Fred Swaniker speaks at the UW Innovation Summit
Discover how this Room member is disrupting how cargo is transported globally
Some of the world’s greatest innovations often begin as crazy dreams. To turn them into reality, it takes grit, faith and a lot of support. For Spencer Horne, an award-winning entrepreneur and founder of Cloudline, an innovative logistics company, his crazy dream of revolutionizing market access for nearly a billion people worldwide, came to fruition when his audacious goals met the right opportunity.
Growing up on the right side of the railway track
Like many great innovators, Spencer Horne’s story began long before he could describe his ambitions. He grew up in South Africa, a country laden with inequality with a silver lining of significant growth opportunities. He says, “growing up in a deeply divided society in South Africa, I was always fascinated by the structural drivers behind inequity and poverty”. This fascination would later on, become an incessant thought that would inspire his bold innovations.
From a young age, Spencer quickly developed a passion for technology and engineering. Surprisingly, while the rest of the world held back their tears as they watched the famous film Titanic, Spencer stood in awe of the machine work and this soon became his inspiration for pursuing engineering. During his teens, he participated in a program run by the local airforce, called The Young Falcons, where he learned how to fly using computer flight simulators.
Spencer eventually went on to attend the African Leadership Academy as part of the inaugural class, before completing a mechanical engineering undergraduate degree at the prestigious Harvard as he fervently chased his passion.
Turning his dream into reality
Though he had what most considered to be a dream start to his career at McKinsey as a business analyst, Spencer often thought about his passion for aerial technology. Two years later, he took the plunge and founded Cloudline with the ambition of reaching the most remote communities who have no access to paved roads, and therefore bring to them essential goods such as medical care.
He says, “more than one billion people today do not have direct access to paved roads or even runways. This fundamentally affects the lives they live, without access to the basic things you and I take for granted, like medical supplies.” Through seeking a solution to this challenge, Spencer is now building a revolutionary venture that will transport cargo to the most remote parts of Africa – places where roads and railways don’t reach – using small autonomous airships.
Flying Cloudline to greater heights with The Room
Over the last 3 years, Spencer has managed to scale Cloudline from a simple idea into an energy-efficient product that has already become globally recognized. In fact, last year, he earned a place on Quartz Africa Innovators List and was on the list as one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies for this revolutionary work. But how did he manage to achieve these feats at such an early stage?
As one of the first members of The Room, Spencer remarks that “The Room has played a crucial role in the building of my business and allowed me to get the traction I have as a young entrepreneur”. His ambition met his life-changing opportunity when a senior pathfinder from The Room secured Spencer a speaking opportunity at Singularity University’s Africa summit – a high-profile event with about 1,000 attendees that focuses on innovation and the 4th industrial revolution. From this event, he was not only able to gain publicity and visibility for his work, but he also walked away with imperative feedback and key relationships that soon became his trusted advisors.
But his journey did not stop there. In 2019, Spencer was nominated by The Room to participate in MassChallenge Israel, a 4-month incubator program bringing together cutting edge technologies of the Startup Nation, Israel. During his time there, he was selected as a top 10 winter out of the entire class of about 30 other ventures. In the same year, Spencer also got the opportunity to participate in an ‘entrepreneur-in-residence’ program in New York with Schmidt Futures – an investment venture set up by Eric Schmidt (former CEO of Google) – where he would get access to capital, expertise and mentorship for his venture.
As he looks back at his journey, he says, “I am very grateful for the opportunity I have had to be a part of The Room…I’ve gotten introductions that have helped our business and our fundraising efforts.” Recently, Spencer was able to raise $100,000 – surpassing his pre-seed fundraising goal – in 24 hours from Room members who wanted to invest in his bold ambitions.
His story has been a testament of The Room’s goal to build a community that supports people to achieve their mission. Through all these opportunities discovered at The Room, Spencer was able to skyrocket his ambitions and scale them up on the global arena. You too can accelerate your impact in partnership with The Room. For more information on this, email us at [email protected].