This week, the Spark Festival’s ‘The Spin on Spin-Outs’ event showcased five spinout founders who have commercialised research from CSIRO’s Data61.
As founders of new technology-based spin-outs, they discussed what it took to transition from researchers to entrepreneurs, and offered advice on accessing the funding and support required to commercialise research.
We’ve brought you the top tips on launching a successful spinout, from both spinout founders and investors at the event.
Meet the spinout founders;
- Dr Silvia Pfeiffer is CEO and cofounder of Coviu, a platform that provides universal access to healthcare.
- Dr Stefan Hrabar is CEO and cofounder of Emesent, a company formed to commercialise cutting edge drone technology developed by CSIRO’s Data61 Robotics Group, providing access to critical data in challenging underground environments.
- Dr Anna Liu is Head of Public Sector Partnerships at Amazon Web Services. She founded and was CEO of Yuruware, the world’s first Disaster Recovery platform designed to simplify the migration, replication and disaster recovery process.
- Pete Field is founder of Ayvri, a company using 3D virtual world technology to enable participants in major sporting and adventure events like RedBull’s Wings For Life to preview their adventure and to visualise their race in 3D through live tracking.
- Matt Barbuto founded Ynomia, a platform that digitises realworld construction projects enabling builders to have visibility over what is moving in and out of the construction site.
Advice from the Founders: How to make the leap into a spinout.
Join accelerator programs;
CSIRO’s On Accelerator, and Data 61’s many platforms exist to prepare researchers and their research projects for commercialisation. The programs offer mentors, advisors, and the opportunity to gain entrepreneurial skills. Accelerators “focus you on on your business model,” says Pfeiffer, and “help sort out who are the people that are ready and willing to go out and start a business.”
Accelerators can also be the place to make the right connections. “We got to know some amazing investors and advisors through the ON program,” says Hrabar. “They had seen the journey we’d gone through and understood where we had come from and lined up well from the investment point of view.”
- Choose the right people to build business relationships.
Get support from others. “You don’t need to be an expert in everything,” says Barbuto. “Knowing your strengths and knowing where you need other people to come in and help – that’s your job as a CEO,” Field agrees.
Seek mentorship from your Board members, and choose investors for what they can bring to benefit you, says Liu. “I wasn’t interested in taking just money because I was looking for business growth advice.”
Get comfortable giving a sales pitch.
Speaking sales can be quite a shift in mindset for a researcher. Be prepared to transition from ‘precise’ researcher, to ‘predictive’ sales person.
“Researchers are taught to be very thorough in everything you do. Creating a start-up is more about predicting the future and there is no hard data. You are making things up,” says Pfeiffer. Be assured that investors understand that it is always a guess when you are talking about markets. You need to be comfortable selling your best guess.
Advice from the Investors: How to impress with your pitch.
In the second half of the event, the panel was joined by investment managers Martin Duursma from Main Sequence Ventures, and Natasha Rawlings from Uniseed.
Here are their best tips for researchers wanting to impress an investor;
Know your customers;
Investors want to see that you understand your customer, says Duursma. “Please go out and network in the industry, and ask about their big problems. Go to trade shows, walk the floor, cold call, join associations. Figure out if you’re solving a problem the customer actually has, and if they want your solution.”
Speak about your business model;
Talk to investors about the business side of your start-up, not just the tech. “What we really like hearing about is money,” says Rawlings. “Who is your customer? What is your product? How much are you selling it for? What is the margin on that? How many of these things do you think you can sell?” These are the ‘boxes to tick’ to secure a second meeting with an investor.
Follow up and follow through;
Investors are looking for signals about you, so be sure to follow through on any promises you make. “If the researcher says ‘yes I’ll get this thing to you by the end of the week, if that thing doesn’t happen, that’s a bad signal,” said Duursma.
“You’ve got to be easy to work with,” said Rawlings. “If you are not easy to work with we probably can’t invest in you no matter how good your tech is.”
– Carmen Spears
This event was hosted by Inspiring Australia as part of the 2018 Spark Festival.
To see more events from the Spark Festival program click here.
To learn more about Inspiring Australia’s activities and achievements click here.