Friday, April 3, 2015

The Elusive Product Market Fit

Hi everyone, I'm Brett, a first year TI:GER MBA student.  My group PaniPure is working on a new method of desalination.  Below are some thoughts on how to find your target market…

If you were to draw the process of starting with a technological advance and turning it into something actually useful, it would appear as a 1st grade scribble - ignoring the certainty of lines constraining a form.

And so it went as my PaniPure TI:GER group sought a clear product market fit. The technology itself is a water treatment method which strips salt and other chemicals from water, potentially pulling salt and other particles from an impure medium. What was immediately evident was the apparent relevance of the technology - water security is a constant ally of journalists in search of a topic.

The group began in a similar vein, seeking to apply the tech to poverty stricken regions of the world to provide clean drinking water. This was promising at first, but proved a dead end after limitations of the technology were seen in the application. The technology could not remove bacteria from water - an essential characteristic of safe drinking water.

The group next turned to a more prosaic need - in home water softening. This appeared promising initially, as the equipment to power such systems was thought to be highly complex and expensive. This suspicion was proven incorrect rapidly with simple online searches that revealed the superior cost structure and simplicity of existing approaches.

These two avenues helped to define the space within which the PaniPure technology might be of use - where significant infrastructure already exists and where removing impurities, but not bacteria, are both critical. This led my group to consider the complex and massive agricultural irrigation industry.

This was a good bet - water prices were known to be high due to limited supply. The group had little experience with the market and first worked on understanding how farms currently obtained irrigation water. This began by calling the agricultural state extension services - a government agency in constant contact with farmers and their needs. This connection led to many more and helped paint a picture of the irrigation water industry. With this knowledge, those responsible for procuring water were contacted next, primarily farms and water management agencies. When these contacts began sending the team data and test water, it was clear that PaniPure had found a connection with end users.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The TI:GER Network

Hi guys, I'm Maggie.  I'm a first year Georgia Tech MBA candidate and this is my second semester with the TI:GER program.  My group is working on a medical device that can treat diabetes.  Since one of the best parts of the TI:GER program is its large network, I thought I'd tell you a little bit about our mentors...

Thanks for reading!

Regarding our mentors, I’ll quote the indubitably wise Tony the Tiger here: they’re grrrrrrrrrrreat!

Let me back up for a moment.  For those of you who don’t know, each TI:GER team gets assigned a law mentor and a business mentor.  Below I try to give a highlight reel of our meetings.

Our law mentor is a former TI:GER Emory Law alum – he graduated from the program four years ago.  In our first meeting, he had all the documents we’d sent over bounded and tabbed.  He’d also brought another member of his firm to help out.  They blew me away – so energetic, so willing to help, so knowledgeable.  Both have been a huge asset to our team as we struggle to understand the current patent landscape.  Last week our group went to one of the mentor’s home for pizza and we got to know each other outside of TI:GER.

Our business mentor has been with the TI:GER program for about 5 years.  A former TI:GER student now works at his start-up company.  Our team had been struggling with this one issue about why competitors enter a specific market, and our mentor was able to give us an answer within 2 minutes of starting our meeting.  I also really liked his comment “I’d be happy to open my network to you.”  We need to speak with endocrinologists (docs that treat people with diabetes) and our mentor immediately knew who we could get in touch with to get an introduction to those doctors.  That kind of knowledge and networking is truly invaluable to our team.

The TI:GER mentors far exceed my expectations.  I’m so impressed that these successful professionals really care about our project and want to help any way they can.  So far this has been one of my favorite aspects of the TI:GER program.