November 19, 2018
Most start-up incubators provide the reasons why you should join their in-residence programs whilst we at TandemLaunch have provided you with the how. What we do is we turn research from the world’s best universities into exceptional consumer technology companies. Here are some of our reasons why you should join our Entrepreneur-in-Residence program.
A staggering number of great, inventive ideas are born at universities every year (not a surprise considering that universities take the lion share of government R&D investment). Technologies in the ivory tower can leave through two general routes: directly to large established companies, or spun out in the vehicle of a startup. Many deep-technology innovations simply can’t go directly to large companies. There exists too large a gap between the state of the research and where those companies need it to be to effectively develop it internally. It is in these cases where the startup is often the only option. Over the past 15 years, 70% of US university licenses were sold to startups and small companies.
The startup route, however, is far from easy. You are going to run into problems ranging from finding effective co-founders, securing significant funding, and building a network of mentors. All while taking your very early-stage research prototype to a product that your target market wants. Only about 10% of startups survive these trials to secure follow-on financing, but it doesn’t need to be this way. At TandemLaunch, we have found a systematic way to reduce the risk equation and maximize your success, and as a result, 90% of our companies successfully secure follow-on financing. In this article, we’re going to let you in on some of the reasons why TandemLaunch companies are so flexible, resilient, and competitive.
How to Find Co-Founders?
One of the biggest misconceptions of commercializing technology is that all deep-tech founders need to have is a great idea or a great technology, and that’s everything you really need. If you can just make people understand how good your technology is, then everyone is going to want it, fund it, and pay you for it. That is simply not true. There is a huge gap between the invention itself and what your industrial customers are looking for – if that wasn’t true, many more technologies would just transfer directly to them right out of universities!
Here’s a very familiar scenario. The students of a research group develop some fantastic work, perhaps a research prototype that gets a lot of people interested and asking questions. These students band together as co-founders and incorporate Fantastic Idea Inc. In the course of this, they look for co-founders equally excited by their technology, building a team of individuals who share the same passion and aspiration to see their technology change the world. Unfortunately, one other thing they tend to share is experience and background. They all like doing the same things, and more problematically, dislike all the same things. The key decision makers of the company are entirely focused on the invention, rather than the company behind it. This lack of diversity is crippling, needless mistakes are made and opportunities are missed due to limited perspectives.
At TandemLaunch, we plug in founders to create diversity by assembling a team based on individual merit. Founders join TandemLaunch as individuals and come together as teams without pre-existing attachments. Merit and credibility are the driving forces of recruitment and people are only unified by their shared desire to build a great company. This avoids an astounding amount of drama they might encounter down the line when things get stressful.
How to Find Mentors?
Mentorship in the startup world is a necessity. In a 2014 study by the MicroMentor program, 42% of a group of would-be startups launched if they had mentors, only 29% launched of those that did not. Finding suitable mentors, however, is easier said than done when you’re alone. Mentors provide startup founders with guidance, validation, and structure. Universities have done a great job of providing innovation infrastructure for their entrepreneurial students, including training and office resources. However, nothing compares to full-time, hands-on, domain specialized mentorship. That kind of mentorship is expensive, and inaccessible to most universities in all but a few domains at any given time.
TandemLaunch was founded by a serial entrepreneur of the consumer electronics industry. Since then, rather than spread itself across disparate industries, TandemLaunch has focused on building a powerful internal knowledge-base and domain expertise in the consumer applications field. Every company we build benefits from the collective knowledge of the companies before it. Our focus on deep technology has built us a powerful network of academic fellows who share their knowledge with our founders, resulting in creative solutions to problems and insights that lead to new opportunities for product development. How to engage customers and what those customers expect from you can differ dramatically across industries. That sort of domain-specific knowledge is really hard to come by for an independent startup, and we have concentrated it here.
How to Find Funding?
One thing that we have learned over the years is that in order to succeed in commercializing deep-tech, you need to throw a lot of money at it.
Finding enough capital is another problem that independent founders encounter. A common misconception that inventors have is that raising money for a startup is like getting money through a grant. Investors don’t fund inventions, they fund companies, and if they don’t see the foundations of a company in place, you’ll never get the funding you need to get your invention into the world. One sad consequence of this misconception is that many university startups end up being no more than incorporated research groups instead of exceptional companies.
There are very few places that will invest $600,000 into a non-existing business. That might sound risky, but that’s where we can wield our hands-on daily mentorship network, founder recruitment process and domain expertise to reduce most of that risk. Our venture development teams work closely with industry to find solutions to their most exciting problems. When you start with that kind of technology-market fit, you’re already at a great advantage.
Now you know why you should join the program but why is the program right for you?
Because you are extremely passionate about building a successful company and you are not here just because you’re bored with your current career. You are goal-oriented, a strong leader with an inventive attitude, a critical thinker and not scared of hard work.