So I’m sitting here in this lobby waiting for someone to let me onto the 8th floor where I’ll (finally) be making Xingergy’s pitch to the Incu-Tech admission panel. The Science Park has delayed my admission panel twice, so I’ve waited about three months.
One thing that has me especially worried is a reply I received from a Hong Kong fund that advertised investing in early/seed stage startups, they said, basically, “Your idea sounds nice but we prefer revenue generating businesses”. It reminded me of a quote from the film The Princess Bride, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means” as early/seed stage startups, especially in my industry, are often (ever?) not revenue generating.
UPDATE: I’m on the bus going home now. The admission panel went something like this: it’s a smallish conference room, teams took turns presenting one at a time. I only saw one other team today. Inside six people are sitting at a big oval conference table, plus the two people that help you with the admissions process. The six person admission panel had name cards but they didn’t introduce themselves or what experience/qualifications they have. You are given 20 minutes to present, then they ask questions or express concerns for about 10 minutes. These were essentially the questions/concerns presented to me:
- Concern: You are missing some key technical people, this is a big problem.
- Concern: You do not have enough financing to cover three years of operations, this is a big problem (they seemed surprised we didn’t have 3 years runway).
- Question: What IP have you already developed, what IP does the company currently possess?
- Concern: What experience with plasma and/or pyrolysis do you have (beyond last year’s research and the prototype you built)?
- Concern: A highly qualified technical person won’t want to work for a startup.
- Concern: Is the technology dangerous? The STP does not have safety equipment.
During the questioning I got the distinct impression they were expecting the startup to have:
- A complete technical and management team
- Enough funding to last three years
- Already developed the technology and hold patents on it
The questions seemed more political/business oriented than startup/technical oriented.
One interesting thing is that they did not ask about the technology itself. They mentioned that it could be dangerous, that there are many government safety rules and regulations I’d have to follow. But no interest in the technology. No questions on what resources and steps are involved in building the prototypes and testing. No questions on other startups that are developing similar technologies, money they’ve raised. One panel member asked how often I’d need to use the gas chromatography equipment.
Also no interest in the waste problems in China and Hong Kong. I think it is very alarming and surprising that China is dumping half or more of it’s waste in rivers, lakes, or various holes in the ground.
As someone who’s been through the program before told me, “They only care if you’re gonna pay the rent”. So, if you want to get in, convince them you can pay the rent.
(another) UPDATE: Well that was fast, they already declined us. I just got home 10 minutes ago. Next week I should get an “official response”, hopefully with some actual content on why they didn’t accept us and not just a “sorry” letter. In fantasy land, they should explain what points they were concerned about and how they could help us fill those gaps, or connect us to people that can, so that we can progress. Waste (mis)management is huge problem here and there certainly aren’t many, if any, other startups working on it. So a little support would be nice. Yea, fantasy, I know.
[…] be challenged by the investors, and it sounds like they really get it. This is in stark contrast to my experience at the Science and Technology Park where it seemed like the board I pitched to couldn’t be […]
I’m sorry to hear you were not accepted. As the founder of One Earth Designs, a current incubatee at Science Park, I will say they have been very helpful and supportive of my company, from the application process through to now. Contrary to the opinion you heard, I found they care about more than just “paying the rent.” They want to see you be successful, and in turn, so that you can be a success story for Science Park. When we applied as an energy/environmental startup, we were also pre-revenue. I think key to our application was presenting a compelling argument for the business case of our venture. Like any investor, Science Park figures you may pivot or your technology may change, but ultimately what’s important is the team. If you don’t have the technical expertise on a management level already, you need to demonstrate how you’ll obtain it. The questions they posed to you are like ones I get from investors all the time, and there should be a good response for each one. Around 1 in 10 startups fail anyway, so they want to increase their likelihood of success. There’s something good in every situation…and perhaps this outcome came for a good reason. When you enter Science Park, you want to make sure your company is at the appropriate stage to take advantage of what it has to offer. It seems they like your idea, they now want to make sure it’s the right match for both sides. I’d be happy to sit down and swap lessons and tips if you’re interested!
Scot, most of the opinions I stated here were expressed to me by someone with, lets say, upper management connections to the STP, after discussing my project with the panel. Obviously the standard “spoke under condition of autonomy” applies here. And of course, individual experiences may vary. My opinion is, the STP/Hong Kong and my startup were not a good match.
I’ve moved the startup to mainland China, based on the advice of pretty much everyone who has provided input. Rather interestingly, the former director of the STP incubation program is now living in my apartment complex and involved in the same organization as myself. I messaged you through Twitter, which is the contact point your profile on here links to.