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Guest Post: Mastering the Talent Hunt: Strategic Moves for Deep Tech Start-ups to Thrive in Innovation.

Deep Tech Research Talent strategy

Guest Post

By Mark M.J. Scott

President of Northern Pixels Inc.

 The shortage of scientific and engineering talent, compared to the demand from the deep tech world, is hindering the progress of thousands of start-ups. This shortage negatively impacts product development, funding, and valuations. Fortunately, start-up founders can implement actionable strategies to gain a competitive edge. If executed correctly, these strategies can also offer additional lucrative benefits.

At every stage, especially during the early development phase, deep tech start-up founders encounter the daily challenge of prioritizing resources to achieve their objectives. Given the multitude of challenges start-ups face, deciding how to allocate resources between one challenge and another becomes a complex task. This often leads to some challenges being unaddressed, potentially resulting in more significant consequences than anticipated.

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Successful founders excel in analyzing the myriad challenges they encounter, crafting unique strategies that address several issues simultaneously. Such adaptability is a crucial survival skill for start-up founders.

In this article, I contend that the intense competition for elite research talent is intricately linked to two other paramount challenges faced by deep tech start-up founders: securing funding and strategizing for future commercial success. By judiciously allocating resources and executing a meticulously planned strategy, founders can secure a substantial competitive edge in all three areas.

To substantiate my argument, I will outline the principal factors that top researchers consider when deciding which deep tech start-up to join. Notably, these factors align precisely with the criteria deep tech investors use to assess and select companies for their portfolios.

Opportunity for Innovation and Cutting-Edge Research:

The potential for commercial success of a product often hinges on its novelty, technological advancement, and ability to address unmet needs in the market. They are likely to be more interested in start-ups that demonstrate a clear vision for their product and its market differentiation, as these factors are indicative of the product’s commercial viability.

Career Development and Growth Opportunities:

The commercial success of a product can significantly influence a researcher’s career trajectory. Working on a successful product can lead to professional recognition, opportunities for advancement, and the development of a strong professional network. Therefore, early indications of a Product-Market Fit can be a deciding factor for researchers who are also considering their long-term career growth and development.

Financial Incentives and Equity:

For many researchers, the financial rewards associated with the commercial success of a product are a significant consideration. Start-ups often offer equity or stock options as part of the compensation package, and the value of these can be directly tied to the company’s market performance. Early indications of a product’s success can, therefore, influence a candidate’s assessment of the financial benefits of joining a start-up.

Risk Assessment:

Joining a start-up involves a degree of risk, particularly in terms of job security and the stability of the company. Researchers are likely to evaluate the potential commercial success of a product as a proxy for the start-up’s overall viability and the risk associated with the role. Start-ups that can demonstrate a clear Go-To-Market plan and early customer advocacy are often seen as less risky and more attractive to top-tier talent.

Architect your talent strategy to help overcome multiple daunting challenges.

The convergence of interests between leading deep tech researchers and investors highlights the urgency for founders to devise and execute a marketing strategy early in the product development cycle.

Start-ups need to establish a clear, succinct foundational positioning that delineates the challenges of their target industry and buyers, presents a unique solution to these challenges, outlines the value proposition, and conveys the company’s mission. Although it may seem self-evident, many start-ups lack a clearly defined and current foundation, leading to misaligned priorities and lost opportunities.

Upon this foundational positioning, it is critical to build credibility through endorsements from technical opinion leaders, industry influencers and potential customers. Integrating this support with a strategic public relations and contextual communication plan is vital for magnifying the start-up’s message. Such a strategy is instrumental in creating a robust pipeline of talent, investors and future customers, which in turn strengthens the start-up’s brand, expedites development and secures strategic advantages over competitors well before the commercialization stage.

About the author:

Mark M.J. Scott is President of Northern Pixels Inc. a firm specialized in improving and accelerating the success of deep tech start-ups. Mark has played a leadership role in growing multiple deep tech successes, including a cryptography company acquired by AppDirect, an Optics and Photonics company acquired by Toyota and a pioneering Enterprise Low Code Application Platform, TrueContext, acquired by Battery Ventures in 2024. Mark was recently hired by the Quebec, Canada Government’s Quantum Innovation Zone, $435M funded, to devise a commercial strategy to bolster start-up success.

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The Future of Materials Discovery: Reducing R&D Costs significantly with GenMat’s AI and Machine Learning Tools

When: July 13, 2023 at 11:30am

What: GenMat Webinar

Picture of Jake Vikoren

Jake Vikoren

Company Speaker

Picture of Deep Prasad

Deep Prasad

Company Speaker

Picture of Araceli Venegas

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