Sales remains a challenge for many first-time science entrepreneurs, especially during the early stages of their startups. Yet, without customers, the venture is just another R&D project. Hence, being an entrepreneur implies recognizing this reality and committing to sales and distribution. With this context, I gave a talk in 2020 – hosted by Venture Center – on the basics of sales & distribution for early-stage science startups. These usually focus on material, chemical, and biological products and services.Sales-Distribution-for-early-stage-Science-Startups
Clearly, the rapid digitization of B2B sales and marketing has shifted the emphasis to digital lead generation. Founders must drive sales in a highly targeted manner. Customers expect startups to demonstrate a compelling RoI and a short payback period. Science startups in the lab/PoC/pilot phase find this challenging since the commercial aspect of their offerings remains unclear.
To Sell, Be An Entrepreneur
Even science entrepreneurs have to constantly sell. They have to convince co-founders to join them and families to support them. CXOs also have to persuade government agencies to provide grants and incubators to provide infrastructure. Finally, they have to influence employees to take risks by quitting corporate jobs. Thus, whether they like it or not, science entrepreneurs are salespeople too! They pursue opportunities regardless of the resources immediately available.
Hustle, passion, grit, commitment – these are tools of the entrepreneurial trade. Furthermore, business development in a science startup requires establishing credibility. This is done via the founders’ CVs, patents, research publications, and scientific track record. Founders have to build confidence in the customer’s mind that the technology works as advertised.
Entrepreneurs can engage in a lot of creative structuring during sales. Customers can access technology can through various means – from product sales to non-exclusive licensing deals.
As seen above, entrepreneurs can creatively design even the contract terms to ensure a win-win. This requires not only technical and commercial but also legal and financial expertise.