LONDON - Cocoon Networks London is pleased to introduce the Cocoon Networks Interview Series, a number of conversations with SMEs and startups inhabiting our co-working space. We speak to innovative and expanding businesses as they reveal their highlights and challenges, in addition to providing some top tips for success. This series features the stories of bright thinkers who leveraged their creativity to revolutionise the world as we know it.
Last week we conversed with Ricardo Simard, Director at Momentum, a company aiming to "help tech startups that want to sell to large enterprises can validate their proposition and obtain a product market fit."
What does Momentum do?
Momentum is creating a platform where tech startups that want to sell to large enterprises can validate their proposition and obtain a product market fit. We connect these tech startups with senior members of large organisations so the latter can help startups understand the challenges that the corporate side faces and how they (the startup) can solve such challenges. All the startups that join our programme already have a product and are generating revenue. The challenge is the shift from selling to another small company to a large (corporate) entity. This is more complicated due to a range of reasons, including a longer sales cycle, procurement complexities and regulations.
We organise market validation sessions or workshops where we mediate the conversation between the parties. In such sessions, the ‘ambassador’ from the corporate can share the challenges that the company faces and the startup can present its business solution. On the basis of the conversation, we are able to see how viable it is for that startup to enter the industry in question. Sometimes there’s a perfect match resulting into follow-up meetings and into the possibility to sell a product or service to the company where the ambassador is from, or in the industry in general. In other cases we see that the industry chosen by the startup is not the best industry for said startup to start.
This is about helping them understand who their customer is, how their customer works, what their procurement process looks like, which industry has the biggest pull from the market, the communication approach they should be using. It’s all about building a value proposition that matches customers needs. The startups have engaged with very senior ambassadors. In addition, it’s always refreshing for ambassadors to get involved and discover how they can bring innovation to their company. For this reason, they are often interested in engaging with startups offering technologies they were not previously aware of.
How hard was it to get your idea off the ground?
We started in November. My colleagues have extensive experience running startup programmes. I believe they have had about 100 startups going through their initiatives. I personally come from a corporate background. I think we’re a good mix between knowledge of the startup industry and knowledge of the corporate world. It is certainly complicated to start a business but having that support from their side has made things a lot easier. Our team is working very well. There are challenges but this combination surely facilitated the concrete development of our business idea. Within the space of three months we built our network of ambassadors, we selected a group of 10 startups and set up the whole processes for the programme. I believed doing all this would take longer but we put a lot of effort into it and, after our first programme, our startups have given great feedback.
What have you found most challenging?
There are around 200 incubators and accelerators in the UK. The challenge for us is to try and differentiate ourselves from them. We don’t consider ourselves to be an incubator or an accelerator. We consider ourselves to be a platform for growth. When engaging with VC firms, startups and the corporate side it is sometimes difficult to put this point across, as they often include us in the ‘incubator or accelerator’ category. Our model and programme is very different from this. So far we’ve done it well and we’ll continue to do that in the future.
What are the highlights of your expansion (or something you’re very proud of)?
Setting up a programme in 3 months and having engaged with top-quality startup and top-quality ambassadors. We have 200 ambassadors that are CEOs, CTOs and CIOs at FTSE 100 companies. We have a range of top-level corporates we have been able to involve and they have been helping the startups quite a lot. All startups are happy and we haven’t received any complaints from the corporate side either. There are 40 commercial conversations going on at the moment: this is a sign that both sides are getting something out of this project beyond the goal of the programme to support them in validating their proposition with corporates.
What advice would you give to other startup founders?
Be perseverant. Things will not always go well - you need to keep on going. Be flexible, things will change. Know what you want to achieve and have the confidence that you’re going to do so. Dream big and try and make a difference.
Why are you here at Cocoon? How has this environment contributed to the growth of your company?
One of the main reasons we chose Cocoon Networks was its location. We work with startups and corporates and here we are in the middle, between the City and Shoreditch. We joined when this building was still being completed. We have also organised a few of our events here. We had both our ambassador evening and our masterclasses here. So the location and facilities were certainly a deal-breaker.
What are your plans for the future?
Our immediate plan would be to produce a quality product that we can then reproduce. We would potentially do a couple more programmes to further demonstrate that this project is worth taking part in. Once we have our processes and connections in place then we will apply this model to other regions in Europe and in the US. This means continuously getting the best startups on board so we can attract the best ambassadors. By building this strong network, we’ll be able to work closely with both ambassadors and startups, narrow the gap between the two.
Applications to join the Momentum Programme are open! If you're a B2B startup looking to validate your proposition with corporates, you can apply here!