the other thing is an ecosystem of advisors that can.We must act as a force multiplier. I like to use the word military, you know, the absence, if it multiplies the impact that it starts up on its own would have. TWO39 (LABS) can add into that."


TWO39 LABS is an accelerator program that focuses on providing startup companies and entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to accelerate growth and build successful companies. In turn, these companies will bring and retain economic opportunity, innovation, technology, and investment to Southwest Florida.

To learn more about TWO39 LABS, please visit: www.two39labs.com