Meet the MD: Ian Kerr of Raven Controls

With a background in emergencies and counter-terrorism for the police, Ian Kerr shares his journey to creating his latest technology business that helps venues and event organisers keep their visitors safe.

What is it the company does?

Raven aims to take event control to the next level with its digital, integrated event logging and crisis management tool for venues and events.

Its technology allows staff at events to log security incidents on mobile phones or tablet devices while on the go, instead of having to return to a control room to log an incident using traditional methods such as paper and pen or spreadsheets.

Its software has been deployed at a number of international stadiums and venues, and has already been used at several high-profile events such as golf’s Ryder Cup and athletics’ European Championships.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

My role is to ensure the strategic growth of Raven and to align the business to our goal of being the leaders in event control.

I work with my team to understand what our customers and marketplace require. I am responsible for ensuring my team are focused on the strategic objectives of the business, and I keep in regular contact with our board and investors to discuss the future of Raven Controls.

I also love to use Raven ‘on the ground’ when I can. I think it’s important to understand how the product is perceived from an end-user perspective.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on? 

Before founding Raven Controls, I spent 10 years in the police force, where I worked in emergencies and counter-terrorism planning, designing and delivering contingency exercises for major events, political conferences and tier 1 counter-terrorist activities. 

Having found my passion in resilience, I decided to start a resilience consultancy business called ID Resilience, which has gone on to work with a number of stadiums, venues and major events. Whilst doing this, I recognised that most venues and events were using traditional methods to log security-related issues, such as hand-written logs or Excel spreadsheets. These methods are time-consuming, prone to human error and don’t facilitate clear communication, which is essential when it comes to safety and security.

At this point, I spotted a gap in the market for software that streamlines the process of recording security incidents at venues, events and arenas. I wanted to be able to offer a solution, so in December 2016 I launched Raven Controls.

What do you believe makes a great leader? 

A great leader has to have confidence and belief in their team. I am proud of the team I have working with me at Raven Controls. I believe in hiring the best and empowering them to own and deliver the best possible solution.

Other essential elements for a leader include resilience and having the ability to take knocks, learn from them and use them positively to influence future decisions. Lastly, I find that my passion and a love for what I do helps ensure that I can articulate my vision effectively.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

To date, the biggest challenge is being a non-technical founder. Whilst this has many benefits, prior to having my own development team, I found working with outsourced developers a challenge. It was at times difficult to articulate what the product required and having an understanding and appreciation for development timescales was tough.

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I love to play basketball and enjoy getting on the court twice a week to de-stress!

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my hero Michael Jordan. After representing Scotland I realised my ambition of playing with the national team. However, the NBA turned out to be a bit of a stretch. I would love for Raven Controls to be the system of choice for the NBA in the near future.

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them? 

It has to be a lack of trying. I like to think that I’m supportive of best efforts however, in a fast-paced startup, it becomes apparent quite quickly if someone isn’t pulling their weight.

Where do you see the company in five years’ time? 

Being the global leader in event control.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Make sure you hire the best team possible. It is admirable trying to do it all yourself but without a team around you, it is near to impossible to make that happen.

What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?

I received a lot of advice when starting up and one piece of advice I received was that everything takes much more time and money than you think. This is very true and although I heard it at the outset, I never thought it would apply to me… but it did!

What I would say is be guarded on what advice you do take. If your business or product shows significant potential you may find that many people want to get involved. While experienced advice is valuable, too much can be a distraction and conflicting advice can confuse the strategy. If you are lucky enough to be able to select, pick a team of trusted advisors and commit to your strategy.

Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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