Jon Hilton (9 March 2016)

Jon is an engineer turned entrepreneur and suggests more engineers should become entrepreneurs. He started his career at Rolls Royce as an aircraft engineer, and then moved into Formula 1 and worked for the Renault F1 team when it won the World Championship in 2005 and 2006.

Apart from his exciting engineering career Jon and his wife used to breed alpacas. They had the land available and they wanted to breed a rare animal. Just Alpacas ran for 13 years and was reasonably profitable but very time consuming.

For some time Jon and his wife worked at creating rare jigsaw puzzles. They set up Perdu Puzzles which created jigsaws in odd shapes. He says it’s a true art to cut the pieces in shapes that have enough ‘hold’ to keep the puzzle together and to keep it from moving once completed. This added to the production costs which prevented the business from becoming very profitable.

Jon then went on to start Flybrid in 2007, producing kinetic energy recovery systems: energy from braking is stored in a flywheel and released during acceleration. The Flybrid system was originally developed for Formula 1 cars but it is now used on normal cars as well as commercial vehicles (buses and trucks) and even diggers.  In 2014 the company was sold to Torotrak plc.

Jon has achieved great things and has worked hard for his achievements. He advised us that patents are good (and can be important if you sell your company): patent everything you can. Share some information but keep most of it secret.  And it is good to build a team in your business that can carry on in the owner’s absence.

Based on a report by Alishia de Lange