Archive for the ‘startups’ Category

Thoughts from Digital Catapult Wearables Session – How to Find Your Route To Market

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Dominic Pride

At Digital Catapult’s Digital Health Festival earlier this month, Dominic Pride spoke on a panel giving his views on “Execution and Taking Your Product To Market.” Below is a summary of his thoughts.

Imagine you’ve developed a wearable or other piece of technology which can deliver significant medical benefits. Chances are you’re now looking to get this in the hands of users as quickly as possible.CmHfzpQWMAAfOmG
Standing before you in the UK are two potential routes to market.  You have the choice of spending your
limited time and energy trying to get to procured by the NHS, or choosing to go “direct” to consumer.

Access to public sector trials, funding, acceleration and decision-makers is improving thanks to programmes such as ‘NHS Testbeds’, the ‘NHS Innovation Accelerator’ and initiatives such as the ‘Digital Health London.’ Access is becoming more transparent but still remains challenging for small companies.

By contrast, going direct to consumer is something of a misnomer, as you will need commercial distribution channels.  If you’re looking to speak to insurers, retailers and private health companies, a quick search of LinkedIn can easily provide you with a first point of contact and even a picture of your contact.  These companies are also increasingly engaging with UK startups through accelerators and innovation programmes.

The challenge we’ve identified for most companies at this stage is not securing the first meeting.  It’s what to say in that first meeting that will guarantee that you’re invited back for the second.

A breakthrough in the wearables market will undoubtedly rely heavily on the team’s knowledge of medicine,
engineering and industrial product design.  Getting to a prototype or a commercially viable product will have required the team to develop a high degree of definition in these areas.

No surprise then, that when it comes to discussing strategic partnerships or commercial collaboration, there is a knowledge gap around how to move conversations with these companies forward.
It’s tempting at this point to “hand everything over to a suit” and hire a business development exec. While such a hire will be a natural consequence of commercial success, it is also a time-consuming and high-risk approach before you bag your first deal.

Instead, you can also equip yourself and your team with the necessary skill sets to succeed. To do this you can borrow some tools from scientific research and product development.  Here are some low-cost and no-cost tools which you can employ to increase your chance of success.

  1. Build an evidence base. Understand and know the company you are talking to. Find out what motivates them and what their current priorities are, especially around digital initiatives.  Research the person you are speaking to, what they have previously written about and what motivates them on a personal and professional level.
  2. Have a value hypothesis. Be prepared to talk about how your product can create value in financial terms for one part of the organisation you are talking to.  Will it ultimately result in lower claims premiums, fewer re-admissions for a hospital trust or store traffic for a retailer?  Use free tools such as Dr. Paul Marsden’s Client Empathy Map to imagine your arguments.
  3. Plan for an outcome. A successful meeting will have an outcome, either in terms of a decision to progress, to refer to another part of the business, or to evaluate the suitability (or not) of your product.  Use tools such as Andrew Abela’s Think / Do Matrix to plan for what how want your potential partner to act after meeting you.

We have found that equipping teams with the skills and self-belief to approach commercial conversations can deliver significant advantages in the short-term.  The process of finding, hiring and briefing an effective commercial exec takes valuable time, mental effort and emotional investment, and is more appropriate for a well-funded operation which is scaling.

At seed stage, empowering the team which developed the product to speak with authenticity and confidence in a commercial context is more likely to deliver an effective meeting which will lead to your technology ending up in the hands of (or on the wrists of) your target users.

Dominic Pride is Founder and Chief Instigator of The Sound Horizon, a market and service development consultancy working with pharmaceutical companies, digital services and wearables providers.



This article originally featured on The Digital Catapult Blog.

Why We’re Ditching Strategy – And Taking Up Business Hacking

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

We Say: “Our Upstart programme trashes traditional growth planning and uses an agile model for business planning.”

We’ve had enough.

No, really. It’s 2016. We’ve all seen how value is now being created outside of traditional industrial structures in high-growth companies using business models which are enabled by digital.

But theUpstart LOGO 0 01 copy process of planning for this growth hasn’t moved on.

If you’re taking iron ore and creating steel, or finished product such as cars, yes you need a strategic five year plan. Capacity and resources are all planned on an industrial scale. But what happens in the post industrial age when you want to scale up a digital product or service? Upstart Strategy Dead

Models such as Uber and Airb’n’b rely on extracting meaning from data, not extracting raw materials from the ground.

Planning in the knowledge economy is uncertain at best and at worst impossible. When you have no proof that the market even needs your product before it’s been conceived, you shouldn’t ever be planning in a traditional business planning way.

And when success does come, there’s little or nothing in the management textbooks about how to handle that exponential growth which digital services see when they hit the sweet spot of product / market fit.

So what to do?

Where does the start-up or scale-up business leader go for tools and frameworks?

Through our experience, we’ve learned from growth stage companies who are creating services rapidly. We implicitly understand their agility and ability to iterate and pivot quickly.

We see them applying the Build > Measure > Learn cycle to create services in a short space of time. And we’ve found that you can use the same approach for creating and iterating your strategy.

And that’s what Upstart is about.Product_Strategies

Working with small companies in different areas we’ve evolved a model which turns traditional strategy consulting on its head. Fundamental to this approach is breaking down the business of strategy into individual problems. And then solving them. One by one.

We believe this change in approach is as revolutionary to the development of high-growth companies as the application of agile tools has been to product development.

In coming weeks we’ll be sharing how we use low-cost and no-cost tools and techniques to create and reveal value. And how Lean Startup author Eric Ries views our approach.

Five (and a half) Things We Learned About Starting Up – From Wahanda’s CEO

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Failure, money, people and self-disruption are just part of the daily diet of a startup CEO. That was the message from the founder of Wahanda, the European startup which has established and dominated the market for online booking of hair and beauty appointments, now rebranded as Treatwell as of this week.

Lopo Champalimaud, Wahanda’s founder and CEO spoke to an audience of startup founders at an event organised by investor and accelerator Forward Partners, and touched on his success and failure in his diverse career. It’s one which includes doing online market research back in the dial-up of days of the mid-90s and crystallising the hair and beauty opportunity while working at Chances are you weren’t at the talk in London’s Old Street, so here are 5 just 1/2 things for startups which we think are worth writing home about.

1. It’s about people, people, people

The old retail maxim is that it’s all about location, location location. For start-ups, replace “location” with “people” and you’re pretty much on the money. “90% of an entrepreneurs job is to get better people around you. And keep them there” says Lopo.

2. Money is more than just money

When you’re bootstrapping an idea, it’s tempting to think that any money is good money. However the value of investors and the knowledge and contacts they bring is probably more important than the Dollars or Yen they bring to the table. “Money is not all the same colour” he said, explaining the majority sale to Japan’s Recruit Holdings last year.

3. Investors can be blind. Like really, really blind

WahandaOpportunity2 Once the market had been built, it was easy to see why Wahanda was an opportunity waiting to be capitalised on. Underused inventory in suppliers, strong and regular customer purchase patterns and a marked absence of digital tech facilitating transactions were key drivers for a market waiting to be disrupted. Investors, with biases towards what they knew, had a hard time getting it. “This was a 100bn Euro market but investors couldn’t see it. In music, billions have gone into it but the market is shrinking.

4. You can disrupt yourself while you’re disrupting others

Wahanda underwent three pivots in four years. The biggest change came in 2012 when the daily deals market, which had powered the company to growth since 2009 was in danger of running out with both suppliers and customers being promiscuous among different deal brands. Lopo convince the board that they needed to exit deals and move to a booking engine based product which he had been developing quietly in the background.

“We were killing 80% of our business” he says. “We did not have a booking business at that time. “ After a wholesale revamp of the management and operations, the revenue returned to where it was after eight months or so.

5. Market place businesses are difficult to build

While everyone chases “the next Uber or Airbnb” across beauty, health sport leisure and fitness, they need to understand the complexities and challenges of building a marketplace” business which he says is “almost always driven by supply.” Customer acquisition, merchant acquisition, tech and brand and among the key challenges these businesses face at the same time.

5 (1/2) People Again – A No “A**holes policy”

And lastly back to where we started, It’s about people but also how you treat them. Paraphrasing Jack Welch, “the worst people in (mainstream) businesses are the people who make the numbers but have the wrong attitude. They never get fired.” He has a strong no assholes hiring policy and empowers his hires. “if you hire people as adults you have to treat them like adults.”