ADLIB has been conducting a series of interviews titled ‘Product | People | Potential’. The goal is to feature and showcase the very best UK startups with grand potential; truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector and encouraging others to turn their idea into a startup.

ADLIB captures and shares the stories behind the name. They collate authentic peer-to-peer real talk whilst celebrating their growth and success thus far to gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.

Here is a collection of the must-know information ADLIB has acquired over the course of this series for transforming your idea into a startup.

Product

It’s important to make sure a startup’s approach to understanding and implementing product market fit or sales cycles is well thought out and fit for purpose.

“I think it is always important to check your assumptions to understand where you are in reality; as much as you can be optimistic and be working towards ticking off those major assumptions that you are holding in terms of product, in terms of the market and what needs to be done to actually build a valuable product.”

 – Cai Linton, CEO and a Co-Founder of Multus

“Conducting market research with key opinion leaders, clinicians, and potential strategic partners to understand the technology pull was what initiated Renovos. It provided initial feedback on the need in various sectors and helped us narrow down on first potential clinical indications for the RENOVITE® nanoclay platform. Also, more importantly, it provided crucial input on the product design to create a truly differentiated offering.”

Agnieszka Janeczek, Founder and CEO of Renovos Biologics

People

Growing any team and scaling a business comes with many unique challenges such as ensuring you hire the right people at the right time whilst also maintaining the company culture. Considered thought into how teams work together and communicate is also necessary. Here are some tips from businesses that have navigated these issues.

“As a global and continuously growing organisation, one of the challenges we’ve faced is around fostering communication across different time zones and cultures. After multiple years of doing this ‘in the wild’, we’ve found that there is no substitute for regular face-to-face engagements to ensure the organisation is consistent in terms of its commitment to values. It can seem like a large investment but in our experience, it’s worth it!”

David Stubbersfield, Tech Lead – IT Development at Skyports

“As it is with all start-ups who are hiring people all the time, is that the dynamics change a lot when you go from co-founders to your first hires to 50 people, and then to 200 people. Maintaining that culture and that sense of family and keeping that high-performing team when we all need to be working together on our mission.

“We need to be aware that there are many people who are not actively looking for jobs but for the right opportunity, would be looking to make a move. We have to be quite proactive in finding the people who can bring in the right skills.”

Cai Linton, CEO and a Co-Founder of Multus

“My advice would be to pick people to work with you who are proactive not just on their knowledge or experience, pick people who do not add problems to your team as you need people who can multitask. Secondly, as a small company with a limited reputation because of your size, try to attract individuals or associate yourself with organisations with much bigger or powerful reputations.”

Ed Craig, the CEO of Carbogenics

Potential

Startups face many challenges and barriers that are often unique to their sector, product and stage of growth. Here are some pieces of advice from those who have worked at reaching their potential.

“The main barrier to progress was investment. My advice to anyone in this position, to overcome the initial barrier of financing, is to go for grants as vigorously as you go for angel investment but do both at the same time. The angel investors will only be interested if there is a grant alongside their money because it magnifies their investment and minimises their risk.”

– Alasdair Pettigrew, CEO at MeOmics

“There is no startup that doesn’t go through many ups and downs with things working and not working. For us, being patient is very important and having a view for working on technologies and processes that might reap rewards maybe 3-months down the line, maybe 3-years down the line and motivating people towards those goals.”

– Cai Linton, CEO and a Co-Founder of Multus

Investment

Gaining investment can often be a challenge for startups & scaleups. Here’s some wisdom around how some companies approached and overcame this challenge.

“Investing in startups and scaleups is inherently very risky. What I have been told and what I’ve seen is that investors will make investments based on the team and less on the technology.

“They have to make a judgment call on whether they think you can deliver. That comes down to how you present yourself. Are you resilient? How well are you going to keep knocking down the barriers in order to deliver? That hasn’t got anything to do with your technology, that is how you are as a person, as a team, and how you communicate with investors. Ultimately, if they see that you truly believe in what you are trying to do, then that is one of the best ways you can present yourself. If you don’t believe in it, no one else will.”

– Dr. Daniel Stewart, Co-Founder and CEO of ViridiCO2

“I would advise you to never be disheartened. Persevere. There will be somebody who ‘gets it’. If there’s a genuine unmet clinical need and a compelling market proposition for what you have and, of course, the science is solid, you will get there. Use your network and have as many conversations and as many meetings and pitches as you need to have! Look at all and any grants that are available and appropriate.

“I would also recommend practicing and refining your proposition and pitch with ‘friendly targets’; investors or other industry professionals from your network who can give you honest feedback.”

– Deborah O’Neil, Chief Executive Officer, and Scientific Officer at NovaBiotics

“My advice would be to find a network through your board, your advisory board, or your contacts and make sure that you have people who actually have experience of raising investment. Make sure you seek advice but have people coordinating the raise. Be organised and set yourself a reasonable time frame and aim for a reasonable amount; don’t over or under ask. Some businesses don’t ask for enough money, and it stops them from being taken seriously.

“However, some businesses also over ask and so you need to demonstrate how this money will be used as well. You also need to prioritise; if you are the CEO and are coordinating the raise, there are so many things you could be spending your time on, you need to be spending 70-80% focusing on the fundraise otherwise the chances are you will not achieve the timetable you’ve aimed for.”

– Ed Craig, the CEO of Carbogenics

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Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.