Two experts from Qatar Foundation Research Development and Innovation (QF RDI) have suggested several tips to make sustainability tech startups to be successful in the evolving and challenging sustainability sector.
John McEntire, director, Industry Development and Knowledge Transfer and Abeer al-Hammadi, director, Innovation and Economic Development both from QF RDI, have pointed out a five point formula: Thinking Corporate; Flexibility and Adoptability; Moving towards Independence; Thinking twice about Intellectual Property (IP) and Listening to the Market as the mantras to be successful .
“Since the turn of 21st century, the world has become accustomed to a steady and multiplying stream of electric vehicles on the roads, increased usage of solar and wind power, and implementing greener industrial methods across construction, manufacturing, transport, and agriculture, among others. The startup community is at the forefront of developing the latest sustainability-based technologies, whether renewable energies, sustainable materials, or waste management solutions,” noted, McEntire.
Al-Hammadi says that the prime focus should be on thinking corporate. “Although your startup may be focused on driving change for the greater good, it is vital that you act like any other business and have a fixed focus on generating revenue. If you do not have a coherent and robust business plan, including ways to sustain your venture, for example in the form of human resources, infrastructure or funding – it will not succeed, despite all your green credentials,” explained al-Hammadi.
According to McEntire, for every startup there are always twists and turns and flexibility and adaptability are the keys.
He remarked: “Markets and competition are never static; situations can alter in the blink of an eye, and startups must be prepared to adapt to circumstances and make changes to their initial plans. Competition can arise from anywhere, and your competitors may not look like you. Competing firms may be using a range of approaches to solve the same problems as you are, so you’ll have to think outside the box to identify and counter them.”
He also stated that funding is vital for startups to gain traction and begin to mature, especially in the beginning. “Firms that rely solely on currently available grants can quickly become insolvent as strained economies can disrupt the availability of these types of funds. Startups that develop and, in time, learn to stand on their own two feet, however, tend to generate and sustain higher amounts of revenue and create more job opportunities,” he said.
Al- Hammadi highlighted that IP is incredibly important to any business, and for those at the forefront of technology and innovation, it’s even more crucial. “Entrepreneurs must identify the parametres of their IP and decide whether their idea is worth patenting. In some instances, maintaining a trade secret and not putting a patent into the public domain may well be the better choice. It’s advisable to seek specialised counsel and discuss all the options available to protect your creation,” she pointed out.
The experts also maintained that to be successful, it is important to allow holes to be poked in your ideas.
McEntire advised: “Keep your customer and the problem you are trying to solve front of mind. Listen to what people are saying about your idea or product and find quick solutions to recurring issues. Make sure that you are transparent and accountable, especially when it comes to your sustainability, so that you can communicate these aspects of your business to the market and respond effectively when questioned.”