3 Keys to Effective Technology Scouting

by Joe Granda

Reap what you sow

At its core, business development is a means of creating long-term value and opening doors to new opportunities through partnerships. My previous experience running business development for a technology firm required me to find, evaluate, and act on new deals. Today this role would likely be called technology scouting.

Regardless of what it’s called, technology scouting is analogous to farming in that it relies on nurturing diverse opportunities, weeding out bad opportunities, and acquiring new technology only when it is ready. Moreover, professional scouting is a highly collaborative and sophisticated operation that requires a lot of communication. Facilitating the scouting process can quickly become a time drain. Drawing on the farming analogy, I have put together three key aspects of professional technology scouting while offering tips on how to systematically harvest opportunities.

Key 1 – Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Farmers have known for years to spread their work, harvests, and risk to utilize their resources at an optimum level. We can do the same in the tech arena. New technologies emerge from increasingly diverse places around the globe. Therefore, cultivating an effective partner network is essential for expanding our business into new territories.

Take the case of Eli Lilly, for example. A 2011 Evalueserve case study, “Design the Future: How Innovation Will Follow the Footsteps of Procurement,” found that the pharmaceutical manufacturer produced six of its last sixteen medicines via external collaboration. This is despite the fact that Eli Lilly has 40,000 employees and eight R&D facilities around the globe.

As a best practice, companies should seek to expand their knowledge network. From a tech scouting perspective, this means having a relationship management tool for partners that’s similar to the system for managing the sales team. The caveat is that the relationship management system for partners should also weave in relevant expert networks and their recommendations to get a complete picture. Moreover, scouts can streamline receiving submissions by using a partner portal as well as leveraging online technology marketplaces to find what’s coming next.

Key 2 – Weed out bad opportunities

The best farms ensure they eliminate weeds so their crops have the highest yields. Your portfolio is no different. To illustrate this point: A tech scout may describe himself or herself as someone who acquires new technology, but in reality the majority of his or her time is spent rejecting bad opportunities. A study by AIM Research certainty found this to be the case, noting:

The Silicon Valley team “saw” (i.e., had some touch point, not necessarily a physical meeting) between 800 and 1200 companies per year. These were companies that sent them a business plan, or that they met at a conference, through a VC, etc. Out of those 1200 companies, managers in Palo Alto made approximately 200–250 sit down visits.

This means that for every deal a tech scout uncovers, the scout needs to quickly reject hundreds more. The best tech scouts realize that “opportunity triage” offers a competitive advantage, and, by streamlining their process, they can save time and money.

Key 3 – Harvest at the right time

Harvesting at the wrong time can sink millions of dollars. At the same time, missing an opportunity can give your competition the edge. Effective technology scouting means walking a fine line between caution and risk. With so much at stake, it is critical that you develop a systematic and repeatable approach to identification, evaluation, and action.

Rather than relying on spreadsheets and document-sharing systems that don’t scale, organizations are using enterprise tools to perform real-time assessments and due diligence to facilitate consistent and reliable evaluations. Teams can route information and approvals while being able to access input from anywhere.

Additionally, once you select the opportunity, you must follow through and acquire it. A recommendation is to utilize software to efficiently manage the agreement obligations and intellectual property acquired will ensure that your organization takes full advantage of your new opportunities.

You can learn more about how Wellspring has empowered tech scouts at the Thermo Fisher Case Study webcast on May 18 at 2:00 p.m. EDT.  Click here to learn more!

image credit: wisley

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At Wellspring, Joe Granda is responsible for marketing strategy, field marketing, analyst relations, and communications. Wellspring offers the world’s first enterprise software for navigating innovation. As a leading Knowledge Supply Chain vendor, they offer web-based software to manage the complete pipeline of intellectual assets that lead to new products and services. Follow them @WellspringWW

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