Deep Tech & Branding
Founder Branding and/or Corporate/Product Branding
Deep tech startups do not use Branding or very little because the founders think:
- a proper communication requires expertise that they do not have in-house (because the team is composed of scientists/engineers) and that they do not have the $$$ resources to recruit (employees or consultants, agency service providers)
- it's not for them, it's only for BtoC startups (Branding is Coca-Cola, Uber, Haribo...)
- they have more urgent things to do like developing their tech, raising funds, doing exploratory business development, taking care of regulatory affairs...
- it's dangerous because branding (if it's done well) will bring them too much exposure and increase the Theranos-risk (risk consisting of increasing the hype and expectation for a tech still in development in the minds of customers and investors)
You are founder of a deep tech startup, do not hesitate to comment your own objections to Branding.
And conversely, in your opinion, what benefits would deep tech startups gain if they take their Branding as a serious subject?
Well, for my part, I am convinced that deep tech startups would do well to tackle Branding head-on, both the Personal Branding of the CEO, of the co-founders and even of the employees, all at the service of the Branding of the company, and as soon as the pre-seed idea stage.
In order not to leave you without an answer here, I will show you why Branding is fundamental to your success.
The matrix below shows technology risk (vertical Y axis) versus market risk (horizontal X axis):
This matrix shows the technological risk (vertical Y-axis) versus the market risk (horizontal X-axis).
The goal is to de-risk a project to bring it to the green zone, the Market zone.
In the world of startups, we will have 3 main categories or typologies of projects.
The Low-Tech or No-Tech Good Idea typology where it suffices to take existing technologies and products (goods and/or services) to solve a new problem that has been identified and validated (by customer discovery).
Example: Airbnb, Uber (in their early days), Tinder, Starbucks, Domino's Pizza ....
The High-Tech (or Hard Tech) typology consists in taking a new validated technology (ie fully functional, robust, industrializable or scalable) and making it into a product and therefore reaching the green zone, the Market.
The Deep Tech typology made up of startups having the mission to develop a High-Tech and ultimately to find or create their Market.
Every position on the chessboard can be the starting point for a startup.
The "pink" positions, close to the Market, are those which attract the most private investors ie business angels and VCs. The yellow positions are those which are of the least interest to private investors.
The objective for Low-Tech / No-Tech typology projects is to remove uncertainties and move from right to left on the X axis to reach the Market.
The goal for founders of Deep Tech startups is to carefully lead the development to obtain a new, flawless functional technology that could then be the engine of a revolutionary product or be integrated into existing solutions.
Customer Discovery (an approach inspired by UX - User Experience Design - a methodology for observing and interviewing users carried out by designers to improve or design new products) makes it possible to identify and validate a societal problem (P? => P+ or P-) which is worth embarking on an entrepreneurial project. With the results of Customer Discovery, we feed Branding which, with all its arsenal (brand / logo / slogan / brand identity / graphic and visual universe, copywriting, storytelling, inbound content marketing ...), will be able to raise awareness of the targeted customer segment (C- => C+). Branding also makes it possible to awaken Demand or Desire (D- => D+) which in startup jargon is mesured by the "traction" indicators (number of users and/or customers or pre-orders).
Customer Discovery (P? => P+) then Branding (A- => A+) and (D- => D+), then Sales (Sa- => Sa+)
Therefore, Branding is a fundamental engine to move a project horizontally on the X axis (right to left) to bring it to the Market.
How Branding can help Deep Tech projects?
The transition from deep tech to high tech can take years, and founders of such startups are focused on leading the development in the state of the art. As I said above, they think that marketing considerations (and in marketing, they include branding vaguely assimilated to "Com", business dev and sales, design .. .) are too far from their business needs or even futile.
But what the Deep Tech founders forget is another much more important risk for the survival of their project: the financial risk ie running out of cash.
When you have a team of top scientists and engineers, frankly, tech risk doesn't really exist. Let's be honest.
On the other hand, Deep Tech projects are cash burners! These startups need to be heavily capitalized over several rounds and over several years.
And in each position of the chessboard, for a given Deep Tech, there are tens or even hundreds of startups which more or less seek to develop a similar High-Tech. The one that succeeds is not the one that has the best researchers and engineers, the best lab and the best equipment, but the one that has and will have the most cash throughout its adventure.
And this is where Branding will be vital to you.
By allowing a customer segment that you are targeting to become aware (C- => C+) of their Problem and to awaken Demand (D- => D+), although your tech is still years far from becoming a commercial product, you position yourself in people's minds as THE ONE WHO IS THE PROVIDER OF THE SOLUTION. And people (consumers, customers, journalists...) will take an interest in you, become attached to you, to your team and to your story. This interest will result in attracting more investors to your area where they are usually scarce. They will come not to finance Deep Tech, not to finance your Deep Tech but to finance YOU.
This is how you will stand out compared to other competing projects, thanks to Branding.
Call to Action
In the long term, it is the intangible asset, and more particularly, the brand equity (ie the worth of a brand) that dominates the valuation of a company over all its other assets. 💰💰💰
Example of Coca-Cola, with a market capitalization of $200Bn = $70Bn* brand equity + the rest (ie its revenues, its factories, its cash, its distribution...).
*(Coca Cola brand equity is well over $70Bn today, 70Bn was an estimate from 2007)
Once you understand that, you understand why some startups, and in particular the DNVBs, go all out from the very beginning of their adventure on their branding without neglecting the development of their products.
And this is THE weak point of high-tech and deep-tech startups: not giving importance to branding.
"In France, we have a superb company in consumer electronics even more innovative than Apple or Samsung ... uuuh... I can't remember the name... wait, it's going to come back to me... I have it on the tip of my tongue... damn, what the name? ... 5min later: A-ha yes here it is: Archos!"
Founders of deep tech startups, it's time to take the bull of your success by the horns! 🐮
What you set out to accomplish is of great value to Humanity:
👉 So don't stay in the shadows, inaudible and misunderstood.
👉👉 It's time to react... and we want to help you!
👉👉👉 You are the founder of a Deep Tech or High-Tech startup, and you are now convinced that your survival and your success will be driven by taking your branding seriousely, contact me, let's discuss it.
By the way, what is branding ?