There is no shortage of great ideas that could transform the way we work, play and live. It would seem relatively straightforward for a company developing a problem-solving technology to come to market easily and monetize rapidly. For most companies, however, the road is long and arduous.
The development of innovative technology often has unexpected challenges, few greater than crossing the bridge between proof-of-concept and the demonstration phase. This phase, known as the “valley of death,” makes investors wary. The technology is a hard sell without proof that it works on a commercial scale and those who are willing to take a risk to invest typically want a big chunk of equity in the company. This is a pivotal point where promising technology succeeds or never makes it out of the valley.
Beyond the valley
Getting companies out of the valley and on their way to success requires thinking differently and creatively. Some things we at the accelerator tell companies in this situation include:
- Good ideas are not automatic businesses. Just because you have a great idea doesn’t mean investors and the public are ready for it. It takes patience, hard work and tenacity to make your concept work and marketable.
- You likely can’t do it alone. Inventors are often so close to their ideas that they don’t think others can see the vision like they do. Those who accept help and guidance from people who have complementary strengths and knowledge can save significant time and money as they go from proof-of-concept to demonstration. Most communities now have many entrepreneurial resources and programs, including entrepreneur networks, that are great resources.
- Collaboration and partnerships that share the risk are essential. It is important to work with those who can help you and can share the risk. Accelerators and incubators are great places to start. Seek opportunities to build collaborations that will help develop creative ideas and move the technology forward.
- Consider nontraditional ways to get the technology into a workable marketplace where the demonstration can be real life. We are currently working with a company that is building an energy storage solution with interest from large Fortune 500 companies. But, these companies need to see a demonstration of the concept before deciding whether to invest. We are helping this company by incorporating its technology into some things we do. It is a positive situation for both of us — the company can demonstrate its energy-efficient technology in a real-life environment and the technology helps the long-term bottom line of our organization.
Bringing new technologies to market is very exciting. For those with that next great idea, knowing what to expect before starting the adventure of developing a new technology will help greatly and provide better opportunities for success.
Anthony Margida is CEO of the Akron Global Business Accelerator, a National Business Incubator Association Innovation Award winner. AGBA currently serves 38 technology-based startups and has created 640 jobs for Northeastern Ohio in the last five years.