Startup Investing 101 : 9 Questions to Ask Before Investing in New Tech

Startup Investing 101 : 9 Questions to Ask Before Investing in New Tech

A sharp entrepreneur can solve for just about anything with enough time and money. But how much time and money is it worth? Some of the best qualities of an entrepreneur (relentless optimism, resiliency, and determination) can also cloud judgment on effort of implementation and execution. This makes it challenging for the entrepreneur and prospective investors to sufficiently evaluate the technology and the supporting ecosystem required to realize the technology’s potential. Here are NINE questions to ask first before diving into a technology.

1. Are you inventing something completely novel, or piecing together a proven technology in a new way?

First of all, most technologies are not unique. Those rare and disruptive technologies may come with great reward but also great risk. One of these risks and inevitable challenges is timing; the concept of right tech, wrong timing.

Start with REX to get the health vitals of the technology and more information about the technology landscape. Our natural language processing and machine learning technology filters through unstructured data and returns the most relevant information. All datasets are broken into major categories, representing the various phases in the technology’s product lifecycle: research funding, patent filings, science and research news, technology news, and business and investment news. Datasets are weighted and time is relevant. What does this mean? Patents that were issued 30 years ago, are weighted less. Trends over time within each category capture the momentum of the technology and allow users to make general assumptions about the position in the technology lifecycle. For instance, a recent and rapid increase in grant funding and science and research news could indicate a very early stage opportunity. Using variables such as the volume of documents within each category and trends over time, our algorithm will score your search parameter between 0-99 for uniqueness, commercial viability, license potential, patent potential, and rising competitive risk.

2. Is the technology patentable? Is it infringing on other patents?

Patents can be the foundation of a business’ value. And in many cases can help build stronger opposition to any new competing technologies or companies. However, patents are not the end all be all. What is more important than a good patent portfolio is the ability to execute and effectively leverage the intellectual property. Either way, you must familiarize yourself with patents that might be overlapping with your technology in any way.

3. What is the stage of the technology? Do you have a proven or established technology in the desired market?

There is a learning curve for introducing new technologies that can prolong the adoption rate significantly—keep this in mind.
4. Are there potential obsoleting technologies on the horizon?
To best defend against disruptive challengers you must pay attention to competitive advantages of the whole product, not just technical features. The ecosystem of the technology and the peripheral market can play a critical role in the success of new technologies–just consider the story of Betamax. How dependent is the technology on other innovations? Although HDTV was invented in the early 80’s it took nearly 30 years for supporting elements (from high-def cameras to broadcast standards) to emerge and enable HDTV technology.
You can start to gather a general idea of the technology landscape by running a search on your technology. Leverage artificial intelligence to make better innovation decisions. Our content engineering platform continuously crawls and ingests vast amounts of unstructured data that are used by our artificial intelligence based algorithms.

5. Are others doing something similar?

It’s not necessarily a good OR bad thing that something is completely unique and disruptive. If you are risk averse, you may find it reassuring that there have been other players and other attempts. On the other hand, if a technology market is completely saturated, it may be a good time to reevaluate commercial viability for new end markets of the technology.

6. Do you have domain expertise?

…Or can you acquire it?

7. What is the addressable market?

Who are the consumers? What is the underlying technology? What is the current industry application?

The best way to answer these questions is to review the top relevant documents in that sector. How recent are the publications?
When you run a search on REX you the “composition” of your search input by technology sectors.

Breaking into a new market/application of a technology can be exciting and risky. On one hand you have a solid/proven technology in an unproven market. Plan on increased rate of adoption for new markets that may require changes in behaviors and education.

8. What is the size of the addressable market?

9. What is the sentiment or attitude toward of the technology?

We can’t discredit the importance of qualitative evaluation of a technology. Sentiment analysis. Expert opinion.

In our attempt to include these qualitative measures in our algorithm, we measure the volume, relevancy and trends over time in the “Technology News” category. Technology News represents a unique vertical of datasets that are tech and science publications for non-experts. Datasets in this vertical are most often supported by advertising so the publishers’ goal is to deliver content that is going to drive the most traffic (and revenues). In this sense, Technology News acts as a barometer of public interest and opinion of technology topics. We are able to draw unique conclusions about the interest and attitude of the technology based on overall volume and publishing trends over time.

It’s all about risk versus reward. Not every opportunity is going to pay off overnight (or at all). You don’t have to be an expert, you just have to ask the questions.

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