by Katy Diamond, Marketing Associate at Tech It Forward, in collaboration with Jennifer Elias, co-founder of Tech It Forward.
Israel as the Startup Nation boasts the highest density of startups per capita in the world with over 9,000 established startups to its name. Given that tech contributes to a whopping 38% of Israel’s total annual export, competition amongst key players is fierce; it is imperative for entrepreneurs to stay on top of the latest technological developments and trends as they look for new ways to bolster their R&D processes.
The proactive search for up and coming technologies to stay ahead of the competition is known as ‘technology scouting’. In light of the dynamic digital landscape, technology scouting aids the evolution of startups, whilst ensuring that the adoption of new innovative technologies aligns with their business needs.
So how can you establish a technology scouting process that is efficient, productive and most importantly, keeps up with the changing nature of the Startup Nation? Here are 6 tips to get you started.
Maximize scouting successes through resources and partners of open innovation teams
Whilst internal innovation teams are useful to understand the needs and challenges of the business, it must be acknowledged that tech scouting is a time consuming and dynamic task that demands action on an extensive level. Using employees to source new technologies can become problematic when this diverts their attention from other important tasks and can actually lower productivity levels within the business.
For this reason, external consultants are invaluable in strategically sourcing new and exciting technologies in white spaces. This is particularly relevant for businesses that are looking to scout internationally, since having a team on the ground will secure a network and familiarity with the Israeli ecosystem.
In addition, many promising and game-changing technologies are either under the radar, don’t have a website or are still at the R&D stage. Without a full team of experts who are integrated in this ecosystem, corporates are unlikely to find these hidden gems and take full advantage of the impact of their innovations. Therefore, outsourcing to a team of local professionals is highly beneficial as a time management mechanism and to ensure that opportunities are not missed when identifying new technologies.
Know the characteristics of efficient and productive technology scouts in order to pick your partner well
It’s not enough for a technology scout to share insights into the science and tech field, and corporates know it; technology scouts need to be analytically minded, imaginative and have a sound ability to solve problems. They need to be a reliable people’s person, who can naturally connect with others in order to build a strong and trusting network, as well as a lifelong learner, excellent listener and curious researcher.
The technology scout must be dedicated to staying on top of emerging technologies and trends, prioritizing the development of new ideas and sharing their findings within the organization. This flow of communication is vital to ensure that information is disseminated to key players who can begin to implement new technologies.
Have an interactive and dynamic tech scouting team process
Tech scouters and corporates should share ongoing feedback to keep all parties in the loop with recently discovered technology. For example, the team at Tech It Forward schedule weekly short standup calls with clients to provide updates on the latest technologies and better understand the relevance to each business.
To give a more specific example, it is useful for both the information recipients and technology scouts to be involved in analyzing and interpreting the data. This improves the accuracy of the findings and speed at which new insights in tech lead to innovation by those developing the ideas, thereby converting the data into intelligence.
Nevertheless, the significance of communication between the scouter and startup extends far beyond the analysis stage of the data. Most tech scouting deals that fall through have experienced a poor level of communication and negotiation between parties, even when the match is found.
Scouters are specialists in terms of knowing their clients and the tech industry more broadly, operating in both business cultures simultaneously. Therefore, it is necessary to communicate with scouters throughout the process and consult with them until the deal is signed. For example, Israelis are renowned for being very tough negotiators, and if you are not prepared to react to this, you might lose opportunities.
Align tech scouting strategy with business needs
It is important to ensure that corporate tech needs are compatible with the startup’s business needs. Whereas the overarching goal of the startup will be to generate revenue quickly, the focus of corporate innovation teams will be concerned with tech integration, which can often be a much slower process. Since the pace and goals differ between the parties, it is necessary to create an environment that encourages open communication between the corporate and startup so that both interests are fulfilled.
Also vital to consider are the current and future needs of the startup and how these can best be addressed and improved through the successful deployment of tech scouting. In this way, the scouter should ensure that internal innovation teams have a holistic view of their challenges, and the role that tech plays in developing business strategy.
Human values in tech scouting
It is without doubt that data is incredibly useful to provide an overview and identify key players quickly and easily. Despite this, databases and platforms are not always kept up to date with the newest technologies being developed.
Whilst it is true that these tools complement the work of a tech scout, they should not be relied upon as a viable substitute given the potential for inaccuracies and missed opportunities. This is especially the case when considering the soft skills that tech scouts can offer, such as imagination and diversity of ideas, which offsets the shortfalls of using data alone.
Tech scouting is also a long term process and so it is essential to build a strong and trusting relationship with your partner. When choosing your scouting partner, remember that you are entering into an agreement that has the potential to sky-rocket the potential of the startup. You want to engage with a partner that has a thorough understanding of the process and the ecosystem, but also one that keeps your business aims front of mind and who you connect with on a human level.
Know how to recognize a scouting success story
At the very start of the tech scouting process, outline KPIs in terms of the timeline and definition of a successful implementation (whether that be POC, investment, M&A etc.) Since innovation is dynamic, it is necessary to ensure that the scouting project is completed within the given time frame and gives positive results to the different parties. Only win-win situations and contracts are fair, optimized, and stand the test of time.
Gather supporting evidence, such as financial data and partnership information, in an organized and easily accessible format. Actively update your pipeline so all information is correct and relevant, whilst keeping an eye on current news for important findings that can validate your success.
Lastly, keep internal stakeholders aware of your successes. This will provide a proof point that the innovation strategy is effective and beneficial for the growth and development of the business in line with changing technologies and trends.
Tech scouting is an invaluable innovation activity that gives businesses a competitive edge in a saturated tech market. Outsourcing the long and demanding process of tech scouting to local professionals embedded within the ecosystem is highly advantageous since they have the knowledge and skills to successfully source the most relevant technologies.
However, tech scouting needs to be a collaborative activity to make sure that all interested parties benefit from it, especially when the goals of the corporate and startup do not seem to align at first glance. It is therefore the role of the tech scouter to open these lines of communication so that the sourcing and application of new technologies meets the needs of both sides and ultimately contributes to the success of the enterprise.