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Finding the Market for Your Technology

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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.

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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 amazon.co.uk.

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Entrepreneurship

William Sin, Director of Hallmark Jewellery

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Young, intelligent and sharply dressed, William Sin is a Malaysian jeweller who is currently working to develop and grow the Malaysian jewellery industry with relentless drive and an innovative flare through his aptly named boutique: Hallmark Jewellery. Age is certainly not a limitation for William, who recalls growing up within a family and a generation of jewellers. William remembers shadowing his parents (reputed jewellers) in his childhood, from whom he developed a deep interest in jewellery. After studying business management in college, William decided to pursue his passion and partook the gemology course at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) before joining the industry at the tender age of 19 with the guidance of  experienced jewellers. William has now strongly established his company within the industry with a vast base of clientele who speak highly of him. Today, The Asian Entrepreneur has the pleasure of speaking with William on his personal story and insights on the industry in Malaysia.

In your own words what is Hallmark Jewellery?

Hallmark Jewellery is a hub for people who are looking for almost any kind of jewellery, we offer custom jewellery services to people who are more specific with what they want, and ready made jewellery to people who want something off our shelves. We have also been pioneers in the imperial jadeite jewellery industry for 3 generations now and we carry exquisite jewellery at very competitive and extremely friendly prices. All the diamonds and precious stones that are set in our pieces are handpicked by myself, and I personally oversee the production process for every single one of our jewellery. This helps us bypass many middle people and bring our finely crafted jewellery straight to retail without the retail markup that comes with most jewellery.

How did you come up with the idea of Hallmark Jewellery?

The name Hallmark Jewelley originated from the fact that every piece of jewellery that we carry are unique to it’s own and are each hallmarked. That means you will never find two people wearing the exact same piece of our jewellery. I did not come up with the idea of Hallmark Jewellery, but with the generations of jewelers in my family, I was inspired by them to reintroduce the brand as a brand that carries exceptional quality jewellery with prices that are 50% or more lower than most jewelers. Growing up, I hear a lot of friends telling me that they or their parents got a piece of jewellery for so and so price, and most of the time I would try to calculate the costs in my head and realize how much more they are paying than they should. So when it was my turn to take over the family business, I was motivated to create jewellery that still carry exceptional quality, but without the crazy markup in prices.

Could you walk us through the process of starting up Hallmark Jewellery?

Hallmark Jewellery originated from a family jewellery business that was based in Taiping, Perak and was ran by my grandmother. The family business moved to Kuala Lumpur in the early 1990s and opened up a retail store in City Square, now known as The Intermark, and in the early 2000s my father, Eddie Sin opened up another jewellery store in KL Plaza, now known as Fahrenheit 88, under the name Hallmark Jewellery focusing on exceptional quality imperial jadeite jewellery.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during the early developments?

Definitely, I got into this industry at a really young age. In fact, I was still in my teen years when I started working in this industry (19). That being said, my age was a huge factor going into the industry because most people I dealt with were at least double or triple my age. I was always intimidated and afraid that I would say or do the wrong things. Due to the nature of the business, dealing with so much capital, it’s hard to have people trust you as it is, let alone someone who is only 19.

I managed to overcome it because this has always kept me on my toes and it motivated me to always expand my knowledge as much as I can. So until today, I would always pick up books and read articles about jewellery, keep myself updated on gold, diamond, precious stone prices, the eagerness to learn is very very important. Also, I think it is very important to always want to be able to explain to your customers in every detail on what they are spending their money on, and to do that right, it requires a lot of knowledge. My love for this industry has also helped me a lot along the way as interest and passion has played a big part in my journey in this industry thus far.

How have you been developing Hallmark Jewellery since startup?

I’ve introduced new and more modern designs to Hallmark Jewellery’s ready made jewellery collection and we have also hosted small social events for our customers. Hallmark Jewellery relies a lot on word of mouth and we have been planning a few charity events that are lined up for the near future. There are also big plans of Hallmark Jewellery tapping into the online industry in our few phases of development.

What kind of feedback did you get for Hallmark Jewellery so far?

Hallmark Jewellery has gotten some good and some bad feedbacks, and the most prominent bad feedback that we have is that because we rely so much on advertisement via word of mouth, most people that are not our regular customers would’ve never heard of us, despite the fact that we have been an active business for 3 generations now.

In terms of good feedback, we’ve always got customers who come back letting us know how happy they are with our services and the craftsmanship of our jewellery, and we definitely do pride ourselves on that. But since the reintroduction of Hallmark Jewellery, we have also been receiving feedback on how much our customers have saved in comparison to making a purchase on a similar product elsewhere.

Do you face a lot of competition in this industry especially from existing companies in the market?

We definitely do, naturally the general public and people who are not regular customers of ours will tend to trust the bigger jewellery companies out there, despite the fact that we all carry exceptional quality jewellery. Simply because they seem to be better-established companies with better marketing tools. As mentioned before, our strategy at Hallmark Jewellery is to focus on selling our jewellery at much cheaper prices while at same time making producing magnificent jewellery with exceptional craftsmanship as our number one priority.

Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?

The Malaysian jewellery industry is a very colorful and interesting industry and many jewelers carry very exquisite jewellery, enough for customers to spend days and months just to decide on making a purchase. But despite that, the Malaysian jewellery industry has also been a little behind in jewellery designs in comparison to the American and European jewellery industry. But with a little bit of help and education, I don’t think that it would take much to change that and keep up with the trend.

What is the future of the industry and how do you plan to stay relevant in this industry?

The future of the jewellery industry, just like the future of most industries, is to tap into the online market. With that being said, Hallmark Jewellery has got a team of people working on how we can expand our business into the online retail market. Because we focus mainly on a niche market and regular customers, jumping into the online retail industry will be something completely new for us, and we are very much excited for it.

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia? Is it harder or easier, why?

I think that it is much easier being an entrepreneur in Asia, simply because there are just much more opportunities for entrepreneurs in Asia. There are more things that have not been brought into the Asian market yet, therefore much less competition for entrepreneurs who are launching startups and are just beginning to make a name for themselves. Take the jewellery industry for example, compared to the Western jewellery industry, the Asian industry still has so much to catch up on, thus providing Asian jewelers so much to learn from and much more opportunities to expand their current businesses with much less competition than the Western jewellery industry.

What is your definition of success?

I feel that success to me is being able to know that what you are doing has the capability to give you a comfortable, happy, and healthy lifestyle. While in some way help the people around you at the same time.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

One of the reasons I wanted to become and entrepreneur is because I couldn’t stand the idea of working a 9-5 job and going over and the same routine again and again every single day. I’m not saying that what I do is better than a 9-5 job, but since a young age, I have always wanted to be different. The main reason I decided to be an entrepreneur is the fact that I have always wanted to make a mark, a difference. I want to build an empire based on my terms and my decisions.

In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?

Discipline. Honesty. Humility.

I always believe that one has to be disciplined enough to get things done when they’re supposed to be done and follow through on the things that you told yourself you would. Because as an entrepreneur, it is extremely easy to slack when the only person you have to answer to is yourself. You have to be your own drill sergeant and constantly push yourself to be better and always have the discipline to follow through.

Secondly, to be honest is very important. Be honest to your customers and be honest with yourself and the decisions that you make. I believe that honesty has the ability to shape a person’s reputation, and without a good reputation it would be hard for people to put their trust in you. And entrepreneurial success is much harder to achieve when you’re on your own.

Last but not least, the most important key to entrepreneurial success to me is humility. It is so important to be humble, because no matter how well you are doing, there is always someone doing better than you. No matter how much knowledge you have, there is always someone more experienced than you. There will always be someone who is one step ahead of you in something. The more humble you are, the more willing people will be to teach you something that you don’t already know. Without humility, one will not have the ability to learn from others.

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?

Love what you do and be extremely passionate about what you do, but do not start something or go into something solely because you are passionate about it. People often aim to get into an industry that they are currently passionate about, but I think that it would be a mistake if that’s the only reason you have for going into a specific industry, simply because passion dies.

Most people are passionate about something because they have never made their passion their job, they developed their passion from their spare time but they have never needed for their passion to make money for them. Making a living requires you to work even when you don’t feel like it, which means working on your passion even when you are not in the mood to sometimes. I believe that doing that excessively will eventually kill the passion.

It’s good to have passion; I am in fact very passionate about my business. But to avoid killing the passion, you need to know what you are getting yourself into, study the industry, do your research, have a direction to work towards, and make sure that you have enough knowledge to keep that passion alive. Never jump into an industry or a business just because of the heat of the moment.

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Hallmark Jewellery
www.hallmarkjewel.com
www.facebook.com/hallmarkjewel

www.instagram.com/hallmarkjewellery

 

William Sin

www.facebook.com/williamsin.wc

www.instagram.com/williamsin.wc

www.linkedin.com/in/williamsinwc

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Grave Lever, Founder of The Doing Academy and GraceLaver.com

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Grace Lever, the founder of GraceLever.com & The Doing Academy, is a remarkably successful entrepreneur who is deeply devoted to supporting female entrepreneurship through the principle of “doing.” Grace is an experienced business leader who has built multiple businesses worth in excess of seven figures, but it is her work supporting fellow female entrepreneurs and sharing her animating philosophy of “doing” that brings the greatest personal and professional satisfaction.

1. In your own words what do you do?

As the founder of GraceLever.com & The Doing Academy, I’m an entrepreneur and an educator committed to helping my fellow female entrepreneurs create profitable lifestyle businesses. I’m incredibly grateful that my entrepreneurial success has allowed me to help so many others experience a similar level of entrepreneurial achievement, and I’m also quite grateful that my career has allowed me to live a sublime lifestyle in Adelaide Hills.

2. What led you to your current business?

I’ve run six businesses in the past, so I felt like it was time to share my knowledge and experience with entrepreneurs who are just getting started and could benefit from my professional expertise.

3. Could you walk us through your process of developing your business?

I’ve developed quite a few businesses over the years, so each process differed based on the goals and objectives I previously outlined. The process for developing GraceLever.com required a bit of differentiation from my previous efforts, as my intention was to create a digital platform capable of providing comprehensive educational resources for aspiring lifestyle entrepreneurs.

4. Did you encounter any particular difficulties in the beginning?

No, as a matter of fact I didn’t. I’ve built so many businesses in the past that I feel confident in my abilities to overcome any difficulties I might encounter.

5. What is your long-term plan?

My long-term plan is relatively simple, in that I hope to continue to encourage female entrepreneurship through the principle of “doing,” but on a much grander scale in the future.

6. Could you share with us some industry insights?

There have been a lot of articles and research published recently discussing the rapid rate of growth in female entrepreneurship, and most have concluded that female entrepreneurship will soon become a dominant economic force the world over. Waiting for this “Golden Age” (as CNBC described it), to arrive, however, is a mistake. It is always better to favor “doing” as opposed to dreaming.

7. What are some important lessons you’ve learnt about entrepreneurship?

It’s all about being prepared to take action when an opportunity arises, which is why I make such a concerted effort to emphasize “doing” while also offering educational workshops and seminars for the edification of the community members at GraceLever.com & The Doing Academy.

8. Any tips for achieving success?

I owe so much of my success to my belief in the concept of “doing,” especially when it involves “doing stuff together.” We have to be ready to take meaningful action in pursuit of our goals, so preparation and a willingness to dutifully pursue our most ambitious personal and professional goals is absolutely necessary.

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