Deep tech founders, most people don’t understand, the rest don’t believe you
There is a shock when deep tech startup founders emerge from a couple of years focusing on the product behind the closed doors of a lab.
Glazed eyes look at you as your try to describe your solution.
It takes much longer than you thought to raise money.
Customers are not convinced that they need it.
The logic to stay focussed on the technology is intuitive. It feels wasteful to be in public with the company until there is something to show.
Most don’t understand your invention, the rest just don’t believe you
Inventions that change the world are often difficult to describe. When people do eventually understand, it sounds like magic so much that they don’t believe you.
When I first met the Future Feed team, they had some science that used Asparagopsis to reduce ruminant enteric methane production in vitro.
This is incredible research and the words above are scientifically accurate. I needed to spend considerable time understanding what this meant.
When we understand what something can do enough to see the value, we want to get behind it. This feed supplement is fed to cows and reduces methane emissions (mostly burping not farting!) by up to 99% in an industry that produces a third of human produced green house gas emissions.
When farmers, regulators, food producers, retailers, consumers understand this they want it. They want to buy. They want to invest. They start coming to you. The more engagement from one of these groups, the more interest from others — and the wheel starts to turn.
Get out of the lab and build the rest of the company… as well.
Building a public interface to the company from the very first day is the way to harness this.
It does not need to be the majority of your resource commitment.
There are 3 areas at a minimum where I suggest you dedicate some resource.
#1: Know what you look & feel like as a company. Even if you are in ‘stealth-mode’, have a website with a look & feel that shows you will be a force to be reckoned with. Be beautiful. Be enticing. Be bold. Wherever your company appears in the media, on the web, on social media — what does your audience think when they ‘see you’?
Hire a designer early, or work with an agency to get a visual identity you can apply everywhere in a consistent way.
#2: Know what you say as a company. Find the words that you use, know your audience and discover how to sound instantly valuable. Then start putting it out there. When you meet people, in your social media profile, on your website.
Create your messaging playbook early, or work with an agency to build one with you.
#3: Start business development today. Speak to customers about what you are trying to do. It doesn’t matter if the technology is work-in-progress. Have a contact us form on your website, even if it is just sending an auto responder (with your messaging playbook) and you are collecting contacts early.
Meeting customers while you build will also show you WHAT to build specifically.
This is my most common difference of opinion with people working in deep tech ventures. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts. I am @philmorle on Twitter.
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