Some weeks ago I participated in a panel discussion at the IEEE HardTech Summit Singapore, about Hardware Technology Opportunities & Challenges for entrepreneurs, both from the technical side and from the financing side.
The panel was moderated by Mohan Belani, Co-Founder & CEO at e27 and the other panelist with me were Kelving Ong, CEO at Focustech Ventures and Alexa Zotova, Principal at Ruvento Ventures.
Although I was there as CTO of Infinium Robotics Singapore, my past experience as founder of my own company in Spain, Quark Robotics, gave me the opportunity to deeply enjoy the moment with the other panelists, more from the investors' side.
Here are some key ideas from the panel, that I would like to share:
- There are great opportunities for Hardtech companies in the markets of Smart Cities, IOT, Robotics & Automation, Drones solutions, and Industry 4.0 (Read my posts about IOT and Robotics in Smart Cities and Drones Market in figures for more detail)
- In the case of Singapore, the Government created the National Robotics Programme (NRP), a funding programme of more than $450 million to support SMEs over the next three years. A great opportunity indeed.
- In the case of small startups, there are some rules of thumb that should be considered when trying to get investors: (a) Getting a first financing from family & friends is always something that external investors will consider as an important commitment. (b) You could not go to find investors with just an idea. you need to have a prototype, a proof of concept to make them feel confident on you. (c) Obviously a Business Plan, but with considering three scenarios: Optimistic, pessimistic and conservative, and also a Plan-B in case things goes wrong. (d) your product/service should be scalable, (e) You should demonstrate that you are focused on the market. Having agreements with future potential customers to help define and validate the product/service is a valuable point.
- Where to find mentors for an entrepreneur: There are several sources (a) other entrepreneurs, preferably with at least 2 years of experience, either if they succeeded or not, (b) investors (c) potential customers, (d) Business Development professionals, who could share their knowledge of the market.
- There are several challenges that hardware startups usually miss out or don’t look at early on: (a) Sometimes they are very optimistic and very technical focused (not market) (b) R&D takes time and money that commonly are not properly considered. (c) the Integration part is the key technical issue in any tech startup. Sometimes, this point is not even considered.
- A jump from a prototype to a final product (industrialization phase) is a serious step. The prototype could fail, the product not. There are also regulations and certifications (Like CE, FCC,...), usability aspects and even the design of the box, manuals, support,... that sometimes are nor adequately considered, mainly due to lack of knowledge or experience in this critical phase.
You may find more interesting points in my previous post: What is the key to get the successful product?