Bad luck good for business: camera specialist RoadHawk’s soaring success

Bad luck good for business: RoadHawk’s soaring success

In the latest of a series identifying the most innovative businesses in Britain today, Abigail Townsend meets Mark Nelson, the founder of camera specialist RoadHawk.


Caught on camera: Mark Nelson’s RoadHawk became a hit after video footage was put online Photo: Paul Ryan-Goff

10:48AM BST 05 Jul 2013

Mark Nelson owes his success to two extraordinary pieces of bad luck. The first happened when he was driving, aged 18. “We drove round the bend and there, out of nowhere, was a car driven by a German holidaymaker on the wrong side of the road.” A head-on crash was unavoidable; the car, which Nelson had recently borrowed £8,000 to buy, was a write off. Incredibly, the other driver denied liability. The case dragged on for three years before it went to court and Nelson was awarded damages of £25,000. The crash showed Nelson, now 36, that life was short. His first reaction was to find something he loved doing, so he could quit his job as a meat hygiene inspector. As a self-proclaimed ‘technical guy’, Nelson started importing and selling miniature cameras; then began fitting them in cars as black box-style recorders.When the second piece of misfortune hit it was a customer’s.

“We had a camera in this car which was being serviced,” explains Nelson, “and it caught the mechanics doing over 130mph down a dual carriageway.

“When the owner confronted them, they said, ‘So what?’ so he came back to us. We put it on YouTube, sent it to Sky News – and everyone loved it. The video got 250,000 hits in a couple of days and our business just changed overnight.

“It was amazing publicity; we were still working out of a shed in my back yard.”

RoadHawk now sells its cameras to numerous insurers and fleet operators. Nelson struggles to switch off, but living in the depths of the Cornish countryside helps.

“I’m pretty much working 24/7. But we live on a farm and there’s a load to do. Cows have no respect for fences.”

Nelson counsels anyone starting out to get as much advice as they can, including a good accountant, and to “make sure your infrastructure is solid from day one; plan for expanding your business from the beginning.”

These days, Nelson is making his own luck.


Company RoadHawk

Established 2007

Turnover £4.5m in 2012/13

Number of staff 8


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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