The Materials Research Society (MRS) journal “MRS Innovation Source” has published an interesting case study of a materials start-up. Alan G. Brown, Executive Coordinator of the journal, follows Crystalplex, a quantum dot manufacturer, through the quest for finding an industrial partner, and for finding the right niche for the technology.
The article in the Innovation Source describes all the gory details of failure and success when starting a technology business. The main lessons are that one shouldn’t rely on private investment groups, but rather seek novel methods for commercialization. One possibility is to make a joint venture agreement with a company further down the production chain, which we’ve seen often in the graphene market. The second main lesson of the Crystalplex case is to focus on the business benefits when approaching large companies, rather than trying to explain all the details of your technology.
These lessons resonate strongly with what I heard yesterday in a talk about innovation given by Kenneth Morse here at ICFO. In his own words, Kenneth tried to teach us how to bring our research from the “cool comfort of the laboratory to the melting crucible of the marketplace”. One of the key points that he made was also to avoid spending your energy on seeking venture capital. The best source of start-up funding is in fact your first customer. To succeed, you must have a few clearly identifiable customers in mind from the onset, and you should work with them to bring the product to the market for the benefit of both parties.
A trap into which fresh entrepreneurs commonly fall is to try and explain to the potential financier the exciting technological breakthrough that they’ve made and the amazing effects this will have on the future of the world. What the entrepreneur should be doing really is talking about how much money the financier can make or save with the new technology. That means you have to crunch the numbers and show them.
Graphene is a disruptive technology, however a graphene start-up can learn from the experience of other groundbreaking technologies. There will be more discussion on this sort of topic on graphenetracker.com in the future. If you would like to contribute, please post a comment to this text.
MRS Innovation Source article: here
Kenneth Morse presentation similar to the one I’ve seen: here
Link on ICFO website: here