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Finding the Market for Your Technology



We come across lots of gifted would-be founders. Some are the business-school or ex-financier type. Others have more specific expertise: product, engineering, AI or machine learning. For those with specific skills, and particularly those with deep technical aptitude in AI/ML – we often find an amazing piece of technology, new process or a proprietary algorithm that has been developed without a market to aim at.

Key takeaways:

  • Not everyone has to have gone to Harvard Business School to identify a killer use case
  • Teach yourself some basic top-down market analysis and layer on some common sense
  • The size of the market will drive who you should be looking to raise from

For all those of you who can identify with this… Forward Partners are here to help. We’re investors in Applied AI businesses. Taking technical know-how and applying it to a big use-case can seem like a daunting task. Hopefully this article can provide you with a 5 minute MBA, at least in regard to finding a market for your work. We’re going to do a ‘top-down’ investigation of a potential use-case for computer vision and, at a later stage, machine learning.

If you’ve been building, for example, technology or a set of algorithms – you’ve possibly been ‘going from the bottom up’. You’ve been applying your set of skills to a problem that you personally know a lot about. That may, or may not, be applicable for a large amount of people or a big market: the use-case. We’ll come to the importance of market size later.

Finding and validating that killer use-case will probably take some top down thinking. The best place to start is to identify industries and verticals where there are big problems yet to be solved by technology in any real way. That sounds a bit abstract but it’s fairly easy to interpolate. A good assumption as to the degree of tech substitution or advancement in a consumer market is the rate of inflation in a given category.

You can see, from this graph, that education and care are areas that are ripe for technology to come in, solve some problems and release some value. Given that 1-on-1 or in-person education is assumed to be the best way to learn for the time being, and thus hard to substitute technology into that equation meaningfully, let’s take healthcare forward.

Now it’s time to do a little bit of common sense validation. What are some possible macro-trends driving increasingly expensive health care? We all know that we are living longer and therefore there are more elderly people. Our environment is also changing, contributing to a wider range of potential health problems that we may suffer from. Knowing this, it’s a decent assumption to think that the price rises in healthcare have been driven by job creation and an increase in manual tasks. I just typed in “rise in number of healthcare workers” into Google and this next barchart is the 4th image result.


This is a really interesting result. We’re getting somewhere with identifying a killer use case: we’ve got a massive market and price rises likely being driven by increased employment in relatively-low skilled jobs. This is an almost perfect use-case for software.

That’s where you come in. If you’re an technical expert, you’ll know best about what is a tractable problem that you could help to solve. Talking to a nurse or medical assistant or two should reveal a couple of insights about what they spend large swathes of time on. I’d guess that you could drive huge efficiencies by helping to solve for the amount of paperwork that has to be done e.g. using computer vision to transcribe physical, handwritten records to digital. That’s no easy task. Nor is deriving insight from the data that you’ll end up with. Though these are the kind of tough problems in markets ripe for disruption that talented founders go after and that VCs love to back.

One important thing to know, regardless of what you’re working on, is that if you’d like to attract institutional funding you’re going to need to go after a big market. At Forward Partners, we need to be able to be convinced that every investment *could* return our fund. We have a £60m fund so that means that if we were to own 10% of your business we’d need to see your business have an exit value of £600m. There aren’t that many markets where that’s achievable, so that should help to narrow it down. The healthcare markets are massive and so the value that can be released by streamlining processes and improving outcomes is often well above the minimum market size bar. If you land on a slightly more niche area, this is something to bear in mind.

The final point is that, much like we’re not expecting the classic MBA-style founder to possess in-depth technical knowledge about computer vision, we’re not expecting founders with highly specific skill sets to come in and hit us with a pitch deck and business plan a la Harvard. There’s a minimum bar though, and hopefully we’ve been able to demonstrate that it’s pretty easy to overcome.


About the Author

This article was written by Matthew Bradley, Investor at Path Forward Path Forward. The Path Forward was developed by Forward Partners, a VC platform that invests in the best ideas and brilliant people. Forward Partners devised The Path Forward to help their founders validate their ideas, build a product, achieve traction, hire a team and raise follow on funding all in the space of 12 months. The Path Forward is a fantastic startup framework for you to utilise as an early stage founder or operator. The framework clearly defines startup creation as being comprised of three steps. The first step of this framework involves understanding customer’s needs.Nic is Head of PR & communications at Forward Partners. Over the course of a 10 year career in communications, he has working with global brands including Orange, Warner Bros., BBC, and


Brand, Branding, Brand Identity?



Brand, brand identity or branding? It’s easy to get these confused – what do they all mean? Why should you care about them? As a startup it’s crucial you build trust and create an emotional connection with your customers to start spawning those precious brand advocates. Drawing precise lines between each buzzword will help your team better understand the process.


Brand is one of those words that can be described in many different ways but in essence  Marty Neumeier, the author of The Brand Gap says it best:

“ A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It’s not what YOU say it is. It’s what THEY say it is.”

There you have it, plain and simple. We cannot control how people feel about anything, let alone your company – but we can do our best to influence our customers. We do that with branding.

Branding is the deliberate attempt to shape and influence customers perception.

This is where we try to influence customers into a positive experience with your company. It’s the act of creating a brand. Everything from the user interface to the customer service – all need to pull in the same direction to paint a consistent and positive image of your company.

The tools we use within these experiences is what sets brands apart. We need something that’s going to add credibility to your brand. Something that will help customers connect with your brand on more emotional level than just a feature list. That tool is brand identity.



Brand Identity

Brand Identity is the look and feel of your brand. It’s how people identify you.

This consists of your logo, colour palette, typography, art direction, tone of voice, illustration style (if any), textures, UX, animation style (if any), website, interior design, the way you talk to customers and so on. It’s all your brand touchpoints. All these pieces, when considered, work together to create a company that customers can relate with on a deeper level.

The consistent use of your brand identity at every touch point helps build a trustworthy  relationship with your customers that should equate to a positive experience and in return them becoming a regular customer and hopefully a brand advocate.


Your brand is what your customers say it is. We can influence how they get to that opinion by creating a brand identity that they can relate to and connect with on a emotional level. That identity is used on all of your brand touchpoints to help strengthen your message and personality. A positive, consistent experience helps create brand advocates and therefore growth.


About the Author

This article was produced by The Path Forward. The Path Forward was developed by Forward Partners, a VC platform that invests in the best ideas and brilliant people. Forward Partners devised The Path Forward to help their founders validate their ideas, build a product, achieve traction, hire a team and raise follow on funding all in the space of 12 months. The Path Forward is a fantastic startup framework for you to utilise as an early stage founder or operator. The framework clearly defines startup creation as being comprised of three steps. The first step of this framework involves understanding customer’s needs.Nic is Head of PR & communications at Forward Partners. Over the course of a 10 year career in communications, he has working with global brands including Orange, Warner Bros., BBC, and

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Are You the Biggest Obstacle to Scaling Up Your Business?



So you’re looking to scale up your business. This is a challenge for all companies and for many leaders it’s a befuddling experience. I’ve spoken to and helped those running companies with just two or three employees (in some cases it’s better to call them volunteers) as well as those who are trying to get their heads around the same issues but multiplied, where they’re dealing with several hundred people to thousands.

Within the massive web of questions, there are in my experience two major areas that tend to be the biggest headaches for leaders scaling up their business. The first is people, the second is systems. The two are often confused with each other and the first is fudged in favour of the second, because it can be seen as more tangible (but it isn’t because systems depend on people).

In my experience there’s one significant area that almost all leaders and entrepreneurs overlook in this, which is critical to the successful growth of the organisation.

It’s you, the founder or leader.

Now, I don’t mean this in a limited old-fashioned individualistic way. The business isn’t you, it isn’t dependent upon you, nor should it be. And this is the crux of it. For your baby to grow, to enable it to find its feet, you have to hand it over to others for its development.

These other people are going to come in to your company and their presence is going to change the quality of your business and how it functions. They’re not going to be as wedded to its idea and construct as you are. They’re probably not going to care very much about it as a living organism as you are. Many of them are simply going to view it as a job without the heartfelt investment in its future and success as perhaps you feel. Many of them won’t understand, or want to engage in your dreams and desire for your creation or your purpose in scaling up your company.

Getting the people right

The people you bring on board will think differently and they will behave differently to you and to be frank there are a lot of people that will not be able to think in the same way you do – neither do you want them to.

If you’re bringing in investment, or arranging a partnership, this difference may be even more stark because of their underlying interests.
All these people are, nonetheless, as important, if not more so to your business than you are.

So, you’re going to have to reach out into the world to find people who can relieve you of tasks you can’t possibly manage to do all on your own and you’re going to have to accept that they’ll be different from you.

When you seek these people, you may be tempted to do a bit of Googling to find some advice on who you should get in and how. Beware the propagation of tripe.

There’s a rising narrative about the ‘type’ you’ll want to get on board. Some call these people ‘A players’ who have the personality and drive to go places and benefit your business accordingly. How you go about finding these people, assessing their true capability and fit with your company, and actually whether you really need them is another matter.

The first step is really to do a bit of soul searching and self-assessment of you in relation to your business. This is number two on the list of overlooked. If you’re going to do this properly, get somebody to help you because you cannot do a full and honest self-assessment of yourself, and act upon it, on your own.

No quick solution

The next step is to understand that this is an ongoing process, not an event or series of events. As your business grows, it will, and should, change its nature on a daily basis. If you’re employing people, the human aspect is now going to be at the forefront of your mind forever – it is ceaseless but it’s just as much of an issue to global companies.

None of this should be seen as a negative. It can actually be very liberating for you, because hopefully it will give you a little more freedom.

A simple illustration:

Lets say you accept that whilst you might be a hot app developer with the creative skills to build a great, marketable solution that’s going make peoples’ lives so much better, you have a terrible telephone manner. So you determine that your priority for growth is someone to answer the phone to speak to your customers.
In this instance, it’s questionable that you’re going to need an “A-player.” In fact, that could be a mistake. At this point in time, you need someone who genuinely enjoys being on the phone and who is good at phone-based relationships. He could be a great receptionist who loves this kind of thing. And that is great for you and your company for now and it’s mutually beneficial.

The potential hiccup is you and how you engage with your existing customers about the changing nature of your relationships with them. They may feel disenfranchised because they’re no longer talking to the boss and thus their status has been downgraded in the client hierarchy. Their experience on the phone is better, but they want to speak to the boss because that gives them a certain satisfaction in the relationship. So this may need some tender care from your side.
You may also find yourself succumbing to this immediate pressure because your major concern is the monthly revenue and you’re afraid that you’ll lose clients. So you start taking the calls again and suddenly you’re worse off than in square one.

There are always ramifications to what are intended to be simple changes to the business and as your business grows, you’ll find they are almost always, fundamentally, down to relationships.

Understanding your strengths

A real world example is an entrepreneur client I have been working with who, when we started, was struggling to make ends meet. His monthly revenue target was a real stretch and stress for him. Our work has been on him understanding where his strengths lie in the business. These are in his personality which is enabling strong brand development. However, he is disorganised and when he gets into the back-office stuff he withers, so does the business drive and direction. We’ve also dealt with how and what he focusses on in order for him to personally add more value and secure longer term growth.

Since we started working together less than 10 months ago, he has managed to increase his average monthly revenue about 4 fold. Recently he wanted some time with me to get some clarity about some management approaches where he had brought someone new in who was good at management, organisation and systems. He was talking to me about how he needed to sit down with her to plan out and create the necessary organisation and systems they needed.

I asked him about her background and strengths and did she have the capability to pick up with it and run independently? If yes, why not just trust in her different abilities? Let her do her thing in her way (with communication and appropriate oversight of course). Then she can explain and share the systems with him and the others in the company so it’s not just all in her head.

The relief he felt following this conversation was palpable. He was released to carry on with what he is best at – developing the long term relationships for his business while getting out there to build the brand.

So whilst I’ve simplified this example conversation, it’s fundamentally down to a relationship and founder/leader giving others the freedom to change and develop the nature of his business. This adds value that he could never provide himself.


About the Author

This article was produced by Simon Darton. See more.

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