Deliver Sales Traction for Early Stage Tech Funding

Getting early stage Tech financing  is tough!
You are launching a unique Technology solution in Robotics & Automation and seeking to raise initial Capital from Investors? This post is for Early Stage Entrepreneurs involved in Machine Vision, Ultrasound, laser, sound or camera-based sensors, autonomous motion-learning, robot programming, force sensing or Advanced drive & control hardware.

Based on real Venture cases, what you will learn:

  • Engage with Customers to accelerate your Product Readiness
  • Which inbound & outbound actions to drive Market access
  • How Technology can boost your competitive advantage
  • Deliver proven Sales predictability and reduce Technology risk
  • Organize your sales team & roles for growth Tackle international markets from USA, Europe or Asia

We talk with Frank Demmler, dubbed “[Pittsburgh’s] startup whisperer” by Inc. Magazine. Actively engaged in Pittsburgh’s technology-based entrepreneurial community for decades with Carnegie Mellon University to create, strengthen, and grow the entrepreneurial culture. He shares his experience drawn from over 400 first-time funding of companies.

Stop Prospecting, Start Selling!

In collaboration with Werk1 – the most startup-friendly place in Munich – we discuss tried and tested, street-smart approach to Boost customer acquisition for your B2B Tech Startup. You will gain hands-on guidance on how to execute an efficient business development process from initial contact all the way to qualification.

Marlene Eder, Head of Events & Services at Werk1, welcomes Hervé Flutto – a B2B Tech Entrepreneur – who launched Sparksense in 2017 to contribute his experience, energy and drive to help grow Tech startups. With his team, he works each day with early stage and growth startups to bring their technology to market.

How to sell Smart Sensor Tech for Industrial Automation

How to Sell Smart Sensor Tech

Winning first customer is tough! You are launching a unique Smart Sensor Technology solution for Industrial automation, Collaborative or Mobile Robots?

The Robotic markets see the rapid emergence of advanced technologies for Sense of Touch, autonomous navigation, simplified programming, material handling automation, enhanced safety and more.

This session is for Entrepreneurs involved in Machine Vision, Ultrasound, laser, sound or camera-based sensors, autonomous motion-learning, robot programming, force sensing or Advanced drive & control hardware.

We tackle questions such as:

  • Should you sell a Component or a Product?
  • Where are you in the food chain between OEMs, Integrators and End Users?
  • How to best organise your sales organisation for growth?
  • Differences in tackling international markets from USA, Europe or Asia?
  • Ways to capturing value through Value-added benefits and pricing

We talk with Tomi Väänänen, an experienced international sales manager. He brings hands-on knowledge and years of experience leading sales development incl. for smart sensor technology and industrial automation. Tomi draws from his real-life experience managing sales across industries in Europe, India and China.

The New Work order, on-demand skills for Startups

Hiring talents for Startups and SME’s can be a challenge! You are launching a unique solution and looking to access the most relevant talents?

We address questions like:

  • What kind of staffing for which stage of business development?
  • How to best balance flexibility, value for money and access to specialized skills?
  • What are different models to work with external service providers?
  • How to ensure you get the most value working with an external partner?
  • Which particular roles can be staffed internally vs. externally?

We are discussing during this talk with:

Thomas von Tschammer, Director of Operations at Neural Concept, a company he joined two years ago. He graduated from EPFL with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. During his master, he had a successful experience as vice-president of the Junior Entreprise EPFL, awarded European Junior Entreprise of the year 2018.

Pierfederico Ferrante , Vice-President of the Junior Entreprise EPFL. Amongst other things he worked on more than 25 projects as of today and collaborated with 5 different Start-ups and 2 EPFL laboratories which benefited greatly from the skills of EPFL students. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at EPFL.

Win customers in Data Analytics & ML Software

Winning first customer is tough! You are launching a unique Data Analytics Software or SaaS solution and looking to access the most attractive markets?

We have noticed in many cases that AI companies simply don’t have the same economic construction as software businesses. At times, they can even look more like traditional services companies.

Andreessen Horowitz, February 2020

Questions we address during this 45-min session include:

  • When is the right time to launch Sales outreach vs. Product Development?
  • What it takes to access and monetize data across various applications?
  • How to structure your product and pricing to drive scalable growth ?
  • Can I adapt my geographical footprint to specific market response?
  • What to expect from Social Media or Press Relations?

We talk with Ignacio Barrios Baños , CEO & Co-founder at Kido Dynamics, how to generate deep knowledge about the mobility behavior of millions of people through machine learning technologies. Ignacio draws from his real-life experience from early startup days to now managing customers across 10 countries.

Check-out also our detailed posts on Commercial Growth:

Win customers… in Robotics & Automation

Winning first customer is tough! We review here practical insights, methods and tools for Startups to execute Business Development for Robotic, Software Analytics or Industrial Automation solutions.

This session provides hands-on guidance on how to execute an efficient outbound business development process to capitalize on growing Automation markets.

“Social-distancing directives, (…) could prompt more industries to accelerate their use of automation. And long-simmering worries about job losses or a broad unease about having machines control vital aspects of daily life could dissipate as society sees the benefits of restructuring workplaces in ways that minimize close human contact..

New York Times, April 2020

For Business Development in Industrial Automation, we tackle:

  • How should I organize and prioritize my customer outreach?
  • How to tune your message to OEM Manufacturers, System integrators and End users?`
  • Is it best to go wide and shallow or focused and deep?
  • Can I adapt my outreach depending on product complexity and sales cycle?
  • How do I get in touch with the right decision maker?
  • What does it really mean to qualify a lead?

We talk with Luca Rabezzana, Business Development Associate at Sparksense. He draws from his real-life experience working with start-ups and shares his passion for Machine vision, robotics and markets.

We discuss tried and tested, street-smart approach to Boost customer acquisition for your B2B Tech Startup.

Check-out also our detailed posts on Commercial Growth:

The Customer is back

Drop in Venture Capital forces Tech Startups to more market focus

How Tech Startups push new customer acquisition? After years of record global Venture financing and flurry of Startup events, a new chapter is opening. Free from distractions, this chapter will be written by market focused Startups. By successful Entrepreneurs focused on Customers, delivering solutions to address real life problems. They will tell stories of Impact, focus, frugality and execution.

The lack of market is by far the number one reason for Startup failure. Tech Startups need to rely on a mix of Tech skills, market focus and sales methods to identify truly qualified customers for their technology. This is a marathon, not a sprint.”, says Hervé Flutto, Tech Entrepreneur and Founder of

It is critical for Tech Entrepreneurs to shape their Business Development and sales organisation over time. Best practices are emerging to guide Startups towards market focused strategies.

Business Development for Startups is very different

For Big Companies, Good business development is something that is tangential to their core mission. This can then become part of it, serves as good marketing or as another money maker. For Startups, Business Development is not just about winning new customers. It is a vital function to access specific market intelligence on innovative product offering. This intelligence feeds into improved product features, pricing model, extended services, channels, team profiles etc…

Organize your sales today for growth tomorrow

So what does this really mean for Tech Startups to push new customer acquisition?
Sven Koehler, Co-founder & CEO with Anerdgy AG, Zürich, launches its new IoT solution with Sparksense flexible Business-Development-as-a-Service. More than ever he sees “Many startups and young companies start to look into financing and find out that their business needs to get more commercial traction. First steps for us are to identify the right customer for our new product- this is a key priority.

Over time, a B2B Tech Startup combines 5 key roles in its sales organization:

  1. The CEO as a Salesman – often the best option during the Prototype-to-Product phase. Founder(s) are immersed into both market reality and product development.
  2. Business Development – after initial product-market fit, specific resources are allocated to win new customers, launch Demo pilots and expand recurring customer base.
  3. Key Account Management – as business economics allow, a dedicated Team is established to manage and expand relationships with existing customers.
  4. Channel Partner Manager – to scale-up revenues quickly, and globally, many successful Entrepreneurs set-up indirect sale networks.
  5. Customer success team – tasked to ensure customers get the most value from the solution; particularly important role for novel solutions and source of future product insights.

Access the right Business Development resources

For Gianluca Cesari, Co-founder & Business Development Manager, Sparksense extended Business Development team works well for Sevensense AG, Zürich. “To do Business Development in our field, you need to have a clear grasp of technical concepts to convince customers. In addition, in a Startup we are often out of resources. Calling on customers, investigating which solution could be a good fit to for them is very time consuming.

Also, Entrepreneurs should realize that “people who excel at selling new products have traits and behaviors different from those of people who successfully sell existing product lines”.

Some things for Tech startups to consider when staffing for Business Development:

  • Attitude beats Experience – beyond relevant Tech knowledge, look for communication, great listening skills and resilience
  • Flexible set-up – team size and profile should adjust to match promising applications and evolving market opportunities; potentially blending internal and external resources
  • Minimize cash burn – keep fixed cost low to protect your runway while building revenues
  • Process first, tools second – an excel tracker is great to start prospection; just be prepared to introduce more advanced (free) software to secure team coordination

How to start winning new customers sustainably

Sparksense’s collaboration with numerous tech startups has resulted in the emergence of best practices:

Start with a clear goal – You might be looking for initial Proof-of-Concepts, new recurring customers or international expansion. In any case Qualified leads should meet 3 criteria: (1) right decision maker; (2) interested in your solution; (3) available budget.

Stay Focused – Beyond the Innovation Labs, concentrate on Operational business owners; they are more difficult to access but they are also closest to recurring business for your Startup.

Fulfill your promise – Balance new customer growth with Engineering and product management execution. Achieve true Qualification of Leads to reduce hand-over issues to scarce product engineering resources.

Whichever path you pursue for your Tech Startups to push new customer acquisition, the CEO should remain closely involved in Sales, as your Startup launches new products, explores new markets or manages large customers. Prepare to flex your Sales efforts in line with your liquidity and revenue goals. Manage a close link between sales and Product development teams. And be resilient …

Win your first customer… and beyond

Winning first customer is tough! We review here practical insights, methods and tools to execute Business Development for Tech Startups.

You are launching a  unique tech solution and looking to access the most attractive markets?  It is not “sales”! Many tech startups struggle to identify, attract,  train and retain qualified Business Developers. In addition, a “sales”  approach can backfire if you are starting to sell while a client is  still in “education” mode.

If the economy continues to head  south, what does it mean for entrepreneurs ready to scale their  business? Should they hold off on growing sales? Should they take a more  conservative approach? My answer is no.
In my view, a down economy is  the best time to build a sales team.

Mark Roberge leading Sales at HubSpot during the 2008 crisis.

The success of a Business Development for Tech Start is directly linked to two aspects of outbound Sales:

First, the Team skillset and attitude.

Selling novel, unique solutions is not business as usual. Salespeople need both product knowledge and market knowledge—an understanding of market trends and customer buying patterns. They bring a strong understanding  of the technology, combined with great listening skills. They are also resilient, acknowledging that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Second, the good tools and methods.

A great team strives for executing a robust business development process, which is very selective and focused to capitalize and protect your unique value proposition. You want to foster efficiency from the initial  market segmentation, target focus, initial outreach all the way to the  lead qualification. This also requires discipline to delete less  promising prospects.

We provide practical insights on how to build and manage a team with the right attitude. It also provides hands-on guidance on how to execute an efficient business development process. It includes answers to questions like:

  • How should I organize and prioritize my customer outreach?
  • Is it best to go wide and shallow or focused and deep?
  • Can I adapt my outreach depending on product complexity and sales cycle?
  • How do I get in touch with the right decision maker?
  • What does it really mean to qualify a lead?

We talk with Lugas Raka Adrianto, Business Development Associate at Sparksense. He draws from his real-life experience working with start-ups and share his passion for sustainable technology to provide exciting insights, practical  examples and answer live questions.

This podcast is an opportunity to discuss tried and tested, street-smart approach to Boost customer acquisition for your B2B Tech Startup.

Check-out also our detailed posts on Commercial Growth:

What every Tech Startup should know about intellectual property

How leading Tech Startups protect their Technology effectively, managing Intellectual Property, Trade Secrets, Copyrights and Patents.

While the launch of a tech startup is exciting, each entrepreneur needs to establish a strong legal foundation to protect itself and its intellectual property (IP). Indeed, Intellectual Property (patents, designs, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets) is a key driver in a Company’s commercial success.

Indeed the value of a start-up is usually directly linked to two aspects of intellectual property:

First, the protection of own intellectual property.

Startups are initially not in the position to challenge the top dogs. This is due to their financial power, reputation, market penetration and relationships to other players in the market. Therefore, to make a great idea into an economic success, the idea needs effective legal protection.

Second, the protection against third party’s intellectual property.

Intellectual property rights create monopolies. The owners of intellectual property rights use them to fend off competition. As a result Third party’s intellectual property can be a show-stopper. In effect, Startups have limited funds to use in legal matters and navigate through this complexity. Therefore, Startups need a strategy in place to avoid such pitfalls very early on.

This Tech Talk addresses how leading Tech Startups protect their Technology effectively, managing Intellectual Property, Trade Secrets, Copyrights and Patents we also address questions like:

  • Which type of intellectual property is best suited for my business?
  • Is it better to patent or to maintain secrecy?
  • How do I manage Process vs. Product IP?
  • Which third party intellectual property rights are relevant for my business?
  • How can I reach reasonable certainty with regards to third party’s intellectual property rights?
target=”_blank”>Herve Flutto

We talk with Daniel Hoppe, Certified IP Specialist Lawyer with the German based IP law firm PREU BOHLIG & PARTNER. He draws from his experience in advising start-ups in matters of intellectual property and from his experience in intellectual property litigation.

Check-out also our detailed posts on Commercial Growth and prototyping:

Check out our other Tech Talks and insights on Financing and B2B sales in our Startup Guide

Generating qualified leads for Tech startups – a practical guide

Content marketing drives 10x increase in lead conversion

This Content Marketing Guide brings together specific actions and use cases most from our day-to-day work with Tech Entrepreneurs. It draws also from our own experience building Tech ventures in Energy and Aerospace industries.

If you have more money than brains, you should focus on Outbound Marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on Inbound Marketing.

Guy Kawasaki

We believe that a well-executed Content Marketing strategy is key to success for early tech ventures – in this Content Marketing guide for Entrepreneurs we cover:

  • Why Content Marketing is important
  • What content works for your startup
  • 5 Ground rules to shape your content
  • Great Use Cases on content distribution
  • Powerful, Easy to use and cheap Tools
  • Call To Action to get qualified leads

Why Tech Entrepreneurs should focus on Content marketing

Outbound Marketing & Sales feels great!

You dig through your network e.g. Linkedin & co. to get some target names. You reach out to them, email or chat, for a chance to sell your solution. Probably a necessary step, but this has some flaws:

  • You spend most of your time establishing first contacts
  • You are interrupting your audience in their day-to-day business
  • Missing problems where your solution could be of greater value
  • Very low sales conversion rate and huge time spent

In this Content Marketing Guide for Entrepreneurs, we prefer to focus on the definition :

“The marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Epic Content Marketing, Joe Pulizzi

Build the right Content Marketing for your startup

In order to maximize impact of any marketing action, it is critical to understand the characters at play.

THE HUNTER a.k.a Entrepreneur

The Tech Entrepreneur should consider key characteristics of one’s early stage Startups, as it affect the Content marketing strategy:

  • Mostly unknown to your target market
  • Still validating and discovering real market needs
  • Time-to-revenues and acquiring new customers is key
  • Cannot afford fully fledged digital marketing campaigns

THE TARGET a.k.a Prospective Customer

Be careful! Your Target is NOT the Innovation Manager, who is scouting for Innovative ideas.

Every decision maker you’re trying to engage with spends 90% of their working life in F.E.A.R. They are: Frustrated, Evasive, Apathetic and Risk averse.

Paul Cash, Rooster Punk

Our Target character is one of the Business Managers busy tackling day-to-day operations. He has probably lived many years with the Status Quo. When the Target decides to solve a problem, one wants tangible benefits:  increased sales, reduced cost or improved quality.

5 practical rules for effective Content marketing

So now it is time for Tech Entrepreneurs to take this content marketing guide into action!

#1 Make your content relevant to your Target audience

Know-Your-Customer with empathy. Focus on understanding your Target market needs, problem and expectations. Work out various options to address this issue incl. your solution. But keep it low-key on branding and hard selling.

#2 Build credibility and trust

Working in F.E.A.R., the Decision Maker is concerned by the risk of working with you as a new supplier. Testimonials and facts from Pilot, existing customers, research partners or opinion leaders increase your credibility.

#3 Illustrate your content

You should grab attention through relevant picture or visual. License-free pictures and video material can be found on Pexels, Unsplash, Pxhere and many more on a pay-for-license e.g. shutterstock & co.

#4 Your Call To Action

Prepare your Call To Action well before your content marketing release. Keep in mind that your goal is to generate awareness so that your target audience connects with you. You need to have a clear path to bring these new leads into your commercial funnel.

#5 Measure impact and iterate

We are competing for attention with a million other content. While the costs of ‘Distribution’ have dropped to almost Zero, the ‘Production’ time & costs have increased to deliver quality content. Regularly measure impact to fine tune type of content, messages and distribution channels.

Now that you have built your content, let us look at ways it can be distributed to your audience, leveraging specific use cases.

THE DISTRIBUTION – where to publish my ‘content’?

It should be where your Target audience is looking for information. Do you address a large, fragmented market? Or rather a an industry with few big buyers? How much time and money you are prepared to dedicate?

Below are some of the main distribution strategies implemented for tech Startups.

  • Social Media
    For most Tech businesses, preferred routes will be Linkedin, Medium, Youtube and Industry specific blogs. If your business involves design or visual value creation, consider adding Instagram or Facebook.
Labtoo, France, European marketplace for scientific research. Leveraging LinkedIn & more
  • Blog
    Startups should favor theme based content, which grabs attention. Add some News as you become a more established businesses. Keep it generic, typically loosely tied to your company and branding. Many blogs follow the ‘Listicle’ format and some more Best Practices here.
Hubspot, USA Marketing, sales, and service software that helps your business grow without compromise. Great blog!
  • Podcast
    Simple audio recording, easy to edit, convenient to consume, inexpensive and quick to produce. 17% of marketers plan to add podcasting to their marketing efforts in the next 12 months. For a step-by-step guide, how to Start a Podcast check this here.
Flyability, Switzerland, provider of solutions for the inspection and exploration of indoor, inaccessible, and confined spaces. Great Podcast series & more.
  • Meetup & Network events
    In 2018, Atomico reports about 15’000 Tech related meetups in each Paris and Berlin, 30’000 in London alone. Meetups can be a very powerful and cheap way to connect with your audience. It allows you to explain your solution and build a community around your brand.
LuckaBox, Switzerland a last mile platform for logistics, recently launched its own Meetup
  • Live or online Training seminar
    Workshop format built around your solution. You might consider also providing some online training as lead generation to your main business. Based on the right content, it can be scalable and promotes you as expert in a field. Consider Udemy, Teachable and more.
Flokk by Iart, Switzerland, an open platform for implementing interactive light installations without coding. Here Hands-on workshop at Architecture Biennalle, Beijing 2018
  • Video
    Video is a must have nowadays; combined with landing pages can increase conversion by 86%. Vary your format from short social media teaser, to company overview to ‘How-to-Video’. A nice infographic by Hubspot and more B2B Video examples here.
Inopsys, Belgium, Advanced industrial wastewater treatment solutions, Janssen Pharmaceutical Testimonial Video
  • Product Configurator
    An online product Configurator is great to automate your product features selection. Gartner estimates in 2018, 40% of B2B digital commerce sites to use Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) tools.
    Your challenge is adoption. Start small using Google Form or a Web Editor before expanding functionalities.
Up2Parts, Germany, Revolution in Digital Manufacturing. Advanced Online Configurator
  • Open Source & Freemium models
    Providing a free(mium) Open Source solution can drive great business traction. It is powerful to ‘Try-before-your-buy’, build a community of users as an asset or generate a larger hardware installed base.
Klepsydra Technologies, Switzerland software for faster embedded computing performance, releasing an Open Source version
  • Industry Trade show
    As a startup, forget your expensive own booth. Instead, join the booth of a large established player. Apply for Call For Paper to be on stage, alongside a well-known partner if possible! Take on comfortable shoes to walk the floor and meet prospect customers.
Neural Concept, Switzerland, 3D Deep Learning Software for Enhanced Engineering @ Nvidia Booth Supercomputing 2018

Now that we have decided on the type of content we want to deliver, we need some tools for an efficient content ‘production’.

THE PRODUCTION – Making it happen !

There are many great (free) design tools to help you be efficient. But do not get distracted – the ‘Design’ part of the content is the easy bit.

The hard part is to work, re-work and fine tune your content. It is old fashion but it forces you to think through key items : audience, wording, problem, solution, features, benefits…
Forget the font, color & co for now…

Knowing that you could work on the detailed ‘content’ forever, now you feel good about it. Ready to tackle the ‘design’ !

Below is a list of tools we use every day… powerful & easy to use

  • Canva great for quick & professional looking design
  • Gimp open source graphics editor for image retouching and editing
  • Lightworks open source video editing software
  • WordPress simple web editor for professional outcome
  • to create, host and broadcast your podcast

But of course the content is only a means to an end… so let’s get into action.

CALL TO ACTION – turning your Content into Sales

After the Acquisition comes the Activation phase. Whatever your established goals are, it is critical to ensure you have a Call To Action.

If your business relies on a large community of users, consider having a sign-up landing page. Strategic landing pages are used by 68% of B2B businesses to acquire leads.

But of course, most Tech solutions need to build a personal rapport with your prospective clients. Be prepared to share details about your solution in online call, live or recorded demo and a personal sales meeting.

Tech Content Marketing is a wide topic! This content marketing guide for Tech Entrepreneurs is to trigger thoughts and actions. Since we all can benefit from everyone insights, we invite you to comment and share your experience.

Note: many statistics from