Skip to content

Overcoming adversity with care and technology

Nicholas Kelly
Work out what you want to do. Work out where you want to be, and don't let anyone tell you, you can't do that.

In this episode of the Clientside Podcast, Nathan Anibaba talks to Nicholas Kelly, the founder of healthcare support provider Axela, about how his personal experiences of the care industry have shaped his patient-centric business model. Listen in to this inspiring episode, as Nathan and Nicholas tackle everything from flight to mysterious job interviews, and share a few home truths along the way.

Transcript:

Speaker 1:

This is ClientSide from Fox Agency.

Speaker 2:

Hit it. That’s what I’m talking about. Wait. Okay, now. From the beginning.

Nathan Anibaba:

Nicholas Kelly is the CEO of Axela. They are changing the way people use healthcare. They do this by assisting the care lifecycle for the individual by providing high quality care, which embraces their values and promotes independence, and dignity. He is also a technology entrepreneur. Having worked at prestigious brands, such as Apple and LinkedIn. Nicholas Kelly, welcome to ClientSide.

Nicholas Kelly:

Thanks for Nathan and thanks for having me on this sunny morning.

Nathan Anibaba:

The sunshine is beautiful. It’s about time that the sun finally started shining. Let’s talk about your background. After you finished your degree in industrial design, you spent some time in media agencies and Unilever. You were then headhunted by Apple, which is pretty much every young person’s dream. Tell us how that experience kick-started your career.

Nicholas Kelly:

There was one point I remember going for an interview and someone looked at me and said, “Your career seems a little bit haphazard, like you’re making it up as you go along.” Actually, when I look back at it, it does somewhat feel like I am. But I think I’ve always had a long-term goal. I always wanted to be a pilot growing up. I think after having a motorbike crash and getting a medical discharge, I had to reassess and work out what I wanted to do or what was right for me. I love flying planes. I love the freedom.

I love, just everything that comes with that level of engineering. As I think I said before, I remember the first time I went near, I was walking onto the runway to go to the aircraft, I kept on having to pinch myself and look around and going, “You’re going to let me fly that?” Coming from where I grew up being even near this place. I actually didn’t even know this place exists, let alone let me jump into me in a stupid million pound aircraft and taking it for a flight for a couple of hours.

Going from media agencies to clientside, what I realized quite an early stage was the role at Unilever was created by a mentor of mine, Joanna who, she kind of… I worked with her. She was my client when I was at LBI, and she was actually my client at that point, but she saw something in me and said, “Look, I really want you to come on board. We want to create a role for you.” I went in and had to show what my capabilities were, but write my own job spec. I think I had to write my own job spec right at the beginning. Neil and D really saw something in me and just let me have that role and let me build that role out for myself. That role wasn’t a role that existed before I went there, but it’s a role that exists now that I’ve left. I think that’s also really great, great testament. Going from, we were building… I think we built 120 country websites roll them out in a matter of months.

We built the first investor relations app that was, I think it was targeted at something silly amount of people. Let’s say it was targeting 100 people and it was downloaded nearly 5,000 times. The numbers were ridiculous. We were the first ones back in 2000, I think it was like 2000… It has to be about two 10 or something like that, but we were the first ones to do live video directly into an app and into five different video streams. You could literally, we had an IoS app and an Android app, and you could literally have five different video streams that were being degraded as you went along. At that point, the only ones that were really doing anything of that level is YouTube. We were able to do that from an investor relations launch in Turkey, back to the UK in real-time.

I remember even waking up that morning, again, a frantic call from marketing director going, “What’s going on with the app? I can’t get any sound. What’s going on? I don’t know what to do,” and me thinking, “Wait, how long would it take me to get to Turkey to try and fix this problem in real-time?” For actually, literally for me to then stress, and I was like, “I can’t work out what’s going wrong. I [haven’t asked them to do anything. I think in the end, I was like, “Did you flip the volume switch on the side of the iPad?” “Yep.” “Cool. That worked. All right. Great. See you after the conference.”

Do you remember, at that point, iPads were relatively new? They weren’t this thing that everyone knows nowadays. People were still getting used to it. They’d been around for a year or two, but they weren’t in a sense of their own word like they are now. You pick up the tablet now, “Oh, just got the iPad.” It could be any tablet, but it’s that go-to word. People don’t use anything else. I think it was there. Then leaving there and going to Apple was huge for me. I think the big thing about that for me was, that was that point that I was like, I realized that potentially I was better than I’ve been led to believe. That’s not in any way being arrogant or blowing my own trumpet, but I think as you go through your career working in media agencies, you very much realize that you’re a number. You have no value. Your value to them is how much money you can generate and that’s it.

Your value to a lot of these companies is literally is that they don’t really care about you. I think it took me a long while to realize that. Being pulled into this really cryptic… I think I remember, it was an afternoon. I got a phone call from someone saying, “Hey, look, we’ve come across your profile. Someone’s asked us to interview you. Can you come in and interview?” I was like, “Oh great. Can you tell me who it’s for?” “No, we need to send you an NDA. Why don’t we have a kind of, just come in for an informal chat just to see what your paperwork looks like?” I went and met this guy at a coffee shop, asked a bunch of questions, had quite a friendly, interesting conversation.

I was telling him about my story, where I am, what my dreams are, where I see myself and then I left. In my mind, I enjoyed the conversation so much. I didn’t really ultimately care that much about the role, because I was like, “I don’t know anything about it.” It felt a little bit suspicious. Later on, I think it was that day or the next day, I got a phone call back saying, “They want to meet you. Can you go in for an interview?” I was like, “Great. Yeah. Can you send me over the job spec?” “Yeah, I’ll send you the job spec.”

Job spec came over blank, like it was just the most generic job spec I’ve ever read in my life. I was like, “Don’t know what company this is.” I was like, “All right its fine. I’ll just work out when I get the office. Anyway, again another coffee shop. Another coffee shop off the back of Oxford Street and I’m like… I’m now starting to think this is really strange. I don’t know who I’m interviewing for. I don’t know how to approach this. I’m not sure if I’m saying the right or wrong and I’m even asking the guy that’s interviewing me to try and get some more questions and I’m still getting nothing from him.

I finished that, head back. I remember coming back and speaking to my girlfriend at that point, which is now my wife and said, “Look, this is all suspicious. I’m not really going to continue this. I’m just going to try and work out something else.” She said, “Look, what’s the worst that can happen? Just take it as interview practice. Use it as much… Just be confident go and then use it as practice.” I said, “Fine.” Then I got a call saying, “Right. They want to meet you tomorrow. This is the address.” I’m like, “Okay, great.”

Looking on Google, still no name, nothing. I’m looking on Google, nothing comes up and I’m now, I’m pretty proficient on how to find information online. I’m looking at everything. I’m looking at land registry, still can’t find it. I’m like, “Okay, this is now starting [inaudible 00:07:48].” I get in a lift, I get to the building, nothing of any description. Get in the lift, and the lift doors open and I’m like, “I know what company this is.” It was that appointment. But then I think what threw me off, I was like, “Crap. I am definitely not prepared for this in any way, shape or form.”

There is winging it and then there is, I think for… The only other time I’ve been more prepared for a job interview, was when I went to apply for, it was RAF [inaudible 00:08:20] applying. I went in and I was like, “Look, there’s no way I’m going to get this. I’m definitely not that material. I’m not the right person for this. I’m just going to go in and enjoy it.” I was going through my usual stuff and I think halfway throw I was like, “No one is paying attention.” One of the interviewers just basically turned and he was on his phone, he was on his phone and I was like, “He’s definitely not paying any attention.”

This is a dead dog. This is dead in the water. I’m just going to try and wrap this up, see if I can get some free Apple vouchers and like just [inaudible 00:08:54],” or just take a pen while I’m leaving the office.” He turned to me and was like, “Just one second,” and he just opened up his phone and was like, “I just want to ask some questions about your Facebook page and some of these pictures you’ve got on?” I was like, “Wait, what? Is that what you’ve been doing this whole time?” in my mind? But also I thought I’d locked my Facebook page.

Definitely thought… Because I had a lot of pictures on it, there was a point where I think I lived my whole life on Facebook. I had pictures from when I was in the military. I had some very interesting pictures that I definitely I’m glad I don’t have any more, that no one can use against me, just a whole lot. We then just took the next part, just going through all of them and I started explaining my story, how I went from one place, which is what I wanted to do. I had an injury, how that really set me back. But yeah, so it was amazing.

I think all the roles I’ve done, just to answer the question, all the roles I’ve done, have really allowed me to hone in on what’s important and what I find has value. I think, yes, now I’m back in the healthcare space. I had an accident when I was eight years old, I was run over and I spent nine, 10 months of my life in hospital and that’s what brought me back in to is realizing how important healthcare is and how important the bigger picture is, but also allowing everyone to have access to affordable or free healthcare. I think all the other role I’ve done have allowed me to gain an element of skill to bring it to where I am today, and kind of give me that drive by me

Nathan Anibaba:

Really interesting. Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about the company that you set up then Axela, and maybe you can give us some more context to the accident that you had and how that led you to setting up Axela. For those that don’t know, what problems does Axela solve for your customers?

Nicholas Kelly:

I think the biggest problem we’re trying to solve is to make healthcare accessible to everybody, but also to… What we’re trying to do is capture all the data around you as an individual, and allow that data and that information to inform better care choices and better care pathways. But instead of looking at you as a statistic, which is kind of, we’ll talk about it, but looking at you as a statistic, we’re looking at you as an individual.

What is normal for you? How can I help you as an individual and how can this be better? Because I think the problem we have is, it always feels like its generic advice that isn’t tailored to you, which means people just start ignoring it. The moment you start ignoring it, what happens is things get worse, and then you need more expensive support and help in the long run.

Nathan Anibaba:

I know that you’ve been running the company for around five years now, which is an amazing tenure all of itself. Talk about some of the most significant milestones that you’ve experienced over the last five years, and maybe just give us an idea as to the size of the company, locations, heads. Yeah, just a high level overview of where you are.

Nicholas Kelly:

The company itself, so Axela basically has four… We’re now about to be five, but we’ve got four companies that sit within a group structure. The real crux of it is, I actually work with my mother and not in a sense of… I have a conversation with her, maybe three, four times a day. She runs one of the care agencies we work very, very closely together. I’m very much around working with other like-minded people as me. My best friend helped me, Axela Innovations, which is our technology arm, my best friend and I both set up that company.

He came from a tech background from… He works with the likes of Google and some media agencies and we both saw the same problems. We both came to the same path. I think the hardest thing is trying to find people that have that right mindset. But also we’ve grown from two employees 10 odd years ago or 12 years ago to, I think we’re just over 1,000 employees. We’ve got an office in London. We’ve got some interests in Brazil. We’ve got some interests in Jamaica. We’re in conversations to open an office in Germany and in America. It feels so strange. Honestly it does, it feels strange. I was saying yesterday, I was having a conversation with someone in France about an integration piece with our product.

Last week, I was having a conversation with the Thai Embassy about bringing our product over to, Care ID and Care passport, which is in Thailand. It feels like we are having all these conversations that sometimes I’ve got to pinch myself and go, “Wait, what’s going on here?” The interest in Brazil is also amazing, because actually they are… A lot of people don’t realize, a lot of brands use Brazil as a test ground for products before they come to the UK. Famously, Unilever uses Brazil as their test grounds for their body space. So Axe is actually tested heavily in Brazil before it comes to Europe. I’m following a lot of the knowledge I’ve learned over the years from all these bigger companies and the way that they work, to bring that down into a micro level and make that useful for everyone else.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really interesting. Maybe talk a little bit about what some of the main lessons that you’ve got, because there aren’t many founders that work quite closely with their mothers or with their parents. What are some of the mindsets, behaviors or skills should has been transferred to you from your mum that you’ve been able to implement to use to grow the company?

Nicholas Kelly:

I don’t know if I can give… I’m going to give you in three and then maybe I might elaborate on them. Every penny counts is one from my mother.

Nathan Anibaba:

That’s a good one.

Nicholas Kelly:

No one’s going to give you anything for free. This is more from her, but no matter what I’ve got your back. I wonder if that’s actually just a universal one, because inevitably if you’re in a company with somebody, you need to know that the other person has your back, no matter what happens or how bad and bleak it looks, you need to know that that person is holding you up and you’re holding that person up. I think the reason why the other two are so important, so relevant is, we started the company in…

I can’t even show you the size of my desk, but the room I’m in… I think the first office we had was about 10% of the size of the room I’m currently in. I’m in a quite relatively small office room right now. We had a computer that we couldn’t turn off, because if you turned it off, it took a day and a half to turn on. We got the cheapest office we could. I think that the landlord was like, “Look, this is technically a broom cupboard, if you really want.” There was a window that was leaking, like leaking. You had to sit in a desk and you couldn’t open a door and sit down at the same time.

The door had to be opened while you sat down and the thing was leaking down and you just go, “Right. Okay.” But mum always said to me, “Look, every penny counts.” Every time we’ve got, every client we have, we treat that client as the most important person that we have, as the only person we have. Every time we think… We don’t have a bank overdraft. We don’t have a bank loan. We don’t have a debenture. We don’t have any interest from anybody. Every last thing that we’ve gotten… Our turnover is considerably higher than it was last year, but we’ve grown 30% in the last year.

We grow 30 plus percent year on year. That’s purely, because if we grow because we can. We don’t use other people’s money to allow us to grow. That’s something that she instilled in me when I was younger. I remember when I was younger, and I remember borrowing some money from a friend to buy something, and she made me give the money back, bring it back to the shop and give it back to shopkeeper and said to me, “If you don’t have the money in your own pocket, if it’s not your own money, never take money from other people.”

That’s instilled. I have a mortgage, so I’ll take the money from the bank, but everything else we do, we do it ourselves. I think the biggest thing that I learned over the last couple of years, most of our business is dependent on local authorities and CCGs to pay. That’s what a bulk of our overall group income comes from , from domiciliary care and looking after supported living facilities. There was a point where we just weren’t getting… our income wasn’t coming in. I remember, I think I said to you, I was stressing about how am I going to get this done?

I was looking at remortgaging my house, remortgaging my mom’s house. We were looking at selling of assets that we had. It was like, we were paying… I think our wage bill was something stupid, like £260,000 on a Friday and we had something like £13,000 in the bank on a Monday. We tried everything we could. We even started saying, “Look…”

Nathan Anibaba:

That’s a problem.

Nicholas Kelly:

We would call them up saying, “Hey, you know that the invoice you haven’t been able to pay, you need to pay it by tomorrow because we need to pay people.” I think it was like a Wednesday night and I was like, “I don’t know what I’m going do. This is the first time in 10 years, I’m not going to be able to pay staff and I genuinely don’t know.” I think I went to bed, woke up and we’ve got 1.2 million paid into our account.

Nathan Anibaba:

Amazing. What a feeling.

Nicholas Kelly:

It was an amazing feeling.

Nicholas Kelly:

Yeah, but at that point I was like, “I’m never going to get back into this position. I’m going to learn from this and put everything in place so we never get back to this position.” I’m glad to say, we’ve never been back to that and I don’t think we will. But that’s one of the biggest lessons I learned is actually, you can’t be complacent. You have to constantly be looking… You got to be looking ahead as much as you can, because that’s what it is. You have to be looking at your next play, but you also have to be looking at what’s going on behind you, and also making sure that everyone else that’s behind you is working to the fullest extent.

Nathan Anibaba:

It’s a really amazing business that you’ve built and you’re having real world, tangible impact on people’s lives and their health. Maybe talk about some of the most interesting or memorable stories, or impact that you’ve had on individuals, just to bring to life the impact that Axela is having on your customers.

Nicholas Kelly:

We’ve taken on a really big client just now from a technology perspective. They’re using our Care ID platform. I think the feedback I’ve got from them was… We basically we’re taking this platform over from our, we’re co partnering with another company that’s currently incumbent. The client basically said, “Look, I’m just got to give you some feedback on, you’re going to have to read it yourself.” Basically he was, “This system is so much better than the last system we were using. It felt like we were using a rock, whereas right now we’re using a computer.”

I just said, “Wow.” That felt really awkward, because the other guys were on the phone, but it was… I think that’s the biggest impact we’re having is, we’re allowing individuals to really leverage technology but at such a small… We’ve always been really efficient, really strong on believing that, you shouldn’t be paying an arm and a leg. I’ve worked in media agencies, where I’ve seen a budget go in for a piece of work and actually you cost it up and you’re like, “Okay, this should only cost I don’t know, X.” Then someone goes, “Okay, well you got to throw my time on that.

That’s going to be 20%. You go to the head of copyright and on,” even though you’re not going to do anything, that’s another 20%. You’re going to throw it in the delivery lead. You’re then going to… You add the cost. Actually the real cost is say £10,000, but the actual, once you put all the fat on it is about three-

Nathan Anibaba:

10 million.

Nicholas Kelly:

[crosstalk 00:21:02] million and you’re like, “Yeah.” You’re like “Well, right. I see how that’s working.” I think that’s really good. I think when we… Some of the data we’re getting back, we’re really allowing the people using our system to really go, “How can I better support individuals?” We then learn from that. We’re integrating bed sensors into our system, because it allows us to do a proof of life. It allows us to help individuals in care homes to work out what’s going on with that person. We’re striving to find the best one. We’re working to get little box receivers at home, that allows multiple data points to come in, which means instead of having to go round and look at one by one, we’re able to take all that information, real-time put that into our system.

Because we’ve got this amazing machine learning piece that we’re building, that can analyze all that data. It’s flagging up in real-time and saying, “These are problems. Right now, this person’s heart rate is outside of what’s normal for that person. You should go look at that. This person has a very high temperature. This is what’s happening. But also this person has a very high temperature. Here’s all the other temperature readings, which we’re mapping that, but here’s all the other temperature readings we’ve even taken over the last seven days.” That’s unique in a sense that you’re able to just to see that data.

We’re also pulling in your health records. We’re not just going, “Okay, this is information you’re inputting.” We’re pulling in your GP records. We’re pulling in your hospital records. Now at the point of care, I can see everything that’s relevant to you. I’m not having to go from being in the dark. That is only done by speaking, not just a person that’s inputting the data, we’re speaking to the person that’s being looked after. We work from the ground up in everything we do. We’ve spoken to the person receiving care. We’ve spoken to the person delivering care and the person buying the care and said, “What do you need? How does the system need to look for you?”

Nathan Anibaba:

You don’t see many technology entrepreneurs who are family businesses. You don’t see many black technology founders who are also setting up technology businesses. What do you think has helped you get where you are today in your life and career, and what can other black and ethnic minorities learn from your experience?

Nicholas Kelly:

Do you know what? I think it goes back to, I definitely don’t believe I’d be able to get to where I am without my mother. I’m being honest here. She is not the most technical person. I don’t know if she’s going to listen to this, because she listens to every last thing I do. She is terrible with technology. Yesterday, she called me up saying, “My email password, isn’t working. Can you reset it?” I’m like, “I can’t reset your email password right now.” “I’ve tried everything.” “Okay, great. All right. I’m going to email our support team to reset the email password.”

Email the support team, two seconds, “It’s okay. I fixed it now.” “You can’t have fixed it. You can’t fix your email password.” “Okay, I remembered my email password.” She has zero access to any… But what I’ve got is someone that implicitly trusts me. I think the benefit I have though is, working with these larger technology companies, working with Apple, LinkedIn, Unilever and having these really great free reign, has allowed me to come back over here and go, “Right, this is what I’ve learned here. This is how I’m going to apply it here.”

I think a lot of people need to realize that, your end goal might need to work for the likes of them. If your end goal is to work for Apple and do a great job, that’s perfect, but they are stepping stones to get there. But also you need to show that you have the value to be there. If you’re trying… I remember someone saying, “Look, if you want to get a job in radio, don’t just apply, because there’s a thousand people applying for it. Show them why they want you. Let them come to you and then do it that way.” If you want a job doing something, do that job before you get there.

Let them really see the value in bringing you on board. I think that’s how every role I’ve got so far. I think the last time I sent my CV in, somebody… I actually can’t remember last time I sent my CV for a job. But to your question, no, you don’t see that many people of color in this space. Why not? Because I think everyone tries to find the safe bet, or tries to fit a mould that they find comfortable. Whereas I’m trying to fit a space that I see a problem that I’m passionate about, and that I think that I can deliver and add value. As I said, I’ve had something close to maybe 10 major surgeries in my life, where I’ve been under general anesthetic.

Nathan Anibaba:

Wow.

Nicholas Kelly:

Every last time I come out, the one thing I know that when I come out, there’s always a nurse there. I think the last time I had… I’ve had four knee surgeries. I’ve had heart surgery. I’ve had a whole lot. But the one thing I know is, every time I come out, there was always a nurse there that says to me, “Are you okay? I’m going to go get you something to eat.” For me, when people say that the NHS is amazing, the actual infrastructure is probably a pile of bones, but the individuals inside that healthcare system are some of the most amazing people you would ever meet in your life.

If anyone says, “Well, no, they’re not,” I’m going to say, “Do you know what, I was an eight year old boy who had, I got run over twice by the same vehicle, because they ran over me, reversed back over me.” Was like, “Fuck, I’ve hit a child,” and drove off down the street. It wasn’t like two separate incidents. It was literally run over, “Oh, I think I’ve hit something. Oh, instead of getting out and checking, let me just reverse back. Oh no, I definitely hit a child.”

Nathan Anibaba:

No.

Nicholas Kelly:

Drive off. I remember, as I said I spent a birthday and Christmas in hospital and what I had is, every day because I was the only… at a point I was only child on the child ward, the nurses would come and sit next to me and have their lunches every day, so I wouldn’t be there on my own. For me, and I even just thinking about that, it makes me well up right now, but they are the most phenomenal people in the world so why wouldn’t I try build something that supports people delivering healthcare? My mother has been doing-

Nathan Anibaba:

Beautiful.

Nicholas Kelly:

… care since she was 19 years old. 19, her first job when she was 19 was working in a care home and she said… She actually told me, was she was told to give this lady food, but this lady doesn’t always, isn’t very responsible sometimes so you just got to go to feed her. I think mom said that she was feeding this lady, and after couple of minutes the food is dropping out of her mouth. She kind cooled down, and was like, “She’s just not really chewing. Is there anything I can do?”

They came up and was like, “Oh yeah, she’s dead.” This was the ‘80s. Let’s not say it’s today or tomorrow, no. She was 19 years old, first time she’d ever really been anywhere near, her first day. Wasn’t even like first week, first month, first day doing care? But she’s been doing it to an extent that every day over the last year in the pandemic, she’s been going into the office. She goes into the office Saturday, Sundays, she’s there because her view is, “My counterparts that I work with in local authorities, my service users that I work with, I need to be there in supporting them.”

Our first four service users, we still have two of them. The other two have passed away, but we still have our first two service users that we picked up 16 years ago. Our first two members of staff, the first two people that walked through the door of our rookie office with the leaking roof, they’re still with us.

Nathan Anibaba:

Amazing. Your background and your history is what led you to be a purpose-based entrepreneur. Essentially, it was because of the traumatic accident. I don’t want to call it an accident, but it was a traumatic experience that you had, which has led you to then give back to so many people. It’s a phenomenal story, and one that needs to be told. Talk about, for a moment, there were all these stats about the lack of people of color, black and ethnic minorities in STEM careers, science, technology, economics and maths. How do we get in your opinion, more people of color into STEM careers?

Nicholas Kelly:

I think we need to be looking at it at an earlier stage. I think the problem we have here is, we are trying to attract those individuals at a later age. You’re saying, “Okay, when you get into university, apply for these STEM roles.” Well, hey, when I was growing up, I didn’t see anyone that looked like me doing what I’m doing right now, so why would I apply for that role? Why would I think that that was going to be a possibility for me?” Especially when, and I don’t want to go into anything around some of the race reports and stuff like that, and anything that’s going on overly topical right now.

But growing up as a lad in London, there was definitely, I was definitely aware of how open and closed doors were ever going to be for me. I’m glad to say, I completely feel like I’ve definitely broken every last stereotype I can think of or glass ceiling that there is, but it was that. I think we need to be looking at engaging individuals at a younger age, but not just, let’s not talk about going into universities in speaking to them. Let’s look at colleges. Let’s look at earlier years. Look at when they’re picking a GCSE is because if… Inevitably if I don’t really see a job in science when I’m doing my GCSEs, that’s not something I’m going to care about.

But actually what people forget is when you think about it, you just go, “Okay, well, I don’t want to be a scientist. I’m terrible at maths, so I’m not going to do it.” But actually, do you know what, you like playing computer games, have you considered coding? Do you know what, you’re really good at art and design, Actually Have you considered maybe going into biology, because actually all you’re doing is mixing different bits of information and you like the facts. You’re really good at… You need to look at that person’s skill and you can bring them through and say, “Okay, look, these are the different facets.”

I think what I would love to do, and I’ve kind of spoken about it before was, I’d love to take individuals and show them a role, the facet of all of it, so you think, “Okay, this is what STEM means.” Well, actually, do you know what, there are so many people inside that role. There are thousands different departments and roles inside of that. This is where you could fit in. You know what? Let’s get into that, because the moment we start getting more black and ethnic minorities into these roles, the better it will be.

The new transparent it will be. The more also the data we’ll start sharing, because right now, half of the things that we get, we find out that… Blood pressure results and blood pressure machines or a lot of these machines are based on using… are based on white skin, which means when you’d go and do them, you’ve got darker colored skin then the results aren’t the same, because the lights don’t penetrate the skin the right way or this that and other.

Nathan Anibaba:

Okay. Interesting.

Nicholas Kelly:

We hear a lot of false negatives that come out with the fact, that there hasn’t always been a person of color taking things into consideration when the product’s been designed. The only way you can do that is by being in the room.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really fascinating. Thanks for sharing that. Last couple of questions on this, and then we’re going to get into our fun questions at the end of the interview that we ask everyone that comes onto the show to lighten the mood. Why don’t you like the term BAME and what should we use it?

Nicholas Kelly:

I hate the term BAME. Not even like, I hate and that’s a strong word. I think when you use the term BAME, what you’re doing is, you’re trying to make the stats or whatever information you want to sound better. You go, let’s say you got 17.5% of companies in 2000 and I think it was two, three years ago, 17.5% of companies had someone from a BAME background. Great. That’s good, isn’t it?

Nathan Anibaba:

Progress.

Nicholas Kelly:

  1. 5% of them are Asian. 30% of those were black men. Less than 1% was a black woman. Actually, when you look at the stats and you start splitting it out, now that starts seeming bad. But also what you’ve done is you’ve lumped Caribbeans. You’ve lumped Africans. You’ve lumped Asians, East Asians, Pacific Islanders, because I’m sure we’re chucking them in there. You’ve now lumped the best part of what, 80, 90 countries into one category. Now you’re saying, “Out of all these 80 countries that we represent and makeup the makeup of investment, that’s what it’s really boiled down to.” For me, that term is used to make stats look good.

When you want something to look bad, you start putting out where that person’s from you and you go, “Oh, 17% of companies get funding. Black Jamaican man commits murder,” and you’re like, “Ooh, great.” You decide to use his actual country when the stats look bad. But when you want something to look bad, you use the person’s individual country that they’re from. When you want the stats to actually look good, you lump everyone in, because the numbers are bad. When you’re saying right now, “Oh, well, BAMEs are 70% more likely to catch COVID and die.” Okay. But what does that really mean? What country are they from? Let’s not lump… Because my makeup isn’t the same as someone from say Ethiopia. Someone from Ethiopia isn’t the same as someone from, say Egypt. Someone from Egypt isn’t the same as someone from South Africa.

You’ve now just lumped all those countries into one. You’re actually doing even worse. You’re actually getting quite flippant on how the cultural differences between those people, the genetic makeup of those individuals, and actually what they’re bringing to the table by just lumping them all in. Yeah, someone might say, “Okay, but we say all whites are the same.” We don’t. I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is, everyone is individual. Stop lumping everyone into these big brackets and saying, “Well, they’re white European.” Well, actually, no, because actually that’s a massive amount of different countries. Let’s not just start lumping these figures in together.

Nathan Anibaba:

What should we use instead?

Nicholas Kelly:

I like to be called a black male. I like to be called a person of color or I like to be, yeah, I like to be called Nick.

Nathan Anibaba:

In other words, address each subgroup as their individual subgroup in terms of [crosstalk 00:34:43]?

Nicholas Kelly:

Yeah. You can summarize it a lot more fancy than I can, but yes, you’re right. I think it is. Call it subgroup who they are, because actually… Look at, for example, look at the Caribbean. There’s what, 20 odd countries in the Caribbean. You can go from all the way up from the Bahamas, all the way down to Aruba. I think Aruba is probably right at the end. No, it’s not. Aruba isn’t. It’s Trinidad. Trinidad is actually probably the closest to South America. There is a massive difference in all of those countries. There’s a difference between the languages, the culture, the food, genetic makeup.

Nathan Anibaba:

Everything.

Nicholas Kelly:

Everything. Now you’re telling me what, everyone in the Caribbean is exactly the same. But when you think about the Caribbean, you just think about three or four countries, right? Five, maybe, not realizing that Trinidad is actually less than any… If you look at a map, Trinidad’s technically a peninsula off Venezuela. We forget all of these things. We need to stop lumping everything in, because also what we’re doing is by lumping everyone in, we’re missing out the data and information that we could use to better support people.

Nathan Anibaba:

Absolutely love it. Well said. Okay. Last couple of questions now. These are the questions that are a little bit more fun, a little bit more lighthearted about you the individual. Let’s find out a bit more about the person behind the brand. If you could live and work anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Nicholas Kelly:

Do you know what, I’ve been lucky enough to travel and seeing some amazing parts in this world. I would love to live somewhere that I know that I’m making a difference. For us, I’m looking at it right now in the Caribbean as our next place that we want to move to, because I think there’s so much opportunity to build a healthcare system from the ground up. There’s so much opportunities to really grow something from scratch and make it better. I think that would be, yeah, that would be an amazing one for me. Also I think because it’s warm, it’s vibrant. There’s just a level of warmness to it [crosstalk 00:36:39].

Nathan Anibaba:

It doesn’t get snow in April.

Nicholas Kelly:

It doesn’t get snow April, but you get… What you do is, you get access to fresh food, fresh fruit. This world that we have that we forget when we live in an urban metropolis is so amazing, but actually we get to a point where when we start realizing how amazing it is, we are too old to really appreciate it, and I want to stop for a minute just appreciate it.

Nathan Anibaba:

We do get hurricanes though. That’s the only downside. I might take some snow in exchange for a hurricane.

Nicholas Kelly:

I think they’re balanced, so there isn’t any… I think there’s not one place, but I love the Caribbean because it’s close to my heart. But I think there’s some amazing things there. I love UK, because I think there’s so much amazing things I can do here. For me, I would love to take a balance of maybe more than one environment and be able to do that. I love to travel to Asia, because I think there’s so much amazing things that they’re doing over there that we can learn from.

Nathan Anibaba:

What excites you most about your current role and position?

Nicholas Kelly:

I’ve been told off this week for telling too much information. But what really excites me, we’re working on two amazing pieces that integrate into our bigger ecosystem. I love that I have the freedom to come up with these amazing ideas. Then I have a team behind me that allows me to flesh them out and really deliver on them. Right now we’re looking at how we can create a new care model, delivering care in real-time. We’re also looking at how, as I said before, how we can integrate more wearables and medical devices in order to double down on specific conditions.

We’re really trying to work out how we can support individuals that have a stroke. I’m able to really sit there and think this through. So for me, that’s exciting. I love when someone tells me something can’t be done from a technology perspective, and then I try and work out how to make it work and the ins and outs of it. That’s where I go. When I brief my team, I’m like, “I’ve got this idea,” and they go, “Hmm.” I go, “Okay, I’ll come back to you tomorrow.” I go off and I come back and I go, “This is how it’s going to be done.” They go, “Yeah, we didn’t think of it that way. I like it. Good let’s do it.”

Nathan Anibaba:

Love it.

Nicholas Kelly:

My brain works… I work very, very quickly so I fire a lot of ideas out so they can come back in a sense to check them.

Nathan Anibaba:

Last book that you read that had a huge impact on you, and the last Netflix series or Amazon series that had an impact on you.

Nicholas Kelly:

Oh, the last book I read. Do you know what? I’m trying to learn German. I’m reading a lot of German books at the moment. I’m trying to learn German, because I think last year I decided that I needed a challenge. Instead of learning easy things like most people pick, I decided to pick one of the hardest languages known to man.

Nathan Anibaba:

Brilliant. How’s it going? Sprechenze deutsche?

Nicholas Kelly:

Yeah, a little bit. I can read it. I’ve got an amazing German teacher and I can read and understand German better than I can speak it. She says that’s a very strange way of going around it. That’s that.

Nathan Anibaba:

That’s progress.

Nicholas Kelly:

The last Netflix series I saw…

Nathan Anibaba:

It’s not easy. I put you on the spot.

Nicholas Kelly:

No, you have actually. I watch a lot of content. I listened to a lot of stuff and I watch lot of things. I don’t see a huge amount mostly because I just don’t… I’ve always had a really bad sleeping pattern and have actually got broken up a lot more. I watch a lot of stuff. Technically I think I’ve gone through everything that’s watchable that you can on Netflix.

Nathan Anibaba:

How is that even possible, humanly?

Nicholas Kelly:

All right, so this week I’m watching Spiral, which is an amazing French drama. I’ve just finished watching Sebba, which is a Dutch crime drama.

Nathan Anibaba:

Nice.

Nicholas Kelly:

I watch anime because I like just to zone out for a minute. I like watching… When I watch things, it allows me to zone out. A lot of people go, “Oh yeah, I go to the gym and it helps me to relax.” Watching TV allows me to completely zone out and think, and actually helps me just shut my brain down. There’s only a few things I can really do that help me to do it. I would say, do you know what? I was actually [inaudible 00:40:44] Snowfall? It’s not on Netflix. It’s not one thing, but if you can, it’s on BBC and Snowfall has got an amazing British actor in it and it’s about how drugs, cocaine and crack went into the South central L.A.

That is really, really good. The actual main actor in that is a super, super amazing actor. Check him out. He’s British, so you always got to support the British actor as much as you can. I’ve just finished watching… Do you know what, if you haven’t seen that, amazing. Mostly because I went to Japan and that’s kind of where I worked, a program called Midnight Diner.

Nathan Anibaba:

Midnight Diner.

Nicholas Kelly:

It’s amazing. It’s in Japanese, but it’s basically all centered around one camera in one little café, and this guy, he owns the diner. It opens from 12:00 till 7:00 in the morning. Everyone comes in and tells their stories and goes through it, and he basically just helps them through their stories. But it’s amazing. Also at the end of it, and you get to learn about a bit of food and you learn a bit about Japanese culture. I love that because I love learning about other countries. I love understanding how that works. If you haven’t seen it, go out and watch Ozark because… Have you not seen Ozark?

Nathan Anibaba:

I’ve seen Ozark.

Nicholas Kelly:

Ozark is…

Nathan Anibaba:

Well, I’ve seen the first season of Ozark and then I got distracted, but it’s good.

Nicholas Kelly:

Keep watching it. For me, Ozark is just… Ozark is one of those a little bit like Breaking Bad where the subject matter is so bad that everyone, no one really wants to touch it and then you get like phenomenal actors. The guy that did Breaking Bad, what’s his name? He was not getting any work. Remember he was the father from Malcolm in the Middle. He was pretty much written off as an actor. Did Breaking Bad, which let’s be honest, phenomenal series. But because of its subject matter, I don’t know if you remember, when Breaking Bad came to the UK, it was being shown at one, two o’clock in the morning on like on TV.

Nathan Anibaba:

Oh I didn’t know that. Okay.

Nicholas Kelly:

It was being shown like 1:00, 2:00 on a rerun. Then it went to like 11:00, 12:00. It was being shown at really inappropriate times so anyone that wanted to really watch it, but it’s one of the biggest TV programs of all time.

Nathan Anibaba:

Oh wow. Because of content, of the subject matter of drugs and…

Nicholas Kelly:

Drugs. Listen, they pushed it out. I think if you look at something like Ozarks, Ozark’s about money laundering, about crime. You’re pushing that out, but actually it’s phenomenal acting, it’s a really good, strong script.

Nathan Anibaba:

Brilliant even.

Nicholas Kelly:

It doesn’t feel rushed. Definitely, definitely worth watching. I think my next one I’m about to watch is Concrete Cowboys, because if you haven’t seen it or know the story so Baltimore-

Nathan Anibaba:

Concrete Cowboys.

Nicholas Kelly:

… has a bunch of black Cowboys that actually own and ride horses in around a city.

Nathan Anibaba:

Oh, I’ve heard of that.

Nicholas Kelly:

Rudimental did a song years ago and right at the beginning of the song, they had a bunch of people riding horses and that’s that. It’s a part of their culture. I love when there is an element of real world brought into the program and it then allows me then to go, “Okay, I like what I’ve seen here. Let me go off and do my little rabbit hole and spend an hour or two hours online learning a little bit more about it,” which is amazing and Lupin. Lupin is my last one.

Nathan Anibaba:

Or as the French say Lupin.

Nicholas Kelly:

Lupin, yeah.

Nathan Anibaba:

Yeah, It’s brilliant. It’s really good. Really good.

Nicholas Kelly:

He’s an amazing actor. He’s was in [crosstalk 00:44:03]

Nathan Anibaba:

Omar Sy, I think his name is.

Nicholas Kelly:

Really good.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really good.

Nicholas Kelly:

They would be my picks.

Nathan Anibaba:

You’re definitely the person to come to for Netflix recommendations. I’m going to come back to you again, once I’ve gone through these. My last question, Nicholas, what advice would you give to aspiring black technology, founders and entrepreneurs who also want to navigate their careers?

Nicholas Kelly:

I would say, “Work out what you want to do. Work out where you want to be, and don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do that.” As simple as that advice might sound, it might sound like a copy and paste. I’ve had people that have told us that the product we’re trying to build is never going to be built. We built it. What we’re trying to do is impossible, because the NHS has spent 35 billion trying to do the same thing. Okay, we did it. You have to believe in what you’re doing. You have to know what you’re doing. You have to have a really good team around you. Don’t let anyone stop you. Sometimes it might feel that you’re not going forward and you might have to take a side step.

Nicholas Kelly:

There is nothing wrong with taking a side step to get to the end goal. A lot of people will tell you a success story of Jeff Bezo’s success. All you see is the fact that he owns Amazon today. But what you don’t see is the hard work, the graft he had to put in, the amount of times that… Remember, he never got funding. I was reading something yesterday that said, “Four people that currently own Amazon shares from day one that still own shares now is Jeff, his wife, his mom and dad,” because that’s the people that believed in him. When everyone tells you what you’ve got is wasted, everyone tells you it’s not going to work, keep going.

Nicholas Kelly:

Last bit, don’t be afraid to pivot because if you’ve got… I’m in Slack. Slack is one of the biggest companies right now, an amazing product, but Slack wasn’t the original product. Slack was a pivot from the original product that was failing that they said, “Okay, we’ve got a better idea using the chat functionality we’ve got here.” If you’ve got great idea…

Nathan Anibaba:

Instagram, same thing.

Nicholas Kelly:

There you go. If you go a great idea and you think, “Okay, I can’t continue this, or what else have I got?” Do that. Be really honest with yourself, but also build a team around you that when you’re working all the hours and you feel like you’re drained, that person there goes, “Okay, let’s take a break and I’m going to support you.” You need a support unit around you. Let me say it that again. My one bit of advice is, don’t let anyone detract you from what your goals are and believe in yourself. I think being a black male is very, very hard to believe in yourself when it comes to doing things that aren’t in your comfort zone.

Nicholas Kelly:

I know for sure, I’m one of the only ones in this space. I know for sure that when I go into a room, I’m one of the only ones that look like me in that room. I don’t let that be a hindrance. I just go up and say, “Hey, I’m Nicholas. This is what I do. Let’s have a conversation.” Got to be confident.

Nathan Anibaba:

Nick, thank you very much for being on the ClientSide.

Nicholas Kelly:

Thanks for having me. I think we can safely say that the world is going to be better when we all start believing in ourselves.

Nathan Anibaba:

Well said. If you like to share any comments on this episode or any episode of ClientSide, then find us online at fox.agency. If you’d like to appear as a guest on the show, please email zoe@fox.agency. The people that make the show possible are Zoe Woodward our booker/researcher. David Clare is our head of content. Ben Fox is our executive producer. I’m Nathan Anibaba. You’ve been listening to ClientSide from Fox Agency.

Speaker 1:

Join us next time on ClientSide, brought to you by Fox Agency.