Alumni Interview: Paul King (BSc 2008, MSc 2009), Environmental and Social Impact Consultant

Paul King works with start-ups as a chief financial officer, consultant and co-founder, with a focus on environmental and social impact. He is passionate about harnessing the power of technology for the greater good and using responsible and sustainable business practices.

After studying for an undergraduate in Biochemistry, he stayed at the University of Bristol to do an MSc in Management and went on to lead two major technology start-ups, Pentatonic and Masuku. Ahead of joining us for a panel discussion on responsible business, he shares his favourite things about entrepreneurial life and the best advice he’s been given.

Can you tell me a bit about the two companies you have helped build and lead, Pentatonic and Masuku – who are they and what do they do?
Pentatonic is a design and technology company that works with some of the world’s leading brands and cultural institutions, helping to accelerate their sustainability agendas. As CFO, my objective was to demonstrate that what is better for the planet can also be better for the bottom line – and I strongly believe this is key in realising net zero and circular economies.

I also had the opportunity to lead the development and launch of a separate company, Masuku, which is co-owned by Pentatonic and creates a range of high-performance face masks using recycled and biodegradable materials.

What do you think makes a responsible and sustainable business?
Maximising profit at any expense is unsustainable and I believe it is a key responsibility of entrepreneurs and business leaders to find ways to make social and environmental impact financially sustainable. An organisation does not need to be confined to the traditional categories of for-profit or not-for-profit. I believe that blurring these boundaries and linking purpose with profit is the route to solving the great challenges of our time.

What do you love most about entrepreneurial life?
No two days are the same. Big decisions can be made quickly, by a small group of people. Having the opportunity to get involved in all aspects of a business makes it a good home for a generalist.

You studied Biochemistry at undergraduate and then did an MSc in Management. What inspired you to do this postgraduate degree?
Biochemistry helped build my analytical and numerical skills, but I knew my future lay outside of the lab. However, there was a lot I needed to learn about the wider world at that point. It was 2008 and the news was dominated by the financial crisis, and I thought the ‘credit crunch’ was a breakfast cereal! I wanted (needed!) to learn more about business, economics and finance – and the MSc in Management was the perfect opportunity to get a broad understanding across these areas. It must have been a good investment because I managed to get a job in banking after finishing the MSc!

How did studying at the University of Bristol impact you and your career?
‘Work hard, play hard’ is an overused phrase, but it probably sums up my university experience, although perhaps in the opposite order! Elements of this way of life are good preparation for demanding career paths. Hard work is important, and so is the ability to cope with pressure and overwhelm – but you also need to be human and know how and when to have fun and rest.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given, or give to others?
Don’t spend too much time staring at the top of the mountain – taking the next step is the only thing that helps you get there.

You can hear Paul King speak at Responsible Business, an online panel discussion with business experts and researchers exploring responsible business, resilience and a low carbon future. This event is hosted by the School of Management on Wednesday 15 June 2022, 1 pm – 2 pm. Click here for more information and to book your place.  

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