Priyav Shah, co-founder and CTO of CuraCode

Photo of Priyav Shah

Priyav is a DPhil candidate in Engineering Science at the University of Oxford, with a background in Mechanical Engineering. He is also the Chief Technology Officer at CuraCode, alongside his two other co-founders. CuraCode is an Oxford University spin-out company which creates highly secure, low cost authentication labels based on a patented technology discovered at Oxford University. It aims to secure supply chains to aid the global fight against counterfeit trade. The company has recently been incorporated, and is looking for a pre-seed investment to develop its product to an industry-ready prototype.

What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Growing up in Kenya, the hardship faced by millions of people due to a lack of access to technology was alarming to me. I chose to study Engineering so that I could follow my scientific curiosity, but also be able to transfer my research to the real world to solve existing problems. The real value in scientific research, in my opinion, is in the impact it can have to improve lives; and to do this a mix of research and entrepreneurship is key.

What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
To me, entrepreneurship is the ability to transfer an idea into a real world application. Sometimes it is just a case of making an idea economically viable for use in industry, while at other times it will be to apply the idea in a completely different way to what others might have envisioned.

How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
CuraCode Logo

While I was working on the development of the technology, I met my fellow co-founders who were looking at our patent and exploring the commercial case for it. The knowledge that others were just as excited in the idea as I was, and that their initial research had shown that industry was open to hearing more about it, was enough to convince me that we could develop the idea into a product.

What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
One of the most important skills required to be a successful entrepreneur is persistence. There will be countless numbers of people who either just don’t get your idea, or don’t believe in it, or don’t believe in your team to deliver it; however, you only need to be able to convince one person to secure an investment and take-off!
It almost goes without saying, but hard work is also essential – the early stages of a company require a lot of work to lay a solid foundation to build upon – there are no shortcuts to making it. Finally, I think that flexibility is important – being able to take a step back, evaluate your circumstances and opportunities, and be open to changing your direction based on the feedback you are receiving is important.

What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
My favourite part is the excitement of bring my scientific research to the world, knowing the impact it will have.

What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Every company/individual/situation is different, and so I could pick many different answers for different reasons. However, I think that the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, inspires me the most because of the impact his idea has had on the world.

If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
I would love to chat to him about how he came up with the idea, and then what drove him to implement it in the way that he has.

What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
The moment that CuraCode was incorporated was particularly satisfying, because it was a marker that showed we were going places.

What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
I think there have been many lessons learned and mistakes made, because it’s impossible to not have them! The most important thing to do is being able to learn from them, and I think the biggest learning point for me has been about how to communicate our idea to different groups of people – our message really has to be tailored to the audience, and to what aspect of it excites them the most.

How have you funded your ideas?
We are actively looking for funding to start developing an industrial-use prototype, but to date we have been able to secure funding for market research through a grant from the ICURe programme.

Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
We have been accepted onto the ICURe programme, as well as the Creative Disruption Lab (CDL). Both have proved to already be invaluable for our development.

What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
The number of other startups happening in Oxfordshire is great, because it builds a real ecosystem for everyone to learn from each other. However, it does create competition for space – we’ve found lab space particularly difficult to find at an affordable rate for a startup.

If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
We have been lucky enough to be a part of the Oxford University Innovation (OUI) Incubator – if eligible, I would send everyone there!