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CompPair- Finding the way from the Lab to the Market

CompPair- Finding the way from the Lab to the Market

CompPair develops healable composite materials for extending the life-time of composite structures. Founded by Dr. Amaël Cohades and based on over 12 years of research at EPFL (Switzerland), this startup needs to find the best market opportunity for its innovation.

The magic of self-healing materials

While current repair solutions in composites involve monitoring failure, removal of the damaged zones and repair, CompPair’s unique materials enable in-situ preparation of micro-cracks using a simple and cost-efficient thermal mending process (i.e. a blow dryer for 1 minute).

The advantages are clear: CompPair provides smart and sustainable composite materials that easily fit into current production lines and can significantly reduce maintenance cost or increase application life-time.

The applications, therefore, are endless, ranging from sports gear, to buildings or marines- to name just a few.

One of the biggest challenges for Amaël was to figure out where to start building his business: which market domain could benefit most from his unique technology.

To help him in this critical decision, a group of PhD students in the course “Entrepreneurial Opportunity Identification and Exploitation” worked on assessing different market opportunities for CompPair. The goal of their project was to identify the most appropriate strategy to bring this novel product to a commercial success by using the Market Opportunity Navigator.

Who needs healable solutions? The discovery process

Following the structured process, the group identified five different market opportunities that seemed worthy for further investigation. These were:

  • Prosthetics
  • Mast for super yachts
  • Drones
  • Composite bridges
  • Hockey sticks

Each opportunity bears different potential and challenges which they assessed through desk research and interviews with relevant professionals. Initial indications showed that hockey sticks production and Prosthetics might be considered as “Gold mine” opportunities, while Drones and Bridges were defined as “Moon shots”. Mast for super-yacht seemed non-attractive due to low interest from professionals working in this field.

Based on this evaluation, the group recommended the startup to focus on hockey stick manufacturers and try to learn more about this market opportunity. They also recommended to keep looking at drones and bridges, as they could be interesting markets for future growth or backup.

The summary of their analysis is depicted on the Market Opportunity Navigator below. To read the full study, including the filled worksheets, click here.

What’s next?

For Amaël and his team, this project ignited a long learning and validation process. Through a deeper market study with over 60 potential customers and experts, they discarded some of the possible directions and added new ones.  Using the Market Opportunity Navigator to reflect on their learning, the team eventually decided to focus on the marine and sport industries.

Since then, CompPair obtained various grants to develop their business case, and plan their market entry during 2020. For more news about their progress visit: www.comppair.ch.

 

Flyability: safe drones for inaccessible places

Flyability: safe drones for inaccessible places

About the Company
Flyability is a Swiss company building safe drones for inaccessible places.Their collision-tolerant drone is unique, as it can fly in complex and confined spaces and in contact with humans, because it has a surrounding cage that protects it. They call it Elios.

The Challenge
The idea to develop a caged drone was born after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Adrien Briod, the co-founder, envisioned how a collision-tolerant drone would assist in managing such dangerous situations. Yet, very soon he and his team discovered that their drone can perform many different jobs, for different types of customers.

So, where should they begin building their business?

The answer is definitely dazzling, because there are numerous options. That is exactly where the Market Opportunity Navigator comes in handy.

Step 1 – Generating a Market Opportunity Set

The first step of the process enables you to deliberately take a step back and think broad. It begins with characterising your core technologies or unique abilities in their own right, to help you uncover different applications of these abilities, and different types of customers who may need them.

Worksheet 1 – Generating the Market Opportunity Set

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The drone that Flyability develops has unique accessibility due to the decoupled and light protection cage that surrounds it. It can fly or roll on any surface, and will actually be able to operate in a wide range of temperatures and pressures. It will be piloted manually with an on-site video screen, even in very dark, smoked or dusty environments, but only for a limited duration due to battery limitations. Lastly, it can carry an automated, fully adjustable imagery system, with HD and thermal recordings that can be streamed online and analysed offline.

Flyability’s unique drones will therefore be able to inspect and explore inaccessible places – regardless of how complex and confined they are, thus avoiding the need to send humans to dangerous environments.

These unique abilities can be utilised for many different applications, including inspections, surveillance, deliveries, or entertainment – to name a few.

At its early stage, however, the company decided to examine those applications where it can bring real value from the start, including inspections of complex industry machineries, inspections of difficult-to- maintain infrastructures, and also security or search and rescue applications. As detailed in Worksheet 1, these applications can serve many types of customers.

After an initially rough screening, Flyability’s team decided to further examine those market opportunities that seemed more reachable, and especially those that mainly require in-door navigation (to suit the expected initial limitations of the drone).

Their Market Opportunity Set included five options

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Step 2 – Setting the Attractiveness Map

The team was then ready for the next step, using Worksheet 2 to evaluate each of these possible market opportunities and placing them on the Attractiveness Map. This systematic evaluation examines each opportunity on two dimensions:

  • The overall potential for value creation
  • The overall challenge in capturing this value
Worksheet 2 – Evaluating market opportunity attractiveness

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As an example, let’s look at how Flyability evaluated one market opportunity in their set: the inspection of thermal boilers in power plants.

Plants that convert heat energy into electric power, include huge boilers and super-heaters operating under extreme temperatures. These facilities must be inspected periodically, involving work at height, rope access, sky climbing, or scaffolding. Implementing safety measures, bringing in and installing inspection equipment and performing the actual inspection manually are not only lengthy processes that result in several days of shutdown, but also expose workers to high risks. Replacing a manned intervention with a collision-tolerant drone can thus bring significant value to these energy plants, allowing important savings in time, cost and safety.

The unique value that this drone can bring creates a ‘super-high’ compelling reason to buy. The market volume is quite big (there are about 100000 plants worldwide), and the economic viability is high, due to large expected margins and customers’ ability to pay. The overall potential was therefore estimated as ‘high’.

As for the challenge, the firm already had the know-how for developing the drone, and estimated both the implementation obstacles and the time to revenues as ‘mid’, taking into account the distribution requirements and the length of a sale cycle. The external risks seemed low, because competition is limited and success is not dependent on other parties. The overall challenge was therefore estimated as ‘low-mid’.

Overall, this seemed to be an attractive market opportunity, located in the Gold-Mine quadrant of the Attractiveness Map.

In a process that took few weeks, Flyability’s team assessed their other target markets in a similar manner. It was then possible to depict all these market opportunities on the Attractiveness map, to visually gauge and compare their value.

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Step 3 – Designing the Agile Focus Strategy

Once they felt confident with the evaluation results, Flyability’s team could then use Worksheet 3 to design their Agile Focus Strategy. This strategy clearly defines your primary focus, and a smart portfolio of Backup and Growth options that you will keep open- to make sure you maintain your agility over time.

Worksheet 3 – Designing your Agile Focus Strategy

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Examining the Attractiveness Map showed that inspecting boilers and heaters in energy plants was the most attractive market opportunity for FlyAbility at this stage. It offers a clear value proposition to a large-volume market, and encounters the least amount of challenge for becoming successful. Hence, the team decided that this will be their Primary Market Opportunity.

Once set, it was time to examine possible Backup and Growth options that will be kept open to mitigate risk and ensure maneuverability.
Three market opportunities were relevant candidates:

Inspections of storage tanks in the oil & gas industry – while the product was only somewhat related, as it required the ability to work in explosive areas, the markets were relatively close, especially since they shared the same distribution channels for non destructive testing equipment. Overall, this opportunity is suitable for future growth, and hence was kept open.

Inspections of vessels in the maritime industry – Although some stability improvements will be required, the product was tightly related. Yet, the customers only shared some similarities. Overall, this opportunity is also suitable for future growth, and hence was kept open.

Intelligence surveillance for police forces – This is the most unrelated opportunity. The product of course shares some similarities, yet the customers are completely distant: they don’t value the same benefits, and don’t share sales channels or word-of-mouth. In general, this opportunity bears different risks than that of the primary market, and hence was suitable to become a Backup option.

The last examined opportunity – Inspections of nuclear rooms in energy plants – was placed in storage for now, as it bears unique challenges of complying with radio-active environments, for a relatively low- volume market, making it the least attractive option.

Flyability’s Agile Focus Strategy was now set, and can be depicted on the Dartboard:

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This strategic choice provided a clear marketing roadmap and a clear technological roadmap for Flyability’s managers. It enabled them to set the right development priorities, build the relevant networks, and design the proper marketing materials.

Moreover, the team had now the right skills for applying a well structured decision making process whenever it was time to rethink their strategy.

Success story: how startup Augury determined its market opportunities

Success story: how startup Augury determined its market opportunities

The tale of an Industrial IoT startup discovering a new strategic business tool.

Augury is bringing predictive maintenance technology to new markets. The technology combines two key shifts in the industry: artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. The intersection of these trends allows Augury to provide machines with a mechanical nervous system and the awareness to optimize their own health, thereby accelerating human productivity and safety.

Founded by Saar Yoskovitz (CEO) and Gal Shaul (CTO), and backed by leading venture capitalists, the company was recently recognized for its standout contribution, named one of CRNs Internet of Things top 50.

In the following blog, Co-founder and CEO Saar Yoskovitz describes how they chose their first market opportunity, with the help of a newly designed business tool.

Augury Startup Logo

 

Having a clear vision doesn’t automatically mean having a clear target market

When we founded Augury, we had a very clear vision in mind: ‘machines talk, and we should be able to understand what they are saying’. We wanted to develop a technology that listens to the sounds machines make to diagnose their problems and predict malfunctions.

An initial technological investigation revealed that developing this technology would be challenging yet doable. As we started working on this project, we quickly realized that machines are literally all around us – all the way from complicated manufacturing lines to simple home appliances. This raised an even more challenging question for us – how can we know what type of machine we should listen to, or choose which target market to focus on?

At times, it seemed like the possibilities were endless. As we looked closer at the market, many verticals were underserved by the existing solutions that were expensive and complicated to use. As a small team, we knew that we couldn’t possibly tackle all of these verticals at once, and therefore, had to focus our efforts on one.  But choosing a beachhead can be a complicated task.

We put great effort into narrowing our options to few market opportunities that we could more deeply investigate. It ranged from cars and complex industrial machinery, to air-conditioners and even the human body. We then embarked on the time-consuming task of researching these different markets to ensure we had all the necessary information at hand to make the right choice.

Using the right business tools

We followed the Lean Startup approach to test our assumptions on each of these market opportunities. We performed interviews, showed mockups, handed out surveys, and visited several conferences to validate our assumptions and to better understand the business environment of each option.

The more information we gathered, the more perplexed we felt. We tried to work systematically and to document our learning, but each iteration generated even more questions to be answered.  Each option had different upsides and downsides, and it felt like comparing apples to oranges lacking a clear framework through which to put all the options on the same map. Eventually, after many hours of research, hard work and tough decisions, we found our way and began to navigate the industrial markets.

When I later learned about the Market Opportunity Navigator, it was abundantly clear to me that such a tool would have helped us focus and streamline our decision-making process. And we have been using the tool ever since.

The Market Opportunity Navigator , a new business tool designed by entrepreneurship professors and researchers Marc Gruber and Sharon Tal, helps founders set a smart market strategy. The Navigator is a structured framework for identifying, evaluating, and strategizing your market opportunities. It is visual and easy to apply, with 3 dedicated worksheets to walk you through these 3 steps. But most importantly – for us at least – we found a way to make sense of all the data we gather, and make more informed choices.

At the heart of this method lies the Attractiveness Map – a simple two-by-two matrix, to map out your options based on two dimensions: the potential of each market, and the challenge in capturing it. A special worksheet guides you through the process of measuring each dimension. The overall potential is assessed by evaluating the compelling reason to buy, the market volume and the economic viability of the opportunity. The overall challenge is assessed by evaluating the implementation obstacles, the time to generating revenues and the external risks. Once you are done, you can place each option on the Attractiveness Map, and finally compare apples to oranges.

The matrix divides your options into four groups: Moon-shots (high potential, high challenge), Gold-mines (high potential, low challenge), Quick-wins (low potential, low challenge) and Questionable opportunities (low potential, high challenge). For us, it was great to see that we had a Gold-mine market opportunity – one that stood out over the others. It was the auxiliary equipment and infrastructure of large industrial and commercial facilities.  A complicated strategic choice turned into a structured and manageable task.

Augury Tool in Use

As a bonus, we also liked how the tool guides us through the process of designing our strategy to remain agile without losing focus. It guides us on how to select backup and growth options, and on how to devote the right amount of attention to keep them open.

Now that our initial market is maturing, we yet again find ourselves searching for our next vertical. If you visit our offices you will see the sticky notes and worksheets of the Market Opportunity Navigator on our walls as we select our next market.