Meet the clean-tech CEO who compares his company to Apple and Tesla

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Laurence Kemball-Cook at the Millennial 2020 conference.
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Laurence KC/Twitter

Laurence Kemball-Cook is the CEO of Pavegen, a clean-technology business which harnesses energy from human movement. His main product is a paving slab that generates energy when people walk over it.

The 30-year-old British CEO told Business Insider that he’s just signed a deal with the US government to install energy-generating paving slabs in Dupont Circle, near the White House in Washington D.C, where he says he will be meeting Obama for the second time later this year.

Another of Pavegen’s installations can be found under a soccer pitch in a favela in Rio De Janeiro, which uses a combination of kinetic and solar energy to power floodlights.

Pavegen is now six-years-old. However, on the May 11, the company will announce a “full rebrand … the difference will be like a comparison between a car and a super-hover-jet-motorbike.”

Business Insider had a chat with Kemball-Cook at the Millennial 2020 conference in London, to find out more about the clean-tech start-up.


Kemball-Cook came up with the idea for Pavegen while researching “off-grid energy solutions” as a student at Loughborough University.

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Pavegen

Now he has meetings with Obama. Kemball-Cook said: “I will be talking to Obama in the White House … What he’s done in his Presidency has been in massive in reducing the amount of fossil fuel consumed and increasing uptake, so I’m talking at this select enterprise summit in June and we’re also installing our new product in Washington D.C.”

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Kemball-Cook talking at the Millennial 2020 conference in London.
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Laurence KC/Twitter

Since its inception, Pavegen floor tiles have been installed in Heathrow Terminal 3, various schools, at Federation Square in Melbourne and at football pitches in Brazil and Nigeria, among other locations.

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Pavegen

Kemball-Cook came up with the idea to install tiles under a football pitch in a favela in Brazil after becoming “Shell Entrepreneur of the Year.” The idea was to “go to a favela that has big energy issues” and “inspire the next generation through power.”

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Pavegen and Shell showcase the ‘Power of Innovation’ with the world’s first kinetic football pitch in Rio, Brazil #makethefuture.
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Pavegen

To do this Pavegen dug up an entire football pitch and “installed slabs in the pitch in the most high footfall areas.” This, along with solar power, produced enough energy for the floodlights.

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Pavegen

Next, Pavegen took the energy-generating football pitch to Nigeria, where the company worked closely with singer Akon.

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Kemball-Cook with Akon and footballers in Nigeria.
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Pavegen

Kemball-Cook also teamed up with Will.i.am at SXSW this year, having “worked with him on several projects in the past.”

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Will.i.am with Kemball-Cook at the South by Southwest Festival in Texas.
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Pavegen

The CEO says Pavegen can be about a lot more than just paving slabs. He said: “We started out with paving slabs, but now we’ve evolved it, we want to be the ‘Intel Inside’ the smart cities of the future.”

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Pavegen powered corridor in Heathrow Terminal 3, London.
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Pavegen

“We’ve got a suite of 10 patents around the world … anything that moves, we can generate power from it. Think flooring, shoes, buildings, roads.”

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Pavegen power phone charging stations and LED bench lighting in St Omer train station, Northern France.
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Pavegen

Kemball-Cook has high ambitions for his company: “I guess you can liken it to the early days of Apple where they know they have a pretty cool core technology and it’s adapting into different places … Be disruptive,” he said.

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Kemball Cook after completing a Duathalon with Pavegen USA President Vincent Miceli,
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Laurence KC/Twitter

He also compared his company to Tesla: “I wasn’t very proud of the first product, but it’s like the first Tesla, the Roadster. which had awful range and didn’t look very good. We liken it to the journey of Tesla in the same kind of way.”

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Laurence KC/Twitter

Kemball-Cook gave an idea of the value of his company. “Last year our pre-capital valuation was about £20 million and I’m a majority shareholder. It’ll be billions soon. Yeah let’s do it,” he half joked.

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Kemball-Cook doing Yoga with his mother, a yoga teacher.
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Laurence Kemball-Cook/Twitter

Kemball-Cook explained that his confidence comes from the relaunch on 11 May: “We’re releasing a full rebrand, a new website, a new product, and the product is so drastically different. The difference will be like a comparison between a car and a super-hover-jet-motorbike.”

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Kemball-Cook at the Millennial 2020 conference.
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Laurence KC

He added: “We’ve found a way to make the product hundreds of times more efficient, hundreds of times more durable, and hundreds of times easier to install.”

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Inside the Pavegen office in London. There are currently 35 members of staff.
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Laurence KC/Twitter

Asked about the demand for the energy Pavegen’s technology could generate, Kemball-Cook said: “It is not about powering the world through a footstep, we know that’s not possible. Our aim is to be part of a mix of products, so it works really well with solar, hydrogen fuel cells, it will work really well with marine energy.”

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Pavegen’s partnership with Sunglass Hut.
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Pavegen

“The cities of the future will demand off-grid power. We’re saying a small portion could be paved in kinetic energy. But we’re not aiming to be the sole power provider, because kinetic energy isn’t that powerful,” he said.

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A 100-tile Pavegen installation.
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Laurence KB/Twitter


He explained: “It’s application-specific. So let’s say you’ve got a big property development, there are lots of dark corridors now if you look at the cost and the energy used to put wiring everywhere to power all these little lights, you’ll be looking at thousands of pounds, huge environmental costs of all that energy.”

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When Kemball-Cook’s not working, he enjoys extreme endurance sport. In February, after launching Pavegen in Korea, he competed in the Ironman 70.3.
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Laurence KC/Twitter

At its creation, the cost price of one tile was about £5,000 (about $7000.) However “in the next 18 months” Kemball-Cook thinks the cost will be reduced to the level of “price parity with existing high-end floors.” The high-energy CEO said at this point the business will start to more fully scale.

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Kemball-Cook even brought Yoga to the Pavegen office.
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Laurence Kemball-Cook/Twitter

This is what a Pavegen tile looks like when it is unpacked:

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Pavegen