Soft-landing is not an easy task for startups, especially for the ones disrupting deep-tech industries. It is usually rough and challenging rather than soft. By combining fresh industry updates and practical experiences we found that industry experts, community partners, and the right contacts make it happen much more fluently. The most promising teams, developing robotics, AI-based, smart city, and other tech solutions, joined “Scale-up Champions” Market Discovery Tours in Spain, Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, and Estonia. How did it go?
It is all about the trust
Here are the stats: 40+ startups from 4 countries explored in live tours, also one online series of sessions with the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs' community, true experts in transforming startups into global players. Participants were impressed by the tight and intensive schedules because there were a lot of entrepreneurial topics to cover.
“Each deep-tech-oriented startup ecosystem is unique and requires decent adaptation. However, Pandemics made it universal in such aspects as hybrid work/networking, increased push to the digital borderless market, and shift towards R&D backed solutions and progress”, says Dr. Anna Tórz, the “Scale-up Champions” project coordinator and International Cooperation Officer at Poznan science and technology park.
Founders basically follow the rule, that if you know the market, probably you will not make the same mistakes that other competitors already did. Also, local partners can support building connections by opening their network of partners around the world, which will help to find potential future customers and build the trust that can ease your way into the new market.
“For growth companies, it is very important to find the market fit in international markets and be aware of the competitors already operating in the country. Therefore, knowledge sharing in terms of local markets (insights, suggestions, validations, preparation, and more) help the companies to facilitate their growth more easily, with low risk and low cost”, says one of the “Scale-up Champions” partners, Kadri Tammai, the Head of Tehnopol Startup Incubator.
Started in Spain with a focus on Industry 4.0
Timeline throws us back to the end of March, where in Barcelona, Spain, “La Salle Technova Barcelona” innovation community was the first ones inviting startups to get to know the deep-tech landscape, especially developing Industry 4.0 innovation. At the international “Advanced Factories” expo and congress, deep-tech communities met to discover new prospects and how to overcome current challenges, brought on the surface by Pandemics, digitalization rush, logistics disbalances, the shortage of electronics’ resources and geopolitical insecurities.
“As I develop a physical medical device for psoriasis treatment, new materials interest me. During the Tour, I met 3D printing startups that are taking the niche of flexible and bio sustainable printing services. Their solutions would be a great match for the design of my devices”, Aurimas Mazuras, the founder of “Emplastrum '' summarizes the benefits of attending the international expo. Also, it was a chance to pitch the tech novelties on the stage in front of not only the European investors community, but also representatives of Latino-American venture capital players. One of the tour participants, “Technovator”, a team developing new wireless charging technology using quantum physics rules, has won the Pitch contest.
Meeting the Silicon Valley experts
Next stop during these tours was a remote meetup. Startups discovered Lithuanian innovation community and there was a lot to talk about fintech and life science friendly business environments. Founders from all over Europe had an opportunity to test the strength of their business and their readiness for international markets by doing stress-test training with experts from the Silicon Valley, who advised nearly 3,000 startups worldwide.
According to one of the lecturers Chris Burry, co-founder of US MAC, one of the most striking things that startups have in common is thinking about the global market too late. This puts them far away from becoming successful scaleups or even unicorns. The workshops were appreciated by startups eager to level-up their scaling not only in Europe.
“There are thousands of pitch training courses these days, but this experience was different. Most trainers speak about the structure of the pitch, whereas these experts emphasize the importance of the narrative and storytelling during the pitch. The Silicon Valley experts introduced steps and tools on how to get that story out of your venture. And that’s the reason investors pay attention to you at the very first moment”, says Rokas Jurkėnas, the founder of tech solutions development company “Idea Link”.
Green-tech hubs and shift towards sustainability
In the beginning of May, “Scale-up Champions” teams and partners “Skylab Ignite” joined 15 rising startups in celebrating their success in Copenhagen, Denmark. Estonian startup “Up Catalyst”, a company developing a method to produce sustainable carbon nanomaterials and graphite from CO2, received the special prize on the Pitch scene.
It was a striving experience to explore the 5500 sq.m “DTU Skylab” Innovation Hub, where startups collaborate with R&D departments. It activates innovation-open culture and environment to develop robots for education or create sustainable materials for industries. The tour continued outside the Copenhagen area, where a multi-disciplinary green engineering consultancy company “NIRAS” has built the Green tech hub for startups.
“The Danish startup community has a "straight-to-the-point" mentality and founders are science and deep-tech oriented. If their goals and values align and you need partners to reach these goals in the most efficient manner, Denmark is a good place to find them”, notes one of the participants Juozas Baltušnikas, the founder of “Science Architect” startup.
Striving fintech and funding opportunities
Poland's deep-tech sector is growing intensively due to tech talents, cutting-edge R&D landscape, and funding options for fintech, robotics, and AI startups. The week in the middle of May at Poznan science and technology park was all about it. The Park has attracted key corporations and investors to share their knowledge on starting innovative businesses in Poland. In addition, one of the biggest events in the CEE region took place: the “Impact22” congress was a place to meet potential partners.
Promising contacts led one of the participants, urban engineering startup “LightMirror”, to the new opportunities, and the team later attended the “Wolves Summit” in Wroclaw. “We are also planning to open a subsidiary company business in Poland, as the co-founders are both Ukrainians. Due to the ongoing war’s violence, they and their families currently stay in the Southern region of Poland and France”, explains Dimitri Ionescu, the co-founder of the startup.
He argues that such programs for startups and incubation activities are a great push, especially for first-time founders. “For an early-stage startup, when you come to a new country, participating in startups’ events is primordial to make the first contacts. It is lifesaving, especially when you are a first-time founder. You meet many people in a short time, and every new person is an opportunity for synergy, potential investors, or potential clients”, explains Dimitri.
Entrepreneurship boost from the land of unicorns
No doubt, Estonia scores in unicorns per capita in Europe. There are 10 of them in a 1.3 million inhabitant country. And the participants of “Scale-up Champions” Market Discovery Tour had a chance to meet the latest one - fintech company “Glia”, also had a meetup with “Starship Technologies”, a pioneering company in the logistics robots. Organized by Tallinn Tehnopol, the soft-landing program related to the visit to the flagship tech and startup conference in the region – Latitude59.
That synergy enabled startups to network with potential customers and investors and have in-depth discussions with top international players, as well as take part in several pitching rounds for both startups as well as investors. Startups also got visibility in a special demo area where organizers were showcasing promising deep-tech startups from the “Scale-up Champions” community.
“The presentation of the possibilities of the startup ecosystem in Estonia confirmed our belief that this is one of the markets we would like to appear soon. Openness, readiness to test new solutions, acceptance of failures, support in the field of legislation and administration are some of the factors that accelerate growth”, says Andrzej Sarapata, CMO of “Swapp!”, developing sustainable refill station solutions.
The impact continues
With the final meeting in Tallinn the Tour has ended. Now, the aftermath comes and formed contacts continue to spark the future collaboration between startups and R&D facilities, corporations, and venture capital funds.
“Deep-tech startups tend to need more support; they need it for a longer period of time, and they also need bigger investments from the angels and VCs in their very early days. So from the investors point of view, it is kind of a leap of faith, and we are also helping to bridge the gap between the investors and deep-tech startups to build that trust that is the very base of every such relationship”, summarizes Kadri Tammai.
“Scale-up Champions” is an initiative that aims to scale-up innovative businesses across the EU and help startups to achieve market success. Following the support by the European Commission, “Scale-up Champions” aims to connect different European deep-tech startup ecosystems and support cross-border activities to standardize the growth routes in Europe.