The Moscone Center
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2 - 7 February 2019
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From Startup Creation to Acquisition: How to be Successful at Each Stage

Startup to Acquisition Panel Discussion at SPIE Photonics West

Panelists (from left to right) Magnus Bengtsson, Sujatha Ramanujan, and Patrick Scaglia answer questions from the audience

Moderated by Berkeley Catalyst Fund Founding Partner and Managing Director Laura Smoliar, the "From Startup Creating to Acquisition: How to Be Successful at Each Stage" panel offered critical insights into key elements of managing a successful startup.

Patrick Scaglia, of Blue Bear Ventures; Sujatha Ramanujan, Luminate managing director; and Coherent's Magnus Bengtsson discussed the standard trajectory of a startup, touching on the beginning, middle and end stages.

Scaglia, based at the University of California, Berkeley, and working with deep technologies such as gene therapy, machine learning, robotics, AI, materials, and sensors, keeps his original question in mind: "What would benefit people coming right out of a lab?" His approach focuses on bridging research and innovation as well as addressing practical elements: "How much money is needed?" and "How long will it take?" The goal, he says, is helping prepare a specific product with a market fit for venture capital funding.

Ramanujan outlined the benefits of a good accelerator: they train and launch companies where the technology is already proven, assuring the best chance of success; they help with funding; they provide top-notch mentors; and provide a comprehensive entrepreneurial network and system. Always keep in mind what you want for yourself and your business: "Know your strengths and weaknesses, know yourself, do that soul-searching."

For Bengtsson, VP of strategic marketing at Coherent and representative of the "end" stage of a startup, success was "all about having an awesome product. Think about the markets you serve," he said. "Think about the size of your markets and where you are going to fit into the supply chain. Will you be staying at the component level, or producing a complete product?" Be ready, he also said, to answer detailed questions about your business when a potential buyer does its due diligence.

Successful initial screenings of startup-applicants for accelerators include three tangible elements:
• Ensure this is not just a technology and that the research is complete. It should already have potential to be a product with market impact.
• Ensure you have strong team dynamic
• Can you learn by being guided? This is a critical one and a strong predictor of success

A good accelerator can prevent a startup from standards pitfalls, but a strong commitment to stubbornness and persistence is required as well. Ultimately, Scaglia said, keep looking toward the next step: "It's all about momentum."