How NCE Seafood Innovation Cluster Gets Its Startups Investor-Ready
Bergen-based NCE Seafood Innovation Cluster has long had entrepreneurship
as a strategic pillar.
But after mapping out the startup members, one thing stood out.
How can we get the startups more investor ready?
The answer came in the digital-first program “Are You Ready to Raise Capital”
Knowledge, Innovation & Entrepreneurship
January 2019 NCE Seafood Innovation Cluster launched their new strategy. Core elements of that strategy was Knowledge, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. At the same time, the cluster started a journey on digital transformation and digital strategic initiatives.
Working closely with Christian Rangen, the Seafood Cluster, together with EY, developed a complete ‘Investor Readiness Program’, based on the early digital transformation and platform strategy the cluster had started in 2018.
The first program design, mid-2019, was built 90% digital
and just a single workshop session.
‘’We were ready and able to complete such an impactful program 90% digital. This was only possible due to the cluster’s ongoing digital transformation and strong interest in building out digital solutions’’.
3-Month Blended Program Design
Action-based learning in a blended format
After multiple iterations the program landed on a flexible blended format. This blended format had 3 full-day workshops. But the majority of the work was happening on the digital platform, where each start up team had a significant workload during the program. This blended model allowed everyone to work digitally, be responsible for their own progress.
This blended model really comes to life when the startups have the same tools in Paper-Canvas, Simulation and digital apps to work on. This interconnectivity allows a fluid online-offline work for every participant.
From November 2019 to February 2020, the seven teams would work flat out to get ready for their upcoming fund raising rounds.
Workshop 1: Learning to Scale
Opening workshop: action-based learning to build the best scale up & investor funding strategy using Scale Up!
A well-known challenge to every cluster, incubator and accelerator is the short-sightedness of the startups. 90% of them focus on ‘next urgent cash need’. Few have a robust, long-term capital strategy in place.
This is why we always spend half-day to work through the Scale Up! simulation. The action-learning simulation puts the participants in the roles of a young start up team and require them to scale up, think strategically and design good fundraising plans to win. This action-based learning can take place online or offline, but nothing beats the learning, discussions and competition around the table.
Read the November 2019 opening summary from EY.
Digital Startup Tools
The Investor Map – the core opening level map for any start up. Each team would go on to map 100+ investors using this map.
Using the Strategy Tools digital apps, teams could switch seamlessly between paper, pdf and their own cloud-based solution.
New Startup Tools
During the program, the teams were introduced to tools that could help them prepare for a successful funding round.
The Investor Map, the Long-Term Funding Roadmap, the Scale Up Map and the Investor Scorecard were the four key tools the blended program was built around.
Every tool was equally available in paper, pdf and digital formats.
Mapping the Investor Landscape
Participant working on the Investor Map, using the Strategy Tools App
While most programs focus in-ward (i.e. develop your slides and pitch),
our digital program puts a lot of focus on looking outward.
Every team was required to do a proper mapping of the investor landscape,
the relevant investors, the deal sizes, the syndicate structures
and overall deal activity level in the industry.
This requires extensive time and research into the investor space, all happening 100% online. Working with the Investor Map and Long-Term Funding Roadmap, each team were able to map out a much more relevant investor landscape than they first had.
Connecting data-driven investor mapping with relevant startup teams.
A Long-Term Capital Strategy
One of the biggest weaknesses we see amongst European startups is the ability to understand ‘different investors at different stages at different valuations’, then putting together the right pieces of that puzzle.
Working with the Long-Term Funding Roadmap, combined with the Cluster’s own Cluster Capital Strategy Map, allows us to understand both sides of the equation and match up the right startups with the right investors. A powerful, win-win combination.
Read EY’s summary notes of the second workshop.
Investor Focus, Not Product Focus
Bringing in the investors, from early stage venture capital
to growth stage capital
Working closely with EY and the team at NCE Seafood, we were able to invite a panel of strategic investors in the seafood space.
These could join online or in-person for the half-day workshop.
Every team were testing their ‘investor focused presentation’ vs. the far too common Company – or Product presentations we often see.
The key in these presentations was the ability to map out a long-term funding and capital strategy, clearly identify the investor return mechanism and openly discuss the various value creation scenarios for the investors.
Read EY’s summary of the third workshop of the program.
“The key is shifting the workload. We don’t need ‘experts’ coming in to lecture startups.
Good ecosystems are way beyond that.
Instead, we want to use digital tools to enable startups to learn faster and do the work themselves.
The Strategy Tools and digital apps are perfect for this kind of work. Most importantly, this way of working really fits into the larger digital transformation and platform strategy the cluster is developing”
Program Lead & Strategy Tools Founder
Three Tips for Clusters Wanting to Learn from
NCE Seafood Innovation
Start by mapping the landscape of both startups and investors.
Design blended programs, that put more work onto the startups vs. simply listening to lots of speakers. Get people working on new tools and digital solutions.
Build internal digital capabilities. Every cluster needs to think about its own digital transformation journey. Look to Norway and NCE Seafood for the use of digital platforms.
“Entrepreneurship and investor capital is now deeply rooted as a business area and service area within the NCE Seafood Innovation Cluster. It is really impressive to see what they have achieved in just a few years. I recommend other clusters to look to them and their Capital Program“
NCE Seafood Innovation Cluster is recognized as one of the world’s most complete industry clusters and knowledge hubs in the seafood industry. The cluster consists of 70 partners, and plays a leading role in the sustainable development of the industry through significant investments in research, development and innovation.
Half-Year Status Report 2020
Read the NCE Seafood Clusters’ Half Year report and learn more about the three strategic business areas and the cluster’s digital transformation.