July 4, 2018

Top five lessons learned: Insights from the Maximizing Funding Potential Workshop

There are innovations that change our lives forever. And, there are some that never get off the ground. Technology developers accept the risk that goes with this because they have a penchant for reward: to drive outcomes the world needs. On June 19, 2018  in Calgary, innovators working to turn ideas into products, and products into companies, shared their experiences at the Maximizing Funding Potential Workshop.

Brenda Kenny—Board Chair for Alberta Innovates, member of ERA’s Board and SDTC’s Member Council—moderated a panel talking about real experiences, some good, some not so good. Panelists included Scott Nelson, President and CEO, Titanium Corporation; Ben Sparrow, Co-founder and CEO, Saltworks Technologies; and Osman Malik, Chief Financial Officer, DarkVision Technologies Inc.

HERE ARE THE TOP FIVE LESSONS LEARNED:
  1. “Perhaps the biggest learning is things will take much longer than you think they will. Things will happen… that are way beyond your control. Five-year projects become 7-year projects, 7-year projects become 10-year projects.  You need a lot of money to get through that. Rule number one, two and three is don’t run out of money.”
  2. “Before you go to the field, prototype and sandbox inside the four walls of your own house.  Break it, set it on fire, rebuild it, prior to going to the field… Every time you encounter a problem, that can translate into an invention opportunity and a possible patent.”
  3. “Always have a backup plan. Whether it’s a backup consortium partner, backup suppliers for key components, or even backup options for investors…and even grant funding. At my company, we are constantly looking at where our vulnerabilities are and constantly putting in place backup plans. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, but as a result, the resilience of your business is much, much, better.”
  4. “Don’t treat your demo like a science project, where you build something, it goes out into the field and it comes back and collects dust. We made that mistake. Your demo needs to be a commercial opportunity.”
  5. “IP is everything. You generally don’t have assets when you are spending this money. Your asset is your IP and you better protect it. Your best friends may not be your best friends. You need a good lawyer to advise you on how to setup all your contracts, so you come out if this as the owner of the IP or at least get your fair share.”

WATCH THE FULL PANEL DISCUSSION

Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA), Alberta Innovates (AI) and Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) partnered to offer this free, full-day event at the Metropolitan Conference Centre in Calgary.  The event was oversubscribed only two hours after it was announced with over 200 people in attendance.