Technology is worthless . . .
UNLESS someone can translate it into products or services that make a practical difference in people's lives.
Learning how to make that translation is the key to making your company more attractive to strategic partners and potential investors.
Let's begin with a potential scenario –
You've been working on your research diligently. You've come up with a technology that has application in over a dozen fields of use. You've collaborated with colleagues at several other universities and have published multiple papers on your findings. You try to get the attention of large companies and substantial investors – but no one seems interested?
Does that sound familiar? What's missing?
Some of the issues and elements that are missing will be the subjects of this two-part series.
In general, the role of a startup is to de-risk technologies, find out what works and what doesn't, reload quickly and refine your approach until you're successful. It's important to show focus on the one or two ideas that make the most sense – largest patient population or customer market, or if a small population, ability to get to market quickly while working on other products or focus on premium pricing. Investors become nervous when an entrepreneur seems to see an endless supply of diverse opportunities. They will be asking themselves “where will my money actually be spent?”
That brings us to the second topic – who will get the work done and how likely is it to be done successfully. Having a committed entrepreneur is a start but there's more that's required. Creating a team with complementary skills is key. There will be much to do and one person can seldom handle all the tasks alone. Where the team is not yet in place, explain your thinking about how you will populate your team with the skillsets needed for success.
And what about large companies as strategic partners? A startup needs to realize that getting to the ultimate decision-maker may take time. Find the person or persons in the organization for whom your “solution” is the answer to the problem they've been charged with solving. They can be your internal allies. You'll need their help to negotiate the obstacle course that major decisions require. Be prepared to give your presentation time and time again.
Be very concise at the start of every presentation. You may be enthralled by the technology. But, based on the findings of Dr. Curtis Carlson, former CEO of SRI International and a member of the National Academy of Investors, I'd say that most investors are interested in five key questions:
What is the need to be addressed?
Who, where and how numerous are the potential customers and stakeholders?
What's your approach to solving the market need?
What are the benefits and costs of your solution?
What is the competition?
Tailor the rest of your presentation to your audience. Obviously, more technical detail can be given to technology-oriented audiences. But don't assume that other audiences want to know – or will appreciate – all the details of your technology.
If you follow the suggestions above, you can increase your chances of garnering the attention of potential strategic partners and investors and bring to fruition the technology you are developing.
Check back for Part 2 of the series. In it, I'll explain the difficulties inherent in the scenario I described at the beginning of this piece – and how to handle those issues more successfully.
Until then, keep innovating!!