DEEP TECH FOUNDER LIFE LESSONS
It’s no secret that the journey of a startup can be challenging, uncertain and risky. For deep tech startups in particular that have long R&D cycles, long time-to-market and substantial capital needs, the stakes are even higher. Thankfully, however, there exists a vast community of founders who have ventured on the path, made many mistakes along the way and yet, successfully made it through bringing back some valuable lessons learned.
So let’s hear from these fellow deep tech founders – or as we call them, Deep Tech Pioneers – about the 5 most common mistakes you should avoid as you continue on your own startup journey.
1. Not dedicating enough time to learn about your target market and how your product fits.
- David Medina, Director & Co-founder at SynCell Biotechnology: One big mistake is not accounting for market receptiveness of your product and also, underestimating the importance of taking care of your initial potential customers.
- Robert Bruell, CEO at FibreCoat: Focusing only on the technology while ignoring the market. I think early feedback from potential customers is especially relevant for deep tech startups.
- Ran Bar-Yosef, CEO at Spectralics: Deep tech startups often don’t prioritize gaining enough understanding of the clients’ requirements nor the path to scale and productization.
- Robert Wood, Sales and Marketing Executive at New Motion Labs: Going into sales conversations without first having discovery conversations. This was a mistake because it meant showing our proof to our customers and trying to get them to accept it, instead of first tailoring the proof to their needs. Along with that, there is also often the problem of being unable to explain the product or technology to your target customers.
We previously published an article discussing exactly this problem and how you can use the “Jobs to be done” theory to design a product that will have a better chance of addressing your target market. Check it out here.
2. Waiting for the “perfect time” to launch your company or to take the next big step.
- Samantha Snabes, Co-founder at re:3D: If you’re building something, try not to hold onto it for too long. For example, if you look at our Kickstarter campaign, our first product looked kind of ugly but that was ok. People knew we were in the early stages and they were excited about the technology. So if you’re able to do crowdfunding and launch at a live or virtual event, I would encourage it. It really helps because the event organizers buy into you and support you. For example, the reason we’re printing from garbage today is because of the funds we received from Hello Tomorrow, the feedback we heard and the opportunities to meet with big companies at that event.
- Sena Nomak, Co-founder & COO at RS Research: We have a pipeline of 5 drug candidates and have succeeded in bringing Turkey’s first ever IND-approved candidate to clinic in May 2021. We were able to achieve this thanks to the construction and certification of our clinical batch size GMP facility in March 2021. It was surprising to see how much pace we gathered once we had the ability to manufacture our own drugs for the trial sites as well as to proceed with R&D activities for the rest of our pipeline. Completing our facility much earlier would have given us more advantage in our studies.
3. Not having the right mindset when it comes to building your team.
- Gilles Hamou, CEO & Co-founder at UPMEM: I missed an important recruitment in the US because I was afraid that I would be exposing the person to too much risk, and possibly not provide him with the best employment conditions. While as a seasoned entrepreneur, I have a huge acceptance for risk, I still have a little too much reluctance to expose newcomers to the full extent of risks that come with working for a deep tech startup.
- Xiaoxi Wei, Founder & CEO at X-Therma: Truly build the team you enjoy working with, not only based on resumes. Even if the candidate has the most prestigious resume and even if they come from your friendship zone, you still need to do your due diligence. That will help to ensure that you are building a trustworthy team so you won’t feel alone and can feel confident working together.
- Alejandro Tocigl, Co-Founder & CEO at Miroculus: The impact of the people you work with is understated. When it comes to building teams, we tend to surround ourselves with people that are similar to us because we feel more comfortable. I would advise the opposite. Recruit people that are very different to you in terms of the way they think, their backgrounds and their experiences, but very similar to you in the core values they live by. There’s gonna be many difficult moments in a startup where those values are going to be tested, again and again. From what I’ve seen, companies whose founding team share the same values do a lot better than companies whose core values are not aligned.
4. Not building your support network from the start.
- Samantha Snabes, Co-founder at re:3D: Take advantage of accelerator opportunities, even if you don’t get in or decide not to do it in the end. Just actively writing down your idea is really helpful. You’ll also be sharing it with people that are reviewing the application and their partners who can provide feedback. If you get into the program, you’ll be surrounded by this great energy of people building together at the same time, you’ll meet peers who may become future teammates and you’ll get access to their networks. And if you don’t get in, it’s also okay. We apply for things and get rejected everyday. That’s how you learn – you can see how people perceive your product and your company and what the trends are.
- Alejandro Tocigl, Co-Founder & CEO at Miroculus: As soon as you can, build collaborations with key opinion leaders in your space. They can really make a difference in guiding the design of your startup and can really help your company to succeed.
5. Working till you burn out.
- Xiaoxi Wei, Founder & CEO at X-Therma: The startup journey can be lonely and long. As a founder, I am always on the go and feel like I don’t have enough time to breathe. Today, I would say to myself it’s ok to take some time to breathe, slow down, adjust and then, pick up the pace again.
We want to hear from you too!
For our next article, we’re exploring the pros and cons of startups collaborating with fellow startups. Share your thoughts in this 2-min survey & you could be published in our next article!