From cool tech to real market opportunity

Thibaut Decré
June 11, 2018

Let’s face it, long R&D cycles don’t fit in the ‘textbook’ innovation frameworks. You may even start to think that having existing technology is a disadvantage! We are told you should always start from a customer need, but how does that work if your R&D cycle takes 5, 10 or even 15 years?

I think everyone agrees it’s simply ridiculous to stop fundamental research because it doesn’t fit in the fast feedback-loop of design thinking, or that we should discard IP worth millions for the sake of customer-centric design.

During the Engage Session at TNW Conference in Amsterdam, I explored this question with a diverse audience ranging from consultants and corporates to startups. This is what we discovered: simply said, technology will help you scope market opportunities.

We all know how lack of focus and market opportunity are top reasons startups fail, but the same is true for any type of disruptive venture.

Technology allows you to deliver a certain number of solutions. Link this with your own team's knowledge, expertise and network, and you have a number of value propositions you could potentially deliver. Then, of course, the trick lies in linking these value propositions with market segments that could benefit from it: i.e., market opportunities. Once you’ve created this overview, it’s a lot easier to prioritize or - better yet - divide and conquer! And then, it’s back to basics. Explore your customer segment(s), create an empathy map or a customer journey. Define their top pains and gains, start validating and creating market traction. The real beauty of this process is that you’ve mapped out multiple potential market segments you could address with the same technology or even the same product. Let’s talk about some concrete use-cases:

If you want to find out more about this process and existing frameworks for it I recommend taking the Market Opportunity Navigator for a spin.

The tech-driven start-up

You’ve built an amazing product, and you’re finally ready to show the world all the incredible things it can do. Most likely you’ve developed it with a specific use-case in mind, so that’s where your focus will be. But what if that market segment is not financially viable, or there is simply too much competition? Or, if you successfully enter that market, where do you go from there?

By scoping multiple market opportunities from the start, you prepare for these situations. Even better, you mitigate founder bias and might identify even more promising opportunities!

The corporate on the edge of disruption

You’ve been market leader in your segment for decennia, but now all these small companies are out-competing you with technology about which you have no expertise whatsoever. One of your options is to start collaborating with or acquiring these pesky startups. The other option is to start hiring talent at rocket speed and building up internal expertise. And, of course, you can always close your eyes and hope the storm passes, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

So, what if you explored potential market opportunities together with these tech companies, giving you these crucial insights into where to focus and how to execute? This still leaves you all of the options mentioned above, but you base your decision on concrete facts. If that sounds interesting, you might want to check out the HighTechXL Launchpad Program.

The research institute producing more tech than they can handle

You’re doing fundamental research, coming up with discoveries that will probably change the world for generations to come. And along the way, you are inventing facilitating technology to allow you to do that research. Now a few decennia pass, and you realize you have amazing technology, figuratively lying on the shelf, just waiting for commercial application that could literally help humankind move forward.

This is the case of CERN and probably other knowledge institutes across the globe. Together with ASML, HighTechXL and Nikhef, CERN will launch a program at the end of 2018 to explore application areas for this revolutionary technology. Definitely something to keep an eye on as well, and actually … applications are open.

Use technology to scope potential market opportunities, and then apply innovation frameworks like lean startup and design thinking to explore them in a fact-based manner.

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