The classic SETsquared member company is a small technical team with some promising technology that needs help in developing a business strategy – customer proposition, sales channels, pricing strategy etc. Once the strategy is in place, we can help companies develop their “pitch deck,” that communicates that strategy to potential investors with all the necessary details on Problem, Solution, Market, Business Model, Competition, Team and Plan. We organise pitching competitions for our companies to present to investors – these competitions are inevitably somewhat artificial but the ability to get across what your company is about clearly and concisely in a minute or two is a key skill for any entrepreneur. But the most important thing to convey is that your idea is EXCITING! If you can’t excite people, nothing much is going to happen with investors – or sales channel partners, customers, and potential employees.
Be exciting, be bold
So what makes a startup tech business exciting? Most of all, in my opinion, it is the fundamental strength and potential scale of the idea – the bigger the better! At SETsquared, we generally don’t “do the tech” in terms of helping with the specific technology (although we can introduce you to mentors and others who certainly can), but we do challenge entrepreneurs on their technology and product strategies to squeeze as much innovation value and business resilience out of the technology as possible.
Critiquing your product architecture to review, for example what runs on local devices and what runs in Cloud, or where machine learning approaches could bring additional value, challenges businesses to be innovative, and also may help with business strategy in terms of how easily and rapidly you can scale, and what new revenue streams you might be able to develop over time. We will also brainstorm other possible applications and markets with members, e.g. understanding alternative markets to open up choices for you, seeking to dominate smaller markets to build strength before you tackle bigger markets with stronger competitors. This stretches you to innovate more and builds resilience into your overall business plan, and if you have multiple potential applications then you have a bigger idea!
Don’t forget to innovate through your business
Tech teams often focus exclusively on innovating the technical idea, but innovation in your business model can have a doubly potent effect. In Ubiquisys, the company I co-founded, we figured out the technology to separate hardware costs and risks from our software in our secure embedded telecoms product. This allowed us to create many more products with more manufacturing partners at low financial risk, whilst securing the highly profitable software revenue stream. This strategy was so effective that all our competitors had to copy it! If you can harmonise technology and business strategy like this, your idea becomes much more disruptive and powerful, and therefore more exciting!
From my experience at Ubiquisys, building a big idea is unlikely to come from a lightbulb moment in the shower – although lightbulb moments are certainly part of it. Instead, it is a process of constant work, stretching, honing, and crafting, often in response to new competitors or customer challenges – we were always at our most creative when our backs were against the wall! It is also a team process – getting everyone in the company to feel they are part of it. Hard, creative work is powerful in terms of both the work output and the way it forms the culture of a startup company that lives or dies on its ability to innovate. And finally, it is a statement of – and indeed a product of – ambition; everyone in the company believes the idea is big and getting bigger, and that confidence and excitement should find a reward with investors and customers.
Read Rick Chapman’s Blog ‘It’s all about the people…’