From projects to sales - choosing your focus and creating standardised products

In a panel session during the event “Innovation in Biosolutions” at DTU, industry experts shared their real-life experiences on how to transition from innovative projects to sales and creating standardized products. Here are some of the key takeaways from the panelists.

Startups often face the challenge of scaling up their innovative projects or ideas to a financially sustainable business model. Food & Bio Cluster Denmark has recently been in dialogue with tech-startups that asked questions on the issue, such as: When going from projects developed with customers to standard sales what are the most important points to focus on and develop – should I start with the organization, marketing, sales, product or something else?

If I move from pilot-testing and want to outsource production, how can I find the right manufacturing partner? And related to this, how do I retain control of the development process? How can I maintain a solid IP position, avoid exclusive bindings and secure project pace?

In a panel session during the event “Innovation in Biosolutions” at DTU, industry experts shared their real-life experiences on how to transition from innovative projects to sales and creating standardized products. Here are some of the key takeaways from the panelists.

Photo: Panelists Isabel Alvarez-Martos, Karsten Dinesen, Jakob Bejbo Andersen discussing the transition from innovative projects to sales at the “Innovation in Biosolutions” event at DTU on 13 April 2023

Creating standardized products

The panelists suggested that startups initiate the dialogue with customers at an early stage in order to figure out, how you can best develop a solution that creates value. 

Isabel Alvarez-Martos, CEO & Co-founder of Cellugy, pointed out that some startups focus on developing, but without involving the customer enough: “Start talking with the companies very, very early. You really have to build a business case before you keep developing your technology! This is how you can do your validation and get your traction”.

Karsten Dinesen, COO, Chromologics, noticed that some startups work in several industries, which is not be an advantage for scaling. Instead, he recommended that startups should try to "narrow segment and really become an expert in the field you decide to work within.”.

Isabel Alvarez-Martos, emphasized the importance of assessing the regulatory framework of the markets you are evaluating and getting help from partners/customers to help you navigate through it. 

Once a startup has identified a market and created a scalable business model, creating standardized products is the next step. This is critical for sustainable growth, as it allows for streamlined operations and more efficient production processes.

Choosing the right partners for sourcing and developing

Jakob Bejbo Andersen, CEO & Co-Founder, MASH Makes, advised startups to figure out really early if there is a strategic fit with those you speak with. It’s okay to tell an interested party that the fit is not there so that no one wastes time – even when it comes to investors. With regards to scaling up with a partner, the panel’s first option was not to outsource.

“Perhaps you don’t need to oursource”, Karsten Dinesen reflected. “If the prototype works, hire someone instead of using externals – the work on describing your processes takes too long! At the same time, I can recommend using standard components, this lower the risk of sourcing”. 

Isabel Alvarez-Martos agreed and suggested that if you outsource production, make sure you can still take part in the process so that you don’t miss any learnings from the process. On the issue of IP, she suggested that companies should have core technology protected, but stay open for collaboration. 

Jakob Bejbo Andersen encouraged that startups should collaborate with those who want to collaborate, and really try to avoid exclusivity. If a potential client wants exclusivity, most often, leave it! There is a certain level of fear of missing out, even among the larger companies, and you much rather want to come back later and offer the solution once it’s been tested with a competitor. 

A final comment from Jakob Bejbo Andersen was to remember that the right partners are not necessarily to be found in Denmark. Look further than the Danish borders.

All in all, there is no “one size fits all” advice when you are moving from project to standardized sales, besides, reality just doesn’t fit theory, as Jacob Bejbo Andersen commented. Yet traction with clients is king. So “if you have something – a collaboration, a prototype that works, go for it! Use what you have as a foothold and use it to move forward from there”.

More information

Food & Bio Cluster Denmark offers 1:1 programmes to startups, and one of our finest services is to help the startup prepare for a dialogue as well as open doors to the right partners, e.g. suggesting the right person from within a member organisation. This may not always be a corporate, though. Contact our Head of Entrepreneurship & Incubation Jacob Mogensen, if you want to hear more.

Jacob Mogensen

Head of Incubation

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