David was frustrated by his early attempts to find a co-founder and start a business, citing a lack of appetite and experience in the UK ecosystem back in 2012 as a limiting factor. “In the UK, we didn’t have this natural start-up ecosystem where you could meet co-founders,” he says.
“Most of the people I know who did engineering and other technical subjects had goals to progress in finance not to start companies. It wasn’t really a thing.”
Fortunately, he was introduced to EF CEO Matt Clifford through a mutual friend and after deciding that the program seemed like a great fit for him, David joined the fourth London cohort.
However his journey wasn’t straightforward; his time on the cohort didn’t work out and David left the program without a seed funded company. Reflecting on his experience, David believes that he ended up working with the right person on the wrong idea. “When I joined EF4 I knew I wanted to start a technology company. Now looking back on it I realize that saying you want to be a technology entrepreneur is a bit like saying you want to be an author. It’s not enough, it’s not specific enough.”
After doing a bit of thinking, he decided the best next step would be to get to the edge of a field rather than starting another company immediately. So, he went back to University and did a Masters in Computer Science at Oxford, where he spent most of the year doing research in deep reinforcement learning, a branch of advanced machine learning.
He re-applied for EF, this time with the knowledge of what he wanted to do and the type of co-founder he was looking for and was accepted to the seventh London cohort. After teaming up with his co-founder Joao Abrantes, the two founded Optimal Labs, a company looking to revolutionise the future of food production by applying cutting-edge machine learning to improve the efficiency, reliability and quality of food production.
High-tech greenhouses can grow nutritionally-optimised food, all year round, without pesticides, directly outside major cities with 10–40x the yield of traditional field farming. Optimal’s technology will allow high-tech greenhouses to be rapidly deployed outside cities around the world, increasing the availability of safer, healthier food and securing our food system for the future. A suitably ambitious task for a uniquely ambitious individual.
At EF, we want our founders to build world changing companies because the opportunity cost of not doing so is too great.
If you want to scale your ambition like David and build a world changing company, apply now for one of our next cohorts in London, Berlin, Paris, Singapore Bangalore or Toronto.