Przemek Szleter is the founder and CEO of DAC.digital with over 16 years of professional experience as a Business & IT Executive.
The pace of technological evolution has far exceeded projections, which has brought about several challenges, especially for entrepreneurs. Over the past 20 years, I have been actively involved in developing the field of emerging technologies and establishing a rapidly expanding deep tech company in Europe. It has given me firsthand experience and observations of the intricate details, which are essential to note in the deep tech sector.
The market size of deep tech is estimated to reach $3.73 billion by 2032, and at the same time, around 15% of the market share is controlled by the top five companies. It indicates there is ample scope for deep tech ventures to flourish in the market. In this article, I will share my perspective, for current and aspiring entrepreneurs, on what enabled me to overcome various obstacles over the years.
Deep Tech And A Deep Tech Venture
I came across the term “deep tech” during my studies when I read the book, The Practice of Technical and Scientific Communication: Writing in Professional Contexts by Jean A. Lutz and C. Gilbert Storms. Since then, I have been compelled to establish a venture that would excel as the first choice partner for deep tech solutions.
Deep tech has become a buzzword in recent years, and several experts have expressed their opinion about it from various aspects. As an entrepreneur, whether you are running a venture or about to dive into one, you need to ask yourself the following questions.
• Are you solving a problem through scientific discovery?
• Are you using an entirely new concept or technology?
• Is technology the underpinning factor of your business?
• Are science, engineering, research and development at the epicenter of your venture?
• Is your startup a deep tech venture?
If you get “yes” as an answer to the first four questions above, you can be sure that the answer to the last question is a “yes,” too. It means that you are or will be running a company that is fundamentally different from a conventional tech company. In this aspect, the rest of the article will be a valuable read for you.
Focal Points For Fueling The Growth Of A Deep Tech Venture
Over the years, my team has worked on discovering factors contributing to the company’s rapid growth. I find a few focal points essential, including R&D, people and culture, collaborators and diversification.
1. Research and development are crucial ingredients.
Deep tech startups encapsulate the whole process from research to deployment. However, it is a bit more complex. Most startups can be mapped within the segment of PoCs and thenceforth. The research part is missing. Why is it so important, you might ask? First of all, by definition, a deep tech startup should pursue research and come up with new concepts, technologies and frameworks. Second, large companies look to fund smaller startups to invest in R&D instead of showing expenditure and doing their R&D. Hence, doing their own research opens up many avenues.
2. Get the right people before you need them.
Building and growing a venture is similar to a relay race. You may have the ability and capacity to run a lap or two. But someone has to take the baton from you at some time and continue moving it forward. To entrust your team with this responsibility, hiring quality people needs to be a top priority. This frequently leads to a decision point where you might have to do something counterintuitive.
For instance, there was a time in my company when we wanted to hire someone, and I had to decide to shell out a large sum of remuneration because the person joining deserved it. I cherish that decision, and it has significantly impacted the company’s growth. So, when faced with such a situation, evaluate it carefully and make a decision while keeping the long term in mind.
3. Invest in people and culture.
People are the company’s backbone, supporting it as it soars to new heights, and culture is that pleasant breeze that ignites self-motivation. As a deep tech startup, investing in building a culture of research, collaboration, transparency, the free flow of ideas, continuous learning and belonging will prove to be a boon. In 2022, our team almost doubled, and I observed how our investment in people and culture influenced the results we achieved.
4. Don’t just sell—collaborate.
Since the early days of my entrepreneurial journey, I have been actively involved in industry clusters supporting tech-community development. It gave me a unique point of view in working with clients as collaborators and partners. Over time, my team and I observed that with each partner, we could do much more than what they initially approached us for. This approach allows for open discussions and mutual trust, which forges a longer-term association.
5. Diversify to avoid a cash crunch.
Deep tech ventures require patience from the team, as well as from the investors (if any). Product and R&D activities create long-term value, but a bootstrapped startup needs a positive cash flow to keep it alive. I have been in situations where I felt like bankruptcy was around the corner; however, we thrived through it. Product and R&D require lots of investment to achieve momentum in the market, and the risk of failure is high. Hence, to balance it, diversifying the offer and including rich cash flow services are recommended. Such a stance allows you to generate funds and keep the R&D activities and the company afloat.
Summary And Key Takeaways
To sum up, the scope for deep tech startups is growing fast. We must all learn from and contribute to this niche deep tech community in order to keep up with the quickly advancing technological evolution. The focal points above provide a tried and true perspective that will be useful for aspiring entrepreneurs. Get excited about problem-solving and discovering new concepts and technologies that will make a mark in the world. Be patient yet determined, flexible yet goal-oriented and adaptive yet innovative.