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Careers and Enterprise

Luxia Broadbent

Read Luxia's story, from studying Global Health to playing a fundamental role in a growing tech start-up. Find out more below...

Please briefly introduce yourself and describe your current business. 

I graduated from Queen Mary in 2017 with an undergraduate degree in Global Health, moving on to a double MSc from Peking University and LSE in Public Administration and Government before completing a grad-scheme at Egon Zehnder, a leadership advisory firm. Through these various, and quite diverse, experiences I realised that I wanted to work in a dynamic environment where everything I did had tangible impact, which led me to working in a Venture Builder and a number of early-stage start-ups including EdTech and HRTech.  I am currently the only non-technical hire at Materials Nexus, responsible for everything non-scientific/technical from fundraising to people ops.  

An image of Luxia Broadbent, employee at Materials Nexus

Materials Nexus is a deep-tech startup discovering new sustainable materials using AI. Our platform searches for new elemental compositions of advanced materials with improved performance and, most importantly, lower environmental cost. Using rapid automated processes and advanced quantum calculations to model properties of new material compositions, we can bypass slow conventional experimental approaches and accelerate discovery from decades to months whilst reducing the number of costly physical experiments. Costs associated with the R&D process are lower, ultimately, meaning that more sustainable materials can be pushed to market more quickly and more economically.  

The business has recently closed its seed raise of £2 million and doubled in size over the past 3 months. We have also secured a commercial collaboration with a UK Plc to remove a critical mineral from customer supply chain without compromising performance. It’s a very exciting time for us and we’ll be hiring again soon! 


How did you come up with the business idea, and what problem does it address? 

Production of materials is becoming increasingly unstable and detrimental to our environment, contributing to 50% of all CO2 emissions. Concurrently our demand for advanced materials (eg. magnets, semi-conductors, super-conductors), that are rare-earth dependent, is only set to increase as we accelerate progress to net-zero. 

Materials Nexus was founded by Dr. Jonathan Bean as he became frustrated with the disconnect between research science and industry practice whilst at the University of Cambridge. To accelerate the uptake of new materials and address the climate crisis end-to-end disruption is needed. Our platform is intelligently designed, not only to find novel materials but also takes into account production criteria and effectiveness as compared to the conventional material used today; thus looking at the materials’ full lifecycle.  


What inspired you to pursue entrepreneurship while or after your education at Queen Mary? 

Initially I studied Global Health with the intention of going on to a medical degree, however I quickly realised that much of the impact I wanted to have as a doctor could also be achieved through policy. I also loved the multidisciplinary aspect of my degree – which has very much influenced my role today.  

After completing my MSc, I completed a grad-scheme at leadership advisory/consultancy firm Egon Zehnder where I was very privileged to be working with CEOs and Boards of iconic businesses and seeing how fast their businesses could make positive social impact, particularly during COVID.  Though I had every intention of joining the civil service, after some brilliant advice and mentorship it became clear that to combine the pace and variety of work that I loved with the meaningful impact I was seeking, entrepreneurship was the most exciting choice. 


What were your goals at the beginning of your journey and how did they change/evolve throughout time? 

When I started on the entrepreneurial journey, I wanted to learn as much as possible from founders so that I could start my own business. I wanted push myself out of my comfort zone – it’s a high risk industry and I felt that this time when I have the least responsibilities in life is the time to take risks.  

Having been through the ups and downs of startup life, and closing/leaving companies because we simply didn’t have the cashflow, I’ve realised the bigger motivation is the sense of ownership and purpose that comes hand in hand with being part of an early-stage company – responsibility not exclusive to the founder.  Everything you work on matters and contributes to the bigger goal – from something as small as having a coffee chat with a colleague who is feeling down to winning over that key customer or investor. 

Today, my goal is to make sure I’m working with the smartest and kindest people I can find, solving the world’s biggest problems.  The solution doesn’t have to be mine but if I can help to make it a reality then I’ve played my part.  


How do you deal with fear, doubts?  

The widely shared statistic is that only 1 in 10 startups succeed – so you’ve got to be a little bit delusional (and a quite stubborn) to think you’re going to make it! The best piece of advice I’ve been given in my career is to trust your gut, it’s usually right. If something doesn’t feel right it means something has got to change and you can’t be afraid of making that change happen. Fear and doubt is natural when you’re on the entrepreneurial rollercoaster, learning the difference between feeling uncomfortable because it’s necessary for growth and feeling uncomfortable because something is about to go horribly wrong is critical for the “gut barometer” but it can take a few tries. Drawing a line in the sand for yourself (whether that’s financial or personal) is also a great help for staying committed (particularly when doubt is high) until you hit that line! Naturally having a team/co-founder who also understands the doubt and fear makes a world of difference. 


How have you used entrepreneurship for positive social change, and what impact have you seen in your community or industry, if any? 

My reason for entering entrepreneurship was to make social change, from making out of school education more accessible to today where we’re discovering sustainable materials that could drastically change the world we live in. Innovation is truly an accelerator to change.  

I have been lucky enough to work with founders from diverse backgrounds (including other QM alumni) and in teams that have been inclusive and encouraging of difference.  This being said I have often been the only woman on the team and there is still a long way to go to create more diversity across different axes in the industry. On the whole, entering the world of entrepreneurship is a privileged choice but we need more diversity if we are to have more startups that address the biggest societal problems. Materials Nexus’ lead investor Ada Ventures has recently launched Inclusive Alpha and founder childcare which are great examples of how investors can encourage diversity in the ecosystem.  


What advice would you give to current students or recent graduates who are interested in pursuing entrepreneurship? 

    Other than the “gut barometer”, be really clear on why you want to be an entrepreneur/start your business (if you don’t already know him, check out Simon Sinek). The world of entrepreneurship can often be glamourized but it’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Knowing why you want to do this and what you enjoy about it is the biggest motivator through the tough times, it can also help you know whether you want work in early stage businesses or be a founder yourself.  

    More practically, learn about leadership (as an entrepreneur you’ll always be a leader), find good mentors (people really do want to help!), become indispensable (to customers, colleagues, investors, your network), stay curious (about yourself, your industry, the world) and add a pinch of salt to everything you hear/read, including this!  


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