After over twenty-five years of working in corporate, Rob Lewis has recently entered the world of digital innovation with his new venture 54 Degrees North. We met up him to discuss why he made the jump and what plans he has for the future.
Firstly, why have you decided to base yourself at C4DI?
“In a corporate environment it is often hard to get innovative ideas heard; you’ve got to buy in from numerous stakeholders, all of whom can kill an idea or put up barriers,” explains Rob. “I wanted to be more disruptive with my work, and going it alone seemed like the only option to make quick progress and turn ideas into reality.”
Rob, who has always wanted to launch his own business, has a couple of personal motivations for taking this giant step: “I want to do this to show my three children that they don’t necessarily have to follow a traditional career route, like I was encouraged to do.”
Looking around the C4DI, it is easy to spot the extent to which jobs and career paths have changed, with so many exciting start-ups and creative projects launching each month. “The world has changed so much,” Rob agreed. “Technology allows us to instantly access any kind of information we need. It’s possible to quickly become an expert in anything, access consumers and raise money, and therefore easier to set up on your own.”
For Rob, the C4DI has been key to the identity of 54 Degrees North: “A key reason for me setting up base here is that I’m from Hull and I love what the centre has done in terms of regeneration of the area. We are a northern business, and we want that to be a key part of our identity.”
Evidently passionate about bringing business and a useful service to the area, Rob aims to produce products locally and work with the C4DI’s digital talent: “We want to do something that’s good for the north, especially this city.”
So what exactly is 54 Degrees North all about?
“I can’t say specifically what we are doing, because we’re in the very early stages,” admits Rob. “What I can tell you is our concept: we aim to create products that give solutions to common health problems, all the while exploring ways in which we can make them digitally connected.”
Focusing on health, the scientist wants to offer simple solutions and actionable advice to people, so that they change routines to improve their lives.
“Health is evolving rapidly, people are living longer, and medicine has added years to lives but often with a reduced quality of life,” Rob explains. “54 Degrees North wants to add a life to those years by managing health, especially as we age.”
And where does connected technology come into all of this?
“We want to use connected technology to educate people in managing and monitoring their own health. For example, ways in which they could make simple changes to their lifestyles but benefit from dramatic improvements.”
He uses the example of encouraging people to keep fit: “Many of us presume that an active lifestyle means running a 10K, but in reality it can be something as simple as completing more steps a day.” By combining traditional products with connected technology, Rob hopes that individuals will be encouraged to monitor their health and use the information to enhance health and wellbeing.
“The key thing is that we want to explore the potential partnership of traditional, physical products and digital technology,” Rob emphasises. “We’re not trying to develop a new medicine, we are offering useful information, insights and tools for people to manage and monitor their health.”
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