SAS Nanotechnologies Wins This Year’s Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

Beating out eleven other startup companies, and despite tough competition, SAS Nanotechnologies cruised into the no. 1 position to win the Emerging Enterprise Center’s Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition—now in its 6th year and with a Grand Prize totaling over $16,000 in cash and services.

Dr. Sumedh Surwade from SAS Nanotechnologies responds to questions from the judges following his pitch. Photos courtesy of Bob Horton, Creative Image Associates

SAS Nanotechnologies won this year’s award with their proprietary, patent pending anticorrosive coating technology that not only prevents corrosion but also heals and protects metals from corrosion in the case of surface scratch or damage. Founded by Sumedh Surwade, and growing out of his PhD research, the technology was recently awarded an NSF  SBIR  grant to further develop the technology. Dr. Surwade is already in conversations with potential strategic partners for technology testing and licensing and is considering additional routes to market, including manufacturing in Delaware.  Dr. Surwade plans on using his winnings to purchase testing equipment that will speed up product commercialization by reducing the time and cost of testing from 10 days to 3 hours.

For the second time this year, the Emerging Enterprise Center, Delaware’s first small business incubator located at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, partnered with New Castle County Government, as well as multiple sponsors, to offer the prize package which included:

  • Cash prize of $10,000 from the New Castle County NCC Innovates Program
  • $2,000 business startup and bookkeeping package from SC Associates
  • $1,400 in IT services from Info Solutions
  • 6 month membership in the Emerging Enterprise Center Virtual Incubation Program (valued at $1,800)
  • New Castle County Chamber of Commerce Marketing Package (valued at $1,400)
  • One year membership in World Trade Center Delaware (valued at $395)
  • One year membership in New Castle County Chamber of Commerce (valued at $350)

Each applicant was judged based on a combined score of both their written application and oral pitch.  Judging criteria included business feasibility, understanding of market need and opportunity, clear articulation of value proposition, go-to-market strategy and soft skills.  Three finalists were then selected to pitch before a live audience and a new panel of judges at the Emerging Enterprise Center Luncheon which was held at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington.  The three finalists included SAS Nanotechnologies, D150 Fueling and Smart Kidz Club.

The Grand Prize winner was selected based on a combined judge/audience vote (85%/15%).  The judges included former Swim with the Sharks winner Amira Idris (Thera-V), Dr. Daniel Young (Goldey Beacom College), Sam Waltz (Strategic Capital & Business Counsel) and Dr. Janet Reed (Potter Anderson Corroon, LLP).

Above: Dr. Sumedh Surwade from SAS Nanotechnologies accepts his award from New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer
Back left to right: Dr. Daniel Young (Goldey-Beacom College), Bob Chadwick (New Castle County Chamber of Commerce), Sam Waltz (Strategic Capital & Counsel), Dr. Janet Reed (Potter Anderson Corroon, LLP).
Front left to right: Amira Idris (Thera-V), Dora Cheatham (Emerging Enterprise Center), Matt Meyer (New Castle County Executive), Dr. Sumedh Surwade (SAS Nanotechnologies), Tamarra Morris (New Castle County Government).
Photos courtesy of Bob Horton, Creative Image Associates

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Strategy to Exit

Written by Cheryl Beth Kuchler, CEO Think Tank

STRATEGY TO EXIT

Rich Manders of Freescale Coaching grew his company, iAutomation, to $12Million with $2.5M in EBITDA and sold 75% of the business back in 2007. Over the past decade the company has continued on a growth track reaching over $100M in 2016.

During the acquisition process, the acquiring Private Equity firm, Riverside Company, used the “SPARKLE” model as a checklist evaluate the company’s value. Each letter represents an aspect of your business that should “sparkle” and if your business doesn’t, the acquiring firm wins.

At the 2016 Harvard Innovation Symposium, Rich shared the model and explained how buyers use the checklist to determine the price of a business. HINT: The more a company SPARKLES, the more the right buyer is willing to pay.

I highly recommend watching the entire presentation – about 43 minutes. If you’re time-strapped, however, you can read a recap of what each letter stands for here.

4 Key Steps to Entering New Markets

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

 

As we move closer and closer to 2016, everyone’s checking budget numbers and beginning to think about growth for the new year. Your boss just walked into your office and told you the company wants to take your top products into a new market. Somewhere along the line, someone had the idea that your heavy duty industrial cleaners can be sold into the retail consumer market; or your jan san disinfectants should be extended to the aviation industry (planes are dirty, right?)  How hard can it be?

The truth is, preparing to enter a new market does not need to be a tough process, but it does need to be thorough, and expectations need to be set at realistic levels before even beginning to look at the 4Ps (or 5Ps depending on your approach).

Here are 4 key considerations you should take into account as you look to taking your products into a new market.

Size of the market vs market potential – in order to assess the size of the market you need to have a thorough understanding of the specific application of your product. A product that is used several times a day in one type of market, may only be used once a day in a different market, which radically changes the size of the market. In addition, if the market leader holds 20% market share in the new market, then your total potential in the early stages of commercialization is likely to be just a small portion of that 20% share. Be realistic in your expectations.

Product attributes – Attributes and benefits of a product that are valued by one market are not necessarily valued in a different market. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what your new target market values as well as their specific needs, and ensure that the products you are offering are designed – and positioned – to meet those specific needs. In many cases, relabeling or repackaging a product may not be enough. The product itself may need to be re-engineered to accommodate the needs of your new market.

Regulatory environment – Different markets have different regulatory requirements – for example, a product that can be used to clean your kitchen or bathroom cannot be used to clean surfaces in an aircraft without meeting stringent aviation material safety requirements. Make sure you are fully aware of any industry, state and federal requirements necessary to market your product in an alternative market. Use a consultant if you have to. It’s cheaper than the alternative.

Sales cycle – make sure you understand the sales cycle and method of the market or industry you intend to enter and not just the sales channels. In some cases, the sales cycle can be relatively brief and straightforward, in other cases, the sales cycle could be long and require a consultative approach. This will greatly impact your marketing plan and materials.

Once you have a clear understanding of the market size and potential you can then start thinking about potential strategies. Here are just some alternatives used by different companies:

  • Focus on targeting non-users of the product rather than trying to switch customers from using an existing competitive product.
  • Focus on offering additional attributes not offered by any competitive products
  • Focus on attacking competitive products by offering superior products OR lower pricing.
  • If marketing dollars are available, focus on outspending competition in advertising and promotion, although according to literature, this approach only makes sense if the market leader is in a seriously weaker position and you can outspend the leader at 3:1.
  • Target efforts in a specific geographic area or an area not currently served by current competitors.

Then and only then should you start putting together your Marketing Mix or 5Ps. These are the decisions that surround the Product (performance, features, design, presentations, name, etc), Pricing (direct, distributor, geographical, etc), Promotion (PR, marketing collateral, advertising), Place (distribution channels), and People (tasks, sales, support). In other words, you have gained an understanding of the new market and its customers, you now need to ensure that you have the right products, that they are correctly positioned for that market and that your communications correctly reflect that positioning.

General Eisenhower once said “Plans are nothing, planning is everything.”The purpose of planning is to ensure that all the right questions are asked. Too often we “make it up as we go along” which may yield short term benefits, but more often than not can be harmful in the longer term, often resulting in unintended consequences and incurring unexpected costs. While planning does not necessarily eliminate all of these, it does provide a sense of direction and empowerment that permits effectiveness at all levels of the organization and optimizes strategy execution. In brief, planning x strategy x execution = success.

 

Entrepreneur Profile: Reggie Ezeh, Data Value

Data Value, led by Reggie Ezeh, is a data management and analytics consulting firm.

Reggie has over 20 years’ experience in advanced analytics with Fortune 500 companies across the US and overseas. His experience spans Telecoms, Insurance (P&C, Auto, Health, etc.), Finance and Technology. He has managed local and global analytics projects in excess of $20 million dollars delivering top notch quantifiable value to the business in his previous positions.

Reggie saw a need in the market and a shortage of experienced professionals that can bridge the gap between analytics and business to provide strategic solutions. Having managed analytics, customer experience and marketing at local and global levels, Reggie has first-hand experience on how to transform an enterprise from a reactive, problem solving entity to a proactive and highly optimized one. And that is how Data Value was born.

 

Reggie does acknowledge that the greatest challenge is in helping potential clients – especially those who have never before focused on analytics – understand the profound impact that data can have on their business strategy. “Often times it’s an uphill task trying to sell fresh, insightful strategies backed by data to senior management who have not yet seen or understood the impact of data on today’s business playing field,” says Reggie. But he says that once senior management understands the value of analytics, Data Value is able to implement change that can be very impactful for a company. For example, a change to call center operations for one company led by Data Value resulted in a conversation rate increase from 1.5% to 3.5%!

Reggie plans to employ an intern in the Spring and a full time analyst by summer. When current projects can support it, he also plans to hire an 4-6 additional analysts, as well as local University interns to support clients. Reggie is also considering strategic partnerships with larger prime contractors for broader reach.

With the help of the Emerging Enterprise Center, Reggie now has good insight on how to plan his growth path.  Reggie says, “The EEC has also provided us with invaluable networking opportunities as well as beneficial seminars and workshops. Since joining EEC, we have made some great contacts that are sure be rewarding in the near future.”

Why To-Do Lists Are Killing Your Productivity

Written by Brooke Miles, Delaware ShoutOut

Do you start out each week—or each day—with a to-do list? Before I wised up to the dangers of to-do lists, I wrote them all the time. A typical one looked like this:

  1. Write blog article
  2. Craft proposal for new client
  3. Throw out orphan socks from sock drawer—or repurpose into puppets
  4. Develop PowerPoint for social media seminar
  5. Pull new gray hairs from top of head
  6. Make sales calls
  7. Memorize lyrics to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Consider singing with sock puppets.

You know what happened? I’d do the irrelevant stuff first (sock puppets, gray hairs, and Queen), because they were more fun and easier to check off. Wow, I was getting stuff done, I thought! Sure, I might work on less-pleasant-yet-critical business tasks…if there was enough time afterwards. But usually I found more tempting ways to fill the time.

Maybe you can relate. Okay, maybe you’re not lured by sock puppets, gray hairs, and Queen. But your tendency to check off simpler tasks—pay a bill, make a quick phone call, etc.—may be preventing you from accomplishing tasks that could make a huge, positive impact on your business.

Here are more problems with to-do lists:

  1. They don’t factor in the duration of each task. Some tasks might take two minutes—others might take two hours!
  2. They don’t say when you will tackle each task (i.e. no real commitment).
  3. They don’t distinguish between urgent and important. Urgent and important aren’t always the same thing.
  4. They rarely get completed in full. Did you know that, on average, 41% of to-do items never get done?

Imagine what your business would look like if you consistently accomplished your big-picture tasks every week.

My business transformed—with revenues quadrupling in one year—when I stopped writing to-do lists and started putting important tasks in a calendar. (I use Google Calendar, but any calendar will do.) Why a calendar? Because it forces you to block out time for the stuff that matters. In other words, you’re making regular business appointments with yourself. Using a calendar also helps you see what your day truly looks like, so you don’t end up over-committing to less important tasks.

Do I still crave a life with sock puppets, gray-hair pulling, and Queen? Absolutely. But now I can visualize what little time I have for it, at least during the workday. (Besides, I’ve found it’s easier to work on gray hairs at night, when my teenage son can help pull the ones I can’t see on the back of my head. Awkward for him, but great for me.)

I’d love to learn what productivity strategies work for you. Block out 15 minutes in your calendar to email me your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you!

Marketing for Small Businesses – 3 Steps to Success

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

We often hear of the failure rates of start-ups and new businesses, or even longer term firms going out of business for one reason or another.The US Census Bureau’s statistics certainly bear this out, with as many as 44% of businesses failing by their 3rd year and 71% failing by Year 10.

While this depends greatly on the industry, the chart below from Statistic Brain, shows just how fragile some industries can be:

While the final cause of death is usually financial collapse, the symptoms most likely started much earlier with failed strategies and operational inefficiencies. While no-one has a crystal ball into the future, you can certainly try to preempt as many obstacles as possible with careful planning and preparation; as Alan Lakein once said “failing to plan, is planning to fail”.

So if you’re thinking of starting your own business, or you’re beginning to see fissures in your business, there are definitely steps you can take ahead of time. Here are a few from a marketing perspective to ensure that your business survives and succeeds.

  1. MARKET ANALYSIS │ THE LAY OF THE LAND

Understanding the lay of the land is critical in helping you determine what actions you will need to take to grow—or in some cases—survive. An excellent tool for establishing the lay of the land is Michael Porter’s Five Forces Model. This popular model forces you to look at your industry within a specific framework that takes into consideration competition between existing firms, the threat of new entrants, the strength of buyers and suppliers and the threat of substitute products. Another simple but frequently used framework: the SWOT analysis that assesses strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats—use it to assess not only your own business but also that of your competition.

How do you fit in these frameworks? What are your core competences? What are your weaknesses? How can you leverage your strengths and improve on your weaknesses? It’s not enough to know and believe in your own product: you need to understand how it fits within the industry and among other like products in that industry. You also need to have a clear understanding of your customers’ (existing and/or potential) needs and wants.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a one time exercise—external forces and world events can impact the lay of the land, change the balance of power in these forces and overturn the positions in these frameworks within a matter of weeks! A catastrophic event – think 9/11 and its impact not only on the aviation industry but also the industry’s suppliers, travel, tourism and beyond – can and will result in a need to re-assess your business strategy in short order.  

  1. MARKET STRATEGY │ START WITH THE END IN SIGHT

Once you have a clear understanding of the lay of the land, the business then needs to determine its focus: What is your differential advantage or value proposition as a business? What are your growth objectives? Which products and markets offer the best opportunities to achieve your growth objectives? How will you achieve these objectives? Will it be through market penetration? Product development? Market development? Diversification? How will you position the business and your products to meet these objectives? Which core competences do you need to develop to achieve your targeted growth and create a sustainable competitive advantage? What will the investment be in time, talent and treasure to develop these core competences and what will your return on that investment be? 

  1. MARKETING MIX │ THE ROAD MAP

The Marketing Mix is generally referred to as the 4Ps (or 5Ps depending on the source!) and encompasses decisions surrounding your Products (performance, features, design, presentations, name, etc), Pricing (direct, distributor, geographical, etc), Promotion (PR, marketing collateral, advertising), Place (distribution channels), and People (tasks, sales, support). In other words, you know your market and you know your customers. You now need to ensure that you have the correct products, that they are correctly positioned and that your communications correctly reflect that positioning. Do you have the right distribution channels set up? Do you have effective and efficient processes in place?

A common fallacy to avoid is that marketing is the same as sales, particularly on a B2B level. The two are very different and – while they work hand in hand – they perform different functions. Marketing creates the value, the visibility and the lead; it can also provide the tools to make the sales process more effective, but it is an ongoing process and does not preclude the need for a sales strategy to leverage and capitalize on the value created through the marketing process (check out the posts on Creating & Selling Value and What’s In A Brand?).

 

STRATEGY X EXECUTION = SUCCESS

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s not just about the strategy but about implementation and execution of that strategy. Once the lay of the land and the road map have been laid out, specific tactical and action plans, budgets and measurement criteria can be put into place to guide that execution and implementation. One of my favorite quotes is from the entrepreneur Naveen Jain. “A great strategy alone won’t win a game or battle; the win comes from basic blocking and tackling.”