Meet the CEO
In the first of a six-part series that provides Investigator readers with an exclusive look
behind the scenes of successful UK-based technology company BlackRainbow, Carol
Jenkins speaks to founder and CEO Dr Jim Kent about his remarkable life and the secrets
behind his success.
Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight
success in business according to American tech entrepreneur Bez Stone.
His words resonate with UK-based technology company BlackRainbow which seemingly
burst onto the scene of the digital investigation world some four years ago and made an
Its main offering NIMBUS promised to provide forces and other law enforcement
organisations with an effective case management system to help streamline digital
evidence in major crime investigations increasing the speed and efficiency of the process.
In just a short amount of time, Black Rainbow has established itself as a recognisable brand
and NIMBUS is being used successfully by a number of forces, law enforcement and
government agencies in the UK and the rest of the world to underpin the management and
governanceprocess in all the big major crime investigations. In fact, it’s now difficult to
remember a time when BlackRainbow wasn’t a major player in the digital investigation world.
Founder and CEO Dr Jim Kent is a real tour de force in every senseand he has big plans for
the company moving forward – with innovation, customer partnerships and staff
development and investment at the heart of his strategy. He is a man on a mission and within minutes of speaking to him, you realise that he’s going to let nothing stand in his way.
When we caught up with Jim to find out more about this supposed instant rise to fame, we found him juggling work commitments with painting his son’s bedroom and directing builders who are currently working on his house. It becomes apparent that he does everything in his life at breakneck speed.
A veritable whirlwind, Jim doesn’t do things by halves and despite admitting to having a few heart attacks and spinal surgery, he lives life to the full. In his spare time, he loves working on classic cars; he has a black belt in three martial arts disciplines, he can play the saxophone and the piano and enjoys spending time with his wife, six children and numerous dogs.
When he does make time to stop for a breath, Jim reveals that the ‘overnight success’ that he is currently enjoying has in fact been the result of a lifetime of hard work, dedication and talent that has been the hallmark of him as a man. He admits he and is always looking for the next challenge and never rests on his laurels. He is a high achiever with big ideals and he recognises the importance of playing just as hard as he works.
His journey began as a young child when he used to watch the US TV cop series Hill Street Blues in the 1980s with his dad on a Sunday evening at their home and he would dream of being a police officer.
Despite this dream, when he left school he began a seven year apprenticeship in engineering and started to show promise at a young age. He was managing a Mercedes Benz production line when he was just 21. His Mauritian-born mother was a nurse and his Norfolk-born father was in the forces and he jokes he is one of the very few people he knows who is ‘half Mauritian-half Norfolk’. You can’t help but think that being unique was imprinted into his DNA from the start.
Looking back over those early days, Jim reflects: ‘My big aim in life was that I wanted to become a police officer. I fulfilled my dream at just 22 when I realised that I didn’t want to stand in a factory smelling of oil and that I wanted to join the police and make a real difference. I joined in the early 90s and never looked back. I always say that even though I’m no longer a working police officer that I’ll always be a would-be cop wanting to make a difference.’
He began his career at Suffolk Constabulary working in uniform and after two years transferred to CID and quickly began working on Hi-Tech Crime investigations. He jokes that he was considered an expert in computer crime at that time as he’d managed to fix his bosses computer! He also played an active part in police life and was deputy chair of the force Black Police Association and has continued to champion diversity and opportunity for all throughout his life.
He is a great believer in the universe presenting you with your destiny and then leaving it up to you to make choices and your own luck.
‘Looking back now, it was obvious that those early days were to be very significant in my life and laid the foundations for my current work.’
Jim spent 15 years in the police service helping to establish the early hi-tech crime units and experienced many challenges along the way including lack of resources and having to make his way through a mountain of red tape and archaic ways of working which he could see was hampering effective working.
This led him to be part of a start-up called 7Safe which saw him build and establish external labs that were used by forces for their digital investigation and e-discovery work at a time when digital evidence was just beginning to feature heavily in major crime investigations.
After selling the company, he joined technology company Nuix as CEO of the EMEA region with a remit of taking the company’s e-discovery platform and encourage it to be used by frontline investigators as well as hi-tech crime staff so that it would be truly embedded into the digital investigation process from start to finish. Although this is now standard practice, at the time it was an innovative idea that was ahead of its time.
‘I went to Nuix wanting to empower the investigator to take charge of their own, growing amounts of digital evidence and this was borne out very much by my own experiences as an investigator. I knew only too well what it was like to do the job and how challenging it could be.
‘I’ve always used that experience to underpin my work firstly with 7Safe and Nuix and then BlackRainbow. I will always be someone that looks at the problems, issues and opportunities very much from an operational policing perspective.’
His career at Nuix continued to rise with a spell working in the US as CEO of Nuix in North America before deciding that he wanted a new challenge.
Following his departure from Nuix, Jim continued to engage with the many contacts he’d established in law enforcement circles who were sharing with him the challenges they were facing in digital investigations in particular the fact the whole process was disjointed and that ways of working were still very much based around using white boards, spread sheets and cumbersome digital forensics case management platforms.
‘It struck me that the problems these investigators were facing hadn’t changed since my time in the police and I began thinking of ways in which I could address these ongoing issues.’
As a result, BlackRainbow was born and saw Jim teamed up with his friend Morgan Sheehy to start the company. He started from a position of looking at the current problems and using his experience as an investigator to establish effective solutions.
The NIMBUS case management system followed soon after and the emphasis of the company from the outset was to build a system that was configurable and agile enough to evolve and adapt to emerging challenges.
Jim admits he designed NIMBUS in his garden shed on a white board and although it started with humble beginnings, he has big plans to continue to develop it even further to reflect the growing complexity of the digital landscape in law enforcement and the corporate world.
NIMBUS has successfully streamlined the Investigation management process and saved valuable time and money leading to more efficient investigations and an enviable customer base that would have taken most companies double or even treble the time to establish.
One of the most important aspects of NIMBUS, alongside the numerous capabilities, is that the disclosure process is built in and every bit of information such as a statement or exhibit is recorded in a co-ordinated way enabling investigators to see the bigger picture and be provided with an effective audit trail that meets ISO standards.NIMBUS recognises the importance of providing an integrated quality management system that underpins case management.
Jim has big plans for Black Rainbow including moving NIMBUS forward with project Shadow a complex and major incident investigation platform to allow all roles in an investigation to interact in one dynamic, live environment whether using the current NIMBUS forensic submission portal, mobile crime scene capability, investigative case management or workflow elements, to name a few.
He cites his main strength as a CEO as being a great motivator of people and says that supporting and galvanising his staff is a key part of his role. He praises the BlackRainbow team for their energy, commitment and enthusiasm to achieving such great results in a short time.
‘I tell my team that I genuinely want it to be the last job they will ever have, need or want and people come here to be part of a mission and a team that has something to achieve.
‘We encourage a flexible way of working that gives people freedom to express themselves and innovate.’
His energy and enthusiasm are evident when he talks with great passion about his work and his life and says he intends to continue innovating and living life to the full for as long as he can.
In attempting to find out more about Jim as the personality behind the CEO we asked him to name four people living or dead that he would like to invite to a dinner party. He chose boxer Mike Tyson, former fashion designer and classic car collector Magnus Walker, the late actor and martial arts expert Bruce Lee and late racing driver Ayrton Senna as his companions.
He tells us that all of these remarkable characters have inspired him in business and in his personal life in that they have all displayed flair, talent and a passion and enthusiasm to succeed as well as overcoming considerable adversity along the way.
Looking to the future, Jim is clear about his mission for Black Rainbow.
‘I want to continue to bring the digital world into the usable hands of all law enforcement. I want to build the most scalable and fastest investigative platform on the planet and I want to get our logo onto a Formula One car. I think we’ll manage to achieve the first aim in the next three years, but I think the other goal might take me a bit longer!
‘My mantra is to drive forward, keep pushing forward, keep the faith and keep chasing that dream and eventually it will be realised.’
Dr Jim Kent