After winning the first edition of the TU Delft STARTUP competition Tobias Pfeiffer and Aaike van Vugt, founders of VSParticle, are in Cambridge MA, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Our prize: a spot in MIT’s Global Founder’s Skills Accelerator (GFSA) at the Martin Trust Center (MTC). Read all about their adventures here.
We’ve been working down our list of relevant researchers in the greater Boston area, almost fast enough to keep up with the rate at which it grows. Every contact we make refers us to a few other interesting leads within his or her university and beyond. With the first interviews behind us we’re becoming an oiled team, getting better in extracting the right information out of the 30-45 minutes we get. 30 minutes may seem long but when it comes to explaining and understanding technology discipline and focus are required. Some other things we noticed:
Almost everyone agrees that (y)our technology is awesome! Effortlessly people list ways in which our system could be valuable in their field, and which problems it could solve. While that’s the response you’re hoping for, it’s worth to keep asking. Scientists tend to be early adopters. They are willing to test something new if that could lead to new results (publications). Our interest is one level higher; understanding how their field of interest is evolving, and what their long-term goals are. We want our technology to remain useful in the long run, not just a quick fix for a temporary hurdle.
Structure is important. It’s extremely easy to slip up from protocol and start leading the witness. We’re well prepared, and have put thought into our questions. They’re neutral, designed to get an honest conversation that brushes the various topics we care about. But every person, and thus every conversation, is different. Immediately the interviewee will ask what we’re doing, and our response directly influences their answers. Before you know it you’ll hear everything about how people would use your product, when you really only need to know why they might need it.
What’s next? We’re looking to find out what motivates our potential customers, and what hinders them, so we can know if and how our technology could benefit them. We see most of our assumptions confirmed: the workflows are as expected, and the perceived pains are real. However, the real question is how these workflows fit in the value chain, and whether the problems (and solution) also exist on scale.
Read the first blog: ‘Being within the MIT entrepreneurship ecosystem’
VSParticle (‘Very Small Particle’) brings a highly flexible technology to the market that makes nano particles accessible for companies and researchers. The company is part of the portfolio of Delft Enterprises and YES!Delft.