Today’s guest entry is a follow up from Thibault on his startup experience with Hydromea (see his post from January)
Have you ever wondered what it was like to have your own business? I’m not talking about the glossy life as CEO of a listed company. I’m talking about the venture, the ad-venture, the part just after you have come up with a brilliant idea, the sort of idea that you think no one has thought of and everyone is trying to steal from you. This part is usually an emotional roller-coast for entrepreneurs, in which they go through the exhilaration of seeing unlimited opportunities in countless markets and at the same time wonder how come they still don’t generate stable cash flows although they have a PhD and a patent!
I was excited in February when I stepped in the “Hydromea-wagon”, ready to ride this startup to wherever we might go. Hydromea, remember? The underwater drone that delivers cutting-edge water quality measurements while operating in SWARM fleets. So how could we use our newly acquired knowledge to impact Hydromea? Net Present Value, Forecasted Income Statements, Capital Budgeting, Marketing 4Ps, 5Cs, Business Plan … and Market Segmentation. Where should we start? Where would you start? There were so many opportunities for Hydromea: for the military, oil & gas, environmental surveys, hydrography research institutes…
Know your customers is part of Marketing 101. Be customer-centric. We started by reaching out to contacts in the various segments : email, phone calls, conference calls, lunches, online-surveys,…You name it. We called our team strategy the “diamond shape approach” which involves first learning as much as possible about the AUV market, what the unmet needs and unrecognized needs were and gauge interest and fit for Hydromea and then synthesizing our findings to bring some focused deliverables to help the founders progress.
While contacting different potential customers, we realized that our IMD classmates, with such diverse backgrounds, would be very helpful starting points. Some had worked in environmental monitoring in the dredging industry, others had experience in the nuclear industry, which relies on high quality water treatments. As we assessed the attractiveness of each segment, we slowly arrived at a focused approach, using a data-driven process-of-elimination. For example, I knew from my experience in the Navy, that the Hydromea, with no sonar capabilities, would not appeal to the military.
This said, focusing on core segments also helped us discover other opportunities embedded in Hydromea. That’s when we explored OEM part such as the drone’s thruster had great potential : it could be used as a high-tech pump devise in the food industry. This is the venture-ride : from a underwater drone to a food pump!
Our journey with Hydromea has now entered the re-centering phase of the “diamond approach”: synthesizing our findings, building financial spreadsheets and preparing to pitch Hydromea to a select jury of VCs and professional investors in April!
I’d like to end this post with a thought about our IMD Startup team. The six of us have been working together for two months now, with Leadership Labs, Industry Analysis, Integrative Exercise and more! These quality (and quantity) hours spent together have brought us closer. Because IMD isn’t about the grades (let’s say that’s a given), it’s about building friendships now, acquiring good networks and a solid 1-year memory.
Last Saturday’s class trip to Chamonix, enjoying a heavy fondue together, was all about of this:)