Olly Dmitriev is the founder and CEO of Vert Rotors, which manufactures and supplies quiet, powerful micro compressors, which produce 2-3 times higher pressure and have 50% better energy efficiency than traditional air compressors.
Originally from Russia, Olly saw a gap in the compressor market which had not changed in over 100 years.
What does your company do?
Vert Rotors manufactures and supplies quiet, powerful micro compressors, which produce 2-3 times higher pressure and have 50% better energy efficiency than traditional air compressors. Our compressors operate with low vibration and less noise than any other compressors in the world. We present a totally new air compressor for industries of the future.
What is your background?
I’m originally from Russia and was previously the director of new products for MTS, a large Russian telecoms firm. After that I studied for an MBA at London Business School and Columbia in New York, it inspired me to explore new opportunities, and start my own business. I saw that compressors hadn’t significantly changed in over 100 years and saw an opportunity to improve.
Why did you launch the company?
We started the business back in 2013. Initially, we did not intend to manufacture our conical screw micro compressor design ourselves. We contacted a number of manufacturing companies to ask if they could create what we needed, to make our micro compressor a reality. Every single one of them told us that it was impossible to manufacture to the precise specification that was integral to the success of the design. They simply would not do it. I refused to take ‘no’ for an answer which motivated me to take matters into my own hands.
We hired a team of highly skilled engineers and bought amazing precision milling technology for our workshop in Edinburgh and became experts in this field. We began to achieve unprecedented levels of accuracy, just a hair width in tolerance. What we produced and proved not only that it was possible to manufacture our design, but also it worked exceptionally well.
Where did you get assistance when you started?
Business Gateway provided us with a lot of support early on. They helped by putting me in touch with different people and assisting us in skill development. They also offered most of their support for free and would cover some costs if it wasn’t available for free. Business Gateway helped us survive before we were large enough for Scottish Enterprise support.
Give us a brief history of the growth of the company
Compressor design has changed very little in the last one hundred years so we decided to create an entirely new design, the conical screw compressor. This enabled us to manufacture a smaller, quieter and more efficient air compressor, operating with lower vibration and low noise compared to other compressors. We decided to manufacture our conical screw design in-house at our facility in Edinburgh and over the last 5 years we have gone from early design phase to full manufacturing. We have 4 patents for our technology and an example of our conical screw compressor is currently on display in the National Museum of Scotland.
Have you taken any external funding? If so from who and when?
In the beginning our family and friends helped us a great deal. We received investment from Ian Marchant, Scottish and Southern Energy’s former CEO and also Nigel Ellis, a sustainable energy consultant at Dunelm Energy who saw our technology’s potential. After gaining their support, Equity Gap became interested in our product, as did Par Equity, who both subsequently invested in us.
So what does it look like now with regard to staff and turnover?
In 2018 the business is rapidly growing and we are looking for a business development manager to help take our business to the next level.
What’s the difference between when you started and now in your marketplace?
Our products didn’t exist in the marketplace so we are offering something completely new to the compressor market that has never been done before. Our compressors are disrupting the market with our new technology.
What is your target market – Who is buying your product / service?
Currently we work with companies in markets such as distributed air, satellite propulsion, motorsports and digital manufacturing, however, our technology is applicable to companies of any scale operating in any environment. Amongst our biggest customers currently are car manufacturers, telecoms firms and aerospace companies.
What are your goals for your business?
We are very ambitious and plan to grow. In the current business climate, however, you grow by increasing efficiency not expansion. The requirement to get more equipment that essentially does the same job is no longer necessary. You improve the efficiency of what you already have, be this people or machines. That’s Vert Rotor’s strategy and also what’s at the core of Industry 4.0. Scotland has proven to be the right place for our company to launch and we’re proud to manufacture here. But, as companies from around the world are showing interest in our products we hope to expand and capitalise on our existing customer base in other regions.
What are your biggest current challenges?
Finding the right people. Scotland is a small country, and it can be challenging to find people with the right skills and experience to join our team when we need them. We are fortunate that Scotland’s oil and gas industry contains many skilled workers who we can reach out to, however, we sometimes find that when we require staff the timing isn’t quite right meaning we have to be patient. We do offer great training for our staff once they do arrive to ensure that we can make the most of our high-tech equipment.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
When we started out we got a great team together, and designed our compressor with the most advanced CAD technology. Our intention was to focus on R&D and to work with a manufacturer, but we were told by several manufactures that our design was impossible to manufacture to the precise specifications that we required.
While this was a blow, I wasn’t going to give up on the design because I knew it had amazing potential so we decided that we would make the product ourselves. We hired engineers with expertise in manufacturing and purchased specialised machinery. Once we were up and running we began achieving unprecedented accuracy in our production, we proved that our design was possible to manufacture and also that it worked exceptionally well.
We had to persevere. As Sir Winston Churchill said: “If you are going through hell, keep going.” We had the determination to keep going and didn’t give up even when it was tough. We did eventually start to see results.
What do you know now that you wished you had known earlier?
How important it is to believe in yourself and your abilities. Persistence is one of the most important traits when launching a company. It will mean long days and personal sacrifices, but it will be worth it in the end. Make people listen to you, and invest as much time as possible building your professional network. Go to meetings and pick up the phone. I’ve found that people genuinely want to help, but you have to make it happen.
What’s the secret to good leadership?
I think the secret comes from creating a great company culture. If you manage to do that you build a dedicated team who are always willing to help and have the company’s best interests at heart. This makes leadership a lot easier and generally the work environment a great place. Leadership shouldn’t be a dictatorship but a collaboration, the team I have bring great ideas to create our compressors.
Where do you see the company in five years?
We have great ambitions, and naturally we plan to scale soon. It’s no longer necessary to add many machines, all doing the same job. You increase the efficiency of your existing people, with your existing machines. We are very proud to manufacture in Scotland, and it was absolutely the right place to launch Vert Rotors. However, our compressors have already attracted international attention, and we are keen to expand and build our presence in places where we have built up a strong customer base other than the UK.
How can the Scottish startup/entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more businesses start up and grow?
As I said our biggest challenge is finding the right people. I believe work can be done to plug the skills gap in manufacturing. At the moment the number of people in Scottish manufacturing is very small. We are lucky that there are many talented workers coming from Scotland’s oil and gas industry that we can reach out to, but sometimes the timing is not quite right, and we have to wait. We offer really exciting opportunities however, so we always find the right fit in the end.
Olly Dmitriev is the founder and CEO of Vert Rotors
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