From RAF pilot to road safety entrepreneur: interview with Jason Eden

Jason Eden

After 20 years in the RAF, ex-pilot Jason Eden has just founded his first startup which aims to help drivers and their employers make safer decisions around road safety.

We’ve just teamed up with Jason and his new startup, Safr, and are currently working as the company’s virtual tech team.

We caught up with Jason to talk about his transition from RAF pilot to startup founder…

Piloting and risk management

Jason wanted to be a pilot since he was a “knee high grasshopper”. After graduating from Goldsmiths with a degree in Psychology, he joined the Air Force as a Navigator and later trained to become a pilot.

Having achieved his piloting dream, Jason went “kicking and screaming” into a Risk Management role at RAF Northolt in 2010. “I wanted to stay flying aeroplanes” he says, “but once I was in it, I really enjoyed having a more strategic role. I enjoyed the lifestyle and living in London. Working 9-5 and not living in a tent in Afghanistan was good.”

As Head of Risk Management at RAF Northolt, Jason’s role was “all about saving lives”. In a tragic accident in 2006, a Nimrod aircraft crashed killing 14 people in Afghanistan.

“After that there was a huge enquiry and safety and risk management became much bigger deal again in the Air Force” says Jason, who found himself working in the area shortly afterwards.

Once he settled into the role, Jason began to appreciate the variety and the fact that “I found myself doing something very interesting. It was very important and I could actually make a difference to people’s working lives.”

The role involved “identifying what hazards there are, how likely they are about to occur and how severe the impact would be. If there was a risk, it was about managing that risk.”

Jason is currently making the most of this background… “The risk management approach that I really like is working out all the things that can happen to you and then working out which ones you are most concerned about and the opportunities you most want to pursue and then focusing on those top risks and top opportunities.

“That’s kind of what I’m trying to do now in a less formal way. It’s about that prioritisation and thinking through what is possible and then trying to manage those opportunities and mitigate risk.”

Raising money for a new mission

While he loved being in the Air Force, Jason says. “I didn’t want to be the old guy sat in the corner at the end of my career. I think I always wanted to leave while I still loved it, so I did.”

While he “has a great deal of affection for the Air Force”, Jason wanted to “try and do something different and have a new challenge and opportunity to grow and move in a different direction.”

In the RAF, Jason worked alongside entrepreneurs on fatigue risk management for people working with large aircraft. “I think it was pretty clear to all of us there that it had implications for outside the military; aviation, healthcare, road transport, rail transport – any sort of high performance high consequence setting.”

For his Masters degree dissertation, Jason researched fatigue management in the financial services.

“I really feel that traders, salespeople and corporate finance are working ridiculously long hours, starting early and genuinely impacting their ability to do their job… I think in financial services, and for that kind of performance culture, it’s going to be about 10-15 years before they realise the issue. While I think there is a very strong need for fatigue management in financial services, I think it might be a little while before they implement it.”

With this in mind, Jason started looking for companies who he might be able to trial a fatigue management tool with.

“I was on LinkedIn and I just kept sending out loads of emails to people” says Jason, who was contacting people in various industries where he knew risk management was crucial. After meeting with 5-6 companies who operate large fleets of road vehicles, Jason connected with a major UK company who decided to move forward with a trial.

It worked out nicely in that Simpleweb and the Department for Transport became interested at around the same time, with Simpleweb offering match funding and the Department for Transport offering Safr a grant.

Without the funding, Jason says “we could have done something less impressive with the client around fatigue management”, however after Simpleweb’s investment and the grant from TFL, Jason feels confident that Safr is now in a position to offer a “commercially viable solution”.

Find out more about Safr at www.safr.org.uk and watch this space for updates.

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