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.