We’re starting a new feature on our blog, presenting a group of five snapshots – of research, technologies and startups with something in common, such as the scientific domain of the research underlying their technology or the markets their applications relate to.
Let’s start with some super young companies in advanced materials:
Technology-development company, whose expertise and intellectual property will help industry-scale producers of light metals, specifically magnesium,and technical ceramics lower their production costs and reduce their harmful emissions.
A super-hydrophobic nano-particle coating based on an ALD/CVD deposition process of alumina. Developed as a conformal coating for protecting printed circuit boards from water damage. Products coated with this composite film exhibit excellent resilience when exposed to aqueous solutions. The nano-particle based film has a tunable durability such that the coating can be applied directly over electrical connectors without masking thus offering unique protection over entire assemblies.
Ligar Polymers develops Molecularly Imprinted Polymers (MIPs) to filter, extract or detect specific molecules of interest. Polymers designed to remove very specific molecules from a flow, even at ppb levels and they can be designed to work in a wide range of fluids, temperatures, pH ranges, flow rates and pressures. The filtration technology solves painful contamination problems and extracts valuable molecules, increasing sales and reducing costs.
Gecko’s feet are covered in millions of tiny hairs that give them their impressive climbing ability. nanoGriptech produces synthetic microfibers that attach to and grip to surfaces by attraction on a molecular scale, like geckos. Out of these microfibers nanoGriptech manufactures glue-free adhesives that are reusable and residue-free, fasteners that are flexible, silent, and hermetic, and high friction materials that perform even when wet or oily, all with customizable strength (shear/peel, directional).
Revolution Fibres is an advanced materials company and a global leader in manufacturing nanofibres using electro spinning machines and designing commercial nanofibre products. Nanofibres have many incredible physical properties, and are very marketable. Revolution Fibres has the infrastructure, the expertise and a commercial track record turning nanofibre into products.
Inside seedsprint, industry subscribers aren’t limited to a blurb and a website link. In about a 3-minute read – subscribers get a compact, non-confidential summary. It’s not only very informative and way more efficient than visiting or scraping websites, it lets users reach out to each potential partners if they want to go further. From secure messaging seedsprint goes on to provide online deal process tools – from NDA negotiation to data room access. No intermediaries and no transaction fees.
seedsprint is free for scientific research organizations, incubators and young companies, and available at a fixed rate subscription for corporate use.
Like you, we understand the advantage that an industry partner can bring to emerging technology startups, and how it can accelerate market entry and get traction. Unlike funding from VCs or angel investors, industry partners bring crucial resources to the table: scale-up experience for manufacturing, direct knowledge of the ecosystem from its own presence in the market, along with regulatory expertise, if relevant, and access to critical 1st customer relationships.
We know you don’t need convincing about the benefits of industry collaboration, so it’s less a question of if, and rather more about how to find the right partner and negotiate a good deal.
In trying to level the playing field, negotiating with a big company is already a challenge for any innovative, young firm. However, for young companies with IP based emerging technology from scientific research, finding the right industry partner and working out a collaboration agreement brings additional twists in the road along on the way to achieving the acceleration and market traction.
Before launching seedsprint, from extensive experience with emerging technology teams and industry we developed a number of practical insights about finding prospective collaboration partners.
In terms of teeing things up and starting the dialogue, here are five important things to do that can help you get there more efficiently:
1. First, map your gaps – it’s hard to fill them unless you can name them
For an partnership between and early-stage technology company and an industry partner to really pay off, it needs to work for both sides. While that’s true for financial investors, the goals are more straightforward: they put in money and seek a 10x return, via a trade sale or IPO. But prospective industry partners aren’t looking to hand you $500K or $1 million and walk away with a $10 million gain on a sale. They’re doing it out of strategic interest, with the goal of using your technology in their products for the markets they serve, rather than for financial gains.
For both sides, the “fit” is king. First, you need to work out the broad areas of your development plan. If raising money, a financial investor wants to know what you’ll do with the funds and what your timeline is. Strategic partners want to know that too, but rather than simply financing your development, e.g., the purchase of equipment, hiring consultants or funding a lease, they can make in-kind contributions of valuable resources. These can be cheaper and faster to get than by raising money and converting it to what you need. You also get things that are tough to, i.e., not just physical equipment or analytical services, but 1st customers, regulatory knowledge, scale-up insights and so forth. First do yourselves a favor and do a real gap analysis and figure out what you need that a partner can bring to the table directly.Below is a link to an example of a one-page results summary for an H2 storage technology company.
2. Think (and write) like an industry tech scout to present your company or technology
Tech scouts are bombarded with technology offerings and exciting new inventions. Another densely written, 5-page technology and business description, with 10 pages of back-up slides may not get the message across in order to get a dialogue going.
Explain product’s value proposition, the needs it fills, and what it replaces in the market
The most effective way to get tech scouts attention is to give them specific examples of how you improve on existing market solutions. Use an attention grabber – a simple statement that impresses and supports why your technology/company deserves a deeper look. Within the constraints of non-confidential information, don’t be afraid to get very technical about what makes your technology so good, and how it’s different.
Clearly state the development stage – proof-of concept, lab results, market-ready, and so forth. Don’t forget to mention what markets are you targeting and how large they are. It’s good to mention the advantages your technology has over the status quo and competitors. Note regulatory requirements to be met, if any, to bring your technology to market. State achieved milestones nice and loud, including any funding or awards received and any important publications – they are great proof of your commitment and help validate your concept and business model. Don’t be shy!
Make your collaboration goal nice and clear, put that gap analysis you did to work for you
Finding the right industry partner for an emerging technology company is much more like dating than finding VC money, and don’t forget why: prospective industry partners are interested in long-term strategic benefits from the technology. Make sure they really know what’s so great about what you have, and what you want from an industry partner. Though it may be obvious to you from your gap analysis, it won’t be to them.
You can talk about the funding you’re looking for, but unless you connect it to development tasks so that a tech scout can understand it – you’re missing a huge opportunity. Keep the collaboration goal simple to reflect what your want to achieve from the partnership – look at the gap analysis you did, e.g., seeking a partner to test integration of your product or material into finished good.
Limit your text
Be merciless with editing text: make your message lean and mean – and get it on a page – okay maybe two. No one has the time to read through lots of text – especially if they’re not yet sure about the potential fit. Stick to bullet points whenever possible (and not six lines long!), and make liberal use of tables, graphs and images.
3. Compile that potential partner list
Most startups can produce an overwhelmingly long list in 20 minutes; the trick is to put those companies in order of likeliness of a fit. If you’re not sure and it’s a guess, go with it. Then take your list and do some research on each of their websites. It’s not just hard factors like areas of interests, targeted markets, key innovation resources, but also their vision and culture – very important, yet often forgotten factors. See where they have research relationships, or from where they have licensed in technology. It will not only be easier to collaborate with people who share your values, but you might also avoid potential misunderstandings.
4. Protect your IP
Trust is a very important part of every successful partnership, but at the same time you need to make sure that your IP is properly protected. Never disclose any sensitive information before signing an NDA. If you’re affiliated with an institution, ask the Technology Transfer Office if they have a ready-to-go form or download our free form of mutual (two-way) NDA to be used with prospective partners.
5. Figure out the best way to reach them
Tech scouts come in all stripes, but they are often very hard to get through. Use any common point you have, shared contacts via LinkedIn, industry associations, academic connections and so forth.
When a partnership has been launched regular meetings should be scheduled to allow strong two-way communication between you and your industry partner. Follow-ups and feedback is a best way to avoid failure of the partnership you spent so much time establishing. We’ll post more on this later. Any questions? Just drop us a note.Share this: