The official registration of INOLYTIX AG in the Swiss "Handelsregister" (trade register) was a great milestone, a moment for celebration. The formalities were done, but how to run actually a company? Now, one year has passed - what were the learnings, the challenges and surprises? Let us look back at the first year ...
Preparation with a 2 page Business plan Did I write a 14-page business plan and add a 10-year net present value calculation neatly done in Excel? NO! This would have been obsolet after my first customer contact. But I prepared nevertheless! The Business Model Canvas is an easy way to trigger the thoughts in terms of customer, value proposition, partners, revenue streams and more. The prospect for a business award competition actually made me write 2 pages one evening - surprisingly I even won the 300 CHF at the b-innovative business competition! A long the way, I learned about the "Lean Startup" concept. To cut it short, just read the first page of Steve Blank's 'Startup Owner's Manual': "Get out of the building!"
First battles - first customer contacts And here I am out of the building in the battle zone of customers, competition and uncertainties. And even worse, with the concept of connecting analytical service providers and R&D departments I needed to persuade two parties to go with me. How exciting! Two approaches worked for me: 1) create many chances and 2) approach people you already know. 1.) My best partner so far, Eric Brendle, Adscientis, was found via a LinkedIn view I followed up. Pure curiosity added many more contacts. Naturally, only a few were valuable, but that is part of the interesting journey too. 2.) My first customer was a former colleague. It is a story often heard and a logical one - the trust is there and the knowledge about existing demands - et voilà. I am really thankful for it - and the tolerance for being a first customer! PS: the invoices are now really professional!
Growing wider and deeper - two stories On one hand, I am growing wider by adding more partners and analytical methods like ToF-SIMS, and on the other hand, I deeply explore the full potential of one of the methods Inverse Gas Chromatography (IGC) with requests from new customers.
The following stories illustrate the two different points: a) Add method and partner: The initial response of a potential new partner was a bit like this: "I do not believe it will work, but you can approach me anyhow". A few months later I phoned him about a potential customer, the task and how we should arrange precisely. Finally, the offer was made, the analysis done and the report delivered to the customer: "Great!!! Very impressive" - such a customer response is a good motivation!
b) Going deeper with one method: IGC as a service is fine, but due to specific customer requests we market now even IGC instruments and plan to optimize them further. In addition, we organize the 4th International IGC Symposium in Basel, June 9th, 2015 with speakers from academia and R&D from industry - this is really exploring the method!
My safety net Will the company really be successful, is the idea good enough? Part of the personal risk management is my part-time engagement as Manager Nanotechnology at i-net innovation networks. A good combination and sometimes a difficult time management. This dual approach is very common, even though entrepreneurs rarely talk about it.
The second year ... In the first year we established our partners network with innovative methods. The second year we will focus on finding new customers and improve our services to fast, easy and automated processes. We will keep you informed about this journey which is still full of exciting uncertainty!