Providing management and sales skills for a spin-out company.
Many technology based spin-out companies, whether formed by large or small enterprises, face several issues in common: development of a product, carrying risks of project management, cost, time to market and achievement of specification.
Other issues include:
- Inability to afford the full complement of management skills
- Need to keep strategic, tactical and day-to-day marketing and sales activities on track
- Fast growth, recruitment and personnel issues
- Requirement to satisfy bankers, venture capital providers
- For small companies, this activity feels like you are required to be in all places at once and provide a satisfactory image for the company at the same time!
Qi3 provided support for a London-based company in just such a position. The company, Zeeko Ltd., is a spinout venture from the world-renowned Optical Sciences Laboratory of University College London. We gave management, sales and marketing support for the company in the development phase until the second round of venture funding was realised, thereafter supporting the transfer to other sales staff. The company has patents on a novel process and tool for grinding and polishing aspherical mirrors and lenses and has developed a fully-fledged CNC tool for this purpose. The application of the tool is potentially widespread:
- Lenses and mirrors for telescopes (Astronomy research)
- Adaptive optics (Research, defence, aerospace, industrial optics)
- Beam intensifiers for lasers (Research, defence, aerospace)
- Enhancement or replacement of Chemical Mechanical
- Planarisation of semiconductor wafers (Semiconductor industry)
- Optical equipment manufacturers (for cameras, binoculars, cinema projectors)
Our activities for Zeeko included pioneer sales, establishment of an agency activity in China, representation for the company at several conferences, production of marketing communications materials and presentations to potential investors.
On a day-to-day level, we typically support spinout companies such as this by:
- Supporting the technical project team in the management of the development project
- Dealing with all sales prospects (as the “sales manager”) and established marketing communications on a tight budget
- Producing technical marketing materials, for example technical press releases, brochures, specification documents and a company website
- Testing the founders’ business plans, evaluating options and evolving a credible business plan for the second stage financing
- Supporting the company in its pursuit of venture capital, providing professional, believable plans and presentations and building a “credibility base” of team project delivery, sales activity and business strategy
One of the many successes born from the Qi3 ZEEKO relationship was the work done on the first two sales of the IRP series systems. These two early product sales provided an essential foundation on which ZEEKO has continued to build.
Shortly afterwards ZEEKO announced the largest single order that the company had so far recorded. They were awarded a contract to supply the Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, China with an IRP 1000 robotic polishing machine. As well as receiving this order they were presented with an advanced commitment by this same institute to be the first commercial customer for the ZEEKO 3-D “Precessions” software for the polishing of free form optics.
The Harbin Institute was one of 50 prospects qualified and worked upon by Qi3. Thus we are extremely pleased that ZEEKO closed this deal so successfully.
In the same month ZEEKO also announced a cooperative agreement with Loh Optikmaschinen AG of Wetzlar, Germany. This agreement allows Loh to add ZEEKO’s standard polisher to its dedicated product range, with manufacturing taking place in their Wetzlar facilities. ZEEKO will continue to manufacture machines for all specialist applications, and for larger optic requirements of up to 3 metres in diameter.
With Qi3’s specialist sales support ZEEKO entered a difficult market successfully. With the hard work and dedication the ZEEKO team have so far shown we feel that their position can only get stronger. We wish them every success in the future.