Harry sits in front of me, truly ecstatic at his new innovation idea and wants to enter new markets.  But his excitement is tempered with the reality that he doesn’t have the bandwidth to enfold them into his business.  He is torn by running the day to day and exploring these new ideas, borne of working from home and allowing his ideas to roam.

Harry runs a 10-year-old Technology SME, successful in many ways, but struggling to re-establish the business after the changes enforced on him via the lockdown.   His dilemma is not unique.  The press wants to focus on the new start-up, all whistles and bells, but what about the established company who has the new idea based on their market knowledge and experience.  How do you bring your innovation into the marketplace or scale your business?

Addressing Innovation and Scaling, Charlie Widdows (Cofounder Solverboard), in describing the five main blockers to innovation, summed up the problem. 

1 Fear of failure

2 Conflicting goals in the organisation

3 Lack of innovation skills

4 No clear definition of innovation

5 Disagreement over who owns innovation

Embracing Innovation

Taking a lead from many VCs, (who work on a percentages basis – accepting a certain failure rate compensated by the occasional big win), businesses should consider developing an innovation strategy that adopts a similar balanced risk approach, and is market led.

This strategy would require companies to

  • Up their game as regards market intelligence and forecasting
  • Recognise that innovation can cover any aspect of the business where a competitive edge can be achieved and maintained.
  • Recognise their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Prioritise innovation ‘projects’ based on potential return and risk – the ability to scale rather than just grow steadily.
  • Embrace partnership and collaboration/co-opetition opportunities.
  • Develop clear quantifiable and time-bound milestones to measure performance against
  • Treat this process as an integral part of their business strategy.
  • Be creative in seeking funding for the projects.

Funding Innovation

Innovation is a continual process and requires continual investment. You may create something that is ahead of the game today, but you can’t afford to sit back and relax as your competitors won’t.

Whilst there are various sources of non-dilution funding available to support innovation, including R&D grants, these either cost money or are high risk (grants). Neither are guaranteed and take time to access, making it difficult to build them into an Innovation Funding Road Map.

An alternative is to look for scaling solutions that also fund your innovation – which can include working with partners who have a vested interest in your, and therefore their, success.

When companies scale, they add revenue at a faster rate than they take on new costs, increasing value and profitability.

Barriers to Scaling

However, scaling doesn’t come naturally to most tech businesses – common reasons being

  • The skill set of the business is tech oriented, not commercial.
  • They don’t understand the market or their competitors
  • People like to stay in their comfort zone – no global aspiration.
  • There just isn’t enough time to even start thinking about scaling.
  • The real objective is to develop the tech to a point where it can be sold and let someone else exploit its true potential.

Overcoming these barriers is not easy on your own (and Dragons are in short supply!) – it requires time and expertise.

Developing a clear, innovative scaling strategy that can deliver exponential growth is what separates the leaders from the followers.  It’s following this strategy that delivers both growth and funding for ongoing R&D mean that you remain in the lead.

The meeting with Harry was six months ago.  He engaged with Infintec to work with his management team to design and implement an R&D strategy and a separate Scaling Plan.  Infintec are leading on the Scaling so that his team can build an exciting innovation strategy into the Company.  Since Infintec see Harry and his team as partners we work to be around in the long run being paid predominantly by success fees, we share the risk over the life of the company, a trusted advisor focused on your success.  The accompanying Infintec financing plan is being delivered and the excitement in Harry demeanour is clear to see. 

So how did Harry and Infintec meet?  He sent us an email from the website, www.infintec.org reaching out because of a recommendation from a colleague.  We speak on a weekly basis and  we at Infintec are proud to have them as a partner.

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