How to disrupt yourself from the shed in the car park – the story of Homeserve’s LeakBot

New Digital Age has proudly partnered with the AAR for the launch of its Fightback podcast.

Robin Charney is director of digital and innovation at AAR, and host of the Fightback podcast.

“No-one created a billion dollar company off the side of their desk.”

That was the challenge from Homeserve’s CEO Richard Harpin to Craig Foster, who was then product director. Craig was starting to look at how emerging technologies like the internet of things could create opportunities for the emergency home repairs business.

Harpin’s words led to him quitting his day-job and starting an innovation lab in a shed in the company car park. Out of that shed ultimately came Homeserve’s LeakBot, a smart leak detector which is being embraced by home insurance companies.

Craig explains HomeServe’s squiggly journey to the creation of its own B2B insuretech start-up in this week’s Fightback podcast. Fightback is where I talk to the people leading innovation inside the UK’s heritage brands and get them to share their insights and the lessons they’ve learned.

There are plenty of both in HomeServe’s fascinating story, and that shed turns out to play a crucial role. Craig describes the amazing feeling of acceleration that came with putting the initial team of six in a room together with nothing else to do than work on the IoT project.

Taking the lab out of the main business also avoided two of the main problems for big companies trying to be innovative: the difficulty of doing cross-functional innovation in a   highly siloed environment; and how the gravitational pull of a well-tuned business model will turn bits of everything new and different into that model.

Our conversation also takes in the warning that Craig took from the music industry in the 1990s, to not assume you know your market better than anyone else, but to look at the trends and see how you can turn threats into opportunities. As he says, trends grow exponentially, and they have a way of sneaking up on you!

Click below to listen on Apple or Spotify.

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