Here at Accelerator we love hearing about all the new and exciting products being developed by our tech startup community, so we recently sat down with Alex Appelbe, Co-Founder and CEO of Metis Labs to find out more about the company, why they started and what they want to achieve in the future.
When was Metis Labs founded?
How would you describe the business?
Surprisingly, factories managers often rely upon the experience and intuition of experienced employees to optimise the control of complex manufacturing processes. This solution is not reliable, nor is it scalable. As a result, products are scrapped, energy is wasted and profits margins are squeezed. We build intelligent software tools to solve this problem – helping factories to improve product quality and reduce waste.
What led you to start Metis Labs? Where did the idea come from?
I’ve worked in the manufacturing sector for over a decade and was repeatedly frustrated with the inefficiencies caused by legacy tools and reliance upon tribal knowledge. In particular, I had (painful) personal experience of the problem we are solving at Metis Labs, and saw many of my colleagues struggling with the same thing.
I tried to incite change by founding a corporate accelerator for my employer at the time – a large public engineering company – but our hands were tied in so many respects and as an organisation, we just didn’t have the right talent or ambition to make a big impact. So I took matters into my own hands.
What were you doing before you started Metis Labs?
I worked for a global aerospace and automotive manufacturer called GKN. I co-founded an intrapreneurship and innovation programme and launched it to our 55,000 employees around the world.
What is the best thing about running your own business?
In a large organisation, it can be hard to make a meaningful impact because the organisation is propelled by its own inertia. Surprisingly even CEOs in these organisations struggle to affect the corporate inertia. Often you may see problems but are not able to fix them. By contrast, when running your own startup the impact you have is very clear. Particularly in the early days, you quickly sink or swim based on your personal efforts and ingenuity. This is both rewarding and scary in equal measure and more often than not it’s a rollercoaster. I enjoy adventure and feel quite at home in this environment, but it’s not for everyone.
What is the hardest thing about running your own business?
Ruthlessly prioritising, every day. Deciding which fires do not need to be put out!
If you weren’t running Metis Labs, what would you be doing instead?
Running Metis Labs 2.0
Where do you see the business in five years?
Providing the tools that underpin the operational efficiency of every factory around the world.
What is your top 3 favourite things about being part of the Accelerator community?
The people, the events, the community spirit.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
So many great bits of advice. But this is probably my favourite – “Smile and the world smiles with you” (my grandad)
What is your ultimate goal in running Metis Labs?
Empower people to reduce the environmental impact of their factories. And both make money and have fun in the process! (a wise man once said: “no margin, no mission!”)
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
A lot of people are inspired by the idea of “helping people” through their work. I believe the best way to help people is to step up and lead. The world needs more leaders. With this in mind, I think the following quote by Seth Godin is particularly important: “The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.”
Thank you Alex for taking the time to chat with us about Metis Labs!
If you are interested in how the team are revolutionising manufacturing and allowing operators to achieve maximum efficiency and minimum waste? Find out more about Metis Labs