Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to take part in the US Polish Trade Council's Innovation HUB Program, where we spent two days with brilliant entrepreneurs launching their startups in Silicon Valley from virtual reality film-making to diabetes innovation. We spent our time together addressing their marketing strategies for US launch.
"The US-Polish Trade Council seeks to be your information technology and bio-technology bridge for building business relationships between the U.S. and Poland. To accomplish this goal, the USPTC works in partnership with a network of Polish and American organizations, including corporate, academic and government entities." - USPTC.org
The Innovation HUB Program concluded at the prestigious Stanford University, where the entrepreneurs pitched to distinguished judges in Silicon Valley from business leaders to angel investors.
We noted 20 questions from the panel one should think about when pitching and launching a product or service. Most of these questions were directed from Dr. Ronald Weissman, Chairman of the Band of Angels. The Band of Angels is Silicon Valley's oldest seed funding organization. They are a formal group of 150 former and current high tech executives who are interested in investing their time and money into new, cutting edge, startup companies and seeded over 277 companies. Here are the 20 things angel investors want to know:
- How will the funding you are seeking get you there?
- What specifically will you be doing with the funding?
- What is the customer acquisition cost?
- What is the long term value?
- What is your competitive advantage?
- What is your legal framework?
- How are you connecting with customers?
- What is the competitive landscape?
- How long is the sales process?
- What have you learned from your initial launch?
- What reactions are you getting from the potential partners?
- What have you done from an IP (intellectual property) standpoint?
- What is your survival strategy in a quick or slow market?
- What is your pricing strategy?
- Have you questioned the market?
- What do you do that is different?
- Would you consider going deeply vertical where others are not?
- What is your competitive differentiation?
- What is your go-to-market strategy?
- What are your lessons learned so far?
We hope these questions help you with your next pitch! The startups are detailed below by By Jeff Wallace, President of Global Kinetics. It was an honor to collaborate with these entrepreneurs. Keep an eye out for their successful launches in Silicon Valley and beyond.
Automater – this is an online shopping platform for selling digital products which is integrated to leading auction portals such as eBay, Aukro and Allegro. Automater allows users to sell products across all channels from one place. They have amassed over 10,000 sellers across the world and aim to help sellers sell 200% of sales goals. When questioned by the judges about such topics as customer acquisition costs, fulfillment and selling digital products, Mac Zielinski, COO/Co-Founder from Automater, fielded the questions with confidence and addressed some understanding of the differences between doing business in Poland and in the U.S.
APS Energia JSC – this renowned manufacturer of wide spectrum of power applications for various industry sectors such as oil & gas, transportation, telecommunications, mining and more, is more than 20 years old and operates in 6 countries across the globe. They strive to provide solutions that enhance the reliability and stability of energy supplies. Ireneusz Konarski, the Sales and Marketing Director, responded to judges about their expansion goals by stating that they are not seeking investors here in the U.S., but rather looking to expand their sales efforts to the U.S. marketplace and that given the 20+ years of experience, they believe they have superior products and better pricing capability to the competition.
Booke – this company developed the first ever companion application to search, create citations and annotate printed books. Furthermore, Booke’s smart app for phones or tablets allows users to interact, collaborate and otherwise socialize around actual books. It also gives authors, educators and publishers means to enhance the reading experience through the incorporation of video, audio, photo and text based content additions within the application. To date, they have secured Silicon Valley based pilot tests in both libraries and universities as well as obtaining excellent media coverage. Based on judges’ questions, Grażyna Szczepaniak, Co-Founder, described how current research continues to demonstrate that users still often prefer the physical book to an electronic alternative and that Booke is completely in compliance with fair use doctrine for copyrighted materials. All in all, they have developed something which enables readers to “experience a book” vs. merely reading it.
Circus Digitalis – this virtual reality (VR) film production company comes with over 12 years of experience of film production and post-production of VR films including script development all the way through to release. According to Jacek Naglowski, CEO / Founder, Circus Digitalis is initially focusing on being a VR content creator using technologies in-house. Later on, they may create market-ready products from tools they developed and use to create content. Jacek also indicated that he believes that VR will sustain in the long-run based on the fact that ’everyone is in’, such as Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and more. He stated that he believes his team has the knowledge, experience and research results to enable them to succeed in both Polish and international markets.
Fido labs – this is an artificial intelligence company creating technology that allows computers to understand humans. Their AI engine reads and understands all social media, forums, blogs and reviews (almost any written text in English), and performs the cognitive work of understanding and extracting what matters. They call this the “Internet of Humans” – an exponentially growing untapped pool of knowledge. Michal Wroczynski, CEO and Founder, indicated that fido labs is already generating revenue and focuses extensively within the pharmaceutical sector given much prior success in that space. Fido already has offices here in Silicon Valley and a strong team in Poland and has created some solid intellectual property.
PolTREG – this company spun off from the Medical University of Gdansk to develop and commercialize patented TREG (T-regulatory Lymphocytes) method treatments for Type 1 Diabetes. TREG therapy lowers the risk of complications associated with Type 1 Diabetes, has no side effects, and thereby reduces indirect costs of the disease. Given the vast reach of this disease, PolTREG is addressing a large and (sadly) growing market. Bartosz Kakol, Financial Director, fielded the judges’ questions around topics such as patient improvements to date, PolTREG’s desire to create a ”cure” vs. a ”treatment”, FDA trials and technology licensing. To date, the results of their trials have been quite impressive and they hope to license the technology to additional markets across the world.
RTB Tracker – this is a company focused on proximity and beacon based marketing solutions, predominantly focused on retail sectors. The award winning solution (2015 Bluetooth SIG Breakthrough Award & 2015 CES presenter) delivers customer communications, loyalty programs, coupons and more directly to customers’ smartphones. They see a competitive differentiation with their in-store location capabilities as well as their integration with offline data in addition to online data. Pawel Mizgalski, CEO/Co-Founder, replied to some challenging questions around competition, vertical applications, customer acquisition costs and methods and more. Pawel did admit that it is a challenge to convince possible customers to change their habits, but emphasized that they believe their holistic approach to enhance the shopping experience is rather compelling.