Periodic Reporting for period 1 - LKN (Linknovate – Connect with Emerging Technologies and the Key-Players Behind Them)
Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2017-05-31
Our vision is to dramatically change the way innovation happens today, where companies rely on their network and manual ‘handcrafted’ processes they have to repeat to gather intelligence, particularly in new markets and industries. We want to finally achieve a more systematic approach to innovation and its foundational step, which is understanding emerging markets -and technology-driven markets- thanks to B2B data intelligence on demand.
Linknovate aims to became the B2B (business to business) search engine for technologists around the world working in New Product Development, Internationalizing of their companies, leading the R&D and Innovation efforts in their organisations. For this we have specialized in scientific and technology data analytics. We have aggregated more data sources than any solution available worldwide, and we are selling this as a tool under a model, which is affordable even to Small Medium Enterprises, as opposed to our competitors (e.g. Elsevier, Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg). This is where we start, but who needs a B2B search engine?
We, at Linknovate believe, that every single strategist, business developer and innovators around the world needs B2B intelligence, to answer for market growth, key-players, newcomers, contacts inside those, market estimated size, emerging verticals inside it, funding trends, and other basic metrics.
In the end the brightest minds and skilled knowledge workers of our generation are re-doing the same reports and gathering the same data in multiple places repeatedly. It is Google, Open Data and Paid Market (probably not if we are talking about an SME) to spreadsheets.
We focus on bringing our clients pure data-driven visualizations from hundreds of relevant data sources to their emerging market (i.e. scientific publications, research trends, patenting activity, funding activity, news’ analysis, and others), and allow them to connect with the most relevant key-players and subject matter experts. Our approach provides lead Advanced Technology Offices, R&D teams, NPD managers and Strategists with the data they need before it is too late: also known as, when the Gartner report is out, and their -and all their competitors- have access to the same piece of (pundit-driven) information.
It is this type of business intelligence we are after first. We want to master ‘technology scouting’ in order to move from ‘technologists’ to ‘strategists’ and to ‘business people’. We are starting with an Innovation Search Engine (SME Instrument phase 1): we aim to become the B2B Search Engine.
From 2016 to 2017, we have grown from a list of 8 clients (we are still working with most of them) to more than 12 new clients without any major efforts (dedicated staff) in a salesforce: ACIS/Sergas, Estrella Galicia, IBA Group, SIGMA Gestión Universitaria, SyCitv, Buhler AG, Inovalabs, TOLSA, CETMAR, Jofemar, Innolact-Quescrem, Belura SRL, ICL Consulting GmbH, and SUEZ among others for confidential reasons.
We have acquired corporate clients through direct sales (through our own network, cold contacting people, or events) and more recently organic traffic to our site.
• Direct sales: in the beginnings of Linknovate, back in 2012, we used our network to reach clients. We got in touch with several companies like Repsol (today one of our main clients), BMW, or Applied Materials. We learned about their needs and pains, we showed to them our initial prototypes, and we got a lot of feedback about our product market fit. We also went to universities like Stanford or Berkeley and knocked at professors’ doors to hear their thoughts and needs.
Once our first product was launched, we started cold contacting potential clients, either through LinkedIn or emails (with successes like JABIL, current client). We also attended events, in Silicon Valley, where we got in touch with companies like Faurecia (current client).
Nowadays, we maintain these practices, while mainly focussing on assisting and taking an active part in industry-related events, when possible, in order to grow our list of contacts and customer base. We believe our participation in conferences and workshops, as well as the word of mouth from our clients will pay off in the short to medium term.
• Organic traffic: we believe in organic traffic as the key growth channel. It is scalable, affordable, and viral. There is not a reference in our industry yet. We have our humble first product live at linknovate.com. In February 2014, we got 2 million pages crawled by google. We grew from 0 daily organic users to over 1,000 in 2 weeks. But then Google found some issues in our code and we had to remove most of our crawled pages. Back in October 2014 we put the product back, but this time with just over one hundred thousand crawled pages. We saw a big increase in our organic traffic, reaching almost 5,000 daily users many times.
Nevertheless, we are proud of the fact that we have had users from 185 countries in the world (out of 194 that Google Analytics measures). It makes us proud because we know we are helping scientists and engineers worldwide connect with each other and access technical and scientific information. Europe is around 38% of our traffic. United States is the biggest country, and Madrid the biggest city. All our pages are in English so far, which also limits the expansion.
We have also reduced our bounce rate from ~70% in 2015 to ~60% nowadays, which means that we have improved our targeting focus, and the audience we reach is now more in tune with our prospects.
On top of all, we want to start accumulating a lot of user-generated content (UGC) that will be unique to our site.
Piloting New Product Features
As mentioned in the section The Market and The Business Model we hereby described the companies and feedback obtained about our new services/features.
Over the SME Instrument phase 1 period we have increased our offer of services around this ‘personalized’ service (consulting usually has a negative sentiment in companies, and we do not do anything our client needs or the project needs, but what we do best: tech scouting and competitive intelligence). The main addition is our MINI-REPORTS. We found several types of our customers (described in the following sections) are in need of concise market research, specially in the emerging markets and topics where we target our data collection. Since we already have the data pipeline built, which is 80% of the effort it makes sense to build layers on top of it. Even if these layers are now manual, the objective is to learn from these clients to automate as much as possible of this MINI-REPORTS and build complementary reporting features in our engine. This is presented in detail in our deliverable report.
This is part of our efforts to have a ‘smooth transition’ from a transactional model (on demand / pay per project basis) to a subscription based revenue model, which is product based and not service-based (personalized). We are open to always have personalized premium services, and know for a fact that some of our clients are interested in this and do not consider other ways of interaction, but there is room for automate and provide tools to them for some of their lengthy and repetitive scouting process. Even more so for business intelligence in general, outside of pure innovation-oriented, which we mentioned is our ultimate target market.
During the first years running the business with our version 2.0 launched in 2016, we have identified Internet as our main commercial and distribution channel, particularly focused in gaining clients via a strong positioning strategy in most used search engines (organic search).
• We now have users signing up from corporations like Siemens, Dow Chemical, Bayern, Shell, Arcelor Mittal, Petrobras, Yandex, Telefonica, and many other companies who are not yet clients, by creating millions of ‘publication’ pages that act as anchor after Google indexes them and makes them available. Users discover us when making very specific keyword searches: e.g. we won’t show up when looking for ‘graphene’, but for a more specific query like ‘graphene supercapacitor experts’ we will probably stand in the first google results page. This is exactly the kind of queries engineers at these companies ‘google’ for further understanding.
• The list is now up to 16,000 sign ups long, with users coming mainly from universities, research centers and companies, but also from prospective clients like small, medium and big-sized companies, which proves we are able to organically generate sales leads under this business approach.
We can now start concentrating our efforts on sales performance and implementing marketing techniques and strategies to reach new potential clients, convert leads, and boost our business sales. Since late 2016 we have started working on this direction.
• We had already created business social media profiles in Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, though only maintained an active profile in Twitter. We are now maintaining an active Social Media presence in all mentioned channels.
• We have launched a blog, http://blog.linknovate.com which is concentrating our content marketing efforts in a website (e.g. newsletter articles, press releases, and others). We do not only see our blog as a tool to generate leads and help gain visibility in search engine ranks for the keywords our potential customers search, but also, we want it to serve as a tool to show our prospects how Linknovate can help them find the answers they are looking for (i.e use-cases, guides, explainer videos, and others). So far, it has been active for less than 5 months, yet it has achieved 1,700 sessions.
• We have also started to test digital advertising possibilities to reach new customers and boost lead conversion. We have launched several Facebook Ads campaigns and Google AdWords campaigns.
• Even though the bulk of our marketing efforts are being made online, we also attend to relevant offline in-person events for industry, both as attendees as well as speakers. We are certain this kind of events give visibility to our company and are a powerful tool for us to reach new customers and business opportunities. A list of events attended is provided in our report.
• Inbound. We are also starting to try inbound strategies like creating downloadable content, such as e-books or whitepapers, with the aims to establish valuable long-lasting relationships with our audience, generate more leads, and show our readers what can be achieved using our tool. We are now in the process of creating our first e-book.
• Distribution channels. We want to generate expectation in the right media (e.g. MIT Tech Review), without forgetting about the right social media channels (mainly by Blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter) to help us transmit our message and vision (which has quite a social aspect to it: bring knowledge holders to the front pages).
• Use-Cases & User Guide. Finally, we are aware that our tool can seem a bit challenging for the first-time user. With the aim of improving the user experience for first-time users, we are creating a series of use cases that cover all Linknovate’s functionalities and help our users make the most of our tool. We have recently uploaded the first use case to our website and blog:
• Further marketing initiatives we plan to carry out throughout the year consist of a series of:
o LinkedIn Ads: since LinkedIn is the preferred B2B social media and seems to be the online platform where users are more willing to get contacted by companies.
o Email Marketing campaigns: we already have a lists up to 16,000 contacts (who signed up at some point in time in Linknovate.com) and plan to set up a periodic newsletter and diverse business communications via email.
o Collaboration Marketing: with a series of interviews with industry leaders and key-players.
Our corporate strategy from 2015 to 2020+ is based on the internationalisation of our activities. It is a critical aspect which has been already initiated, establishing collaboration agreements with companies and public institutions operating in 3rd countries. We are already into negotiations with key stakeholders and potential allies to make LINKNOVATE a global success. Some examples:
• University of A Coruña (UoC) and CITIC
• StartX (https://startx.com/) the accelerator program at Stanford University
• Our partners in European projects: both HOLA CLOUD consortium, which includes University of Ulm (Germany), University of Oslo (Norway), Promoter Srl (Italy), EuroCRIS (Holland), RTDI (Spain) and NTUA (Greece); and RECAP PROJECT, which includes University of Ulm (Germany), Umea University (Sweden), Dublin City University (Ireland), IMDEA Networks Institute (Spain), Tieto (Finland), Intel (USA), SATEC (Spain), and BT (UK). Recently, in our newly awarded OaSIS project, we can add TTC (Technical Univ Krakow) and Eurada, the European Association of Regional Development Agencies.
• Accelerators alumni. Finodex accelerator program and Microsoft Accelerator in Berlin (Summer 2016) online events and in person events to maintain relationships.
More recently we have also reached agreements with:
• UXBerlin (Ethnographic Research consulting company based in Berlin) via his founder, Dr Henning Breuer. This agreement provides us with leads in the German market. We have already worked in a project together with ICL Consulting GmbH for a German carmaker company.
• ComSalud Conference and Hackhaton: to participate as part of the jury and assessing the verticals presented in the competition with our data-driven approach to help the rest of the jury with their decision and the sponsors of the event (usually pharma/biotech companies with an interest in certain fields, such as “adherence to treatment”, “chronic respiratory diseases”, and others) via our Mini-Reports on those topics. This is providing us visibility with sponsors (corporates) and experts.
1. Top tier research groups (principal investigators at Stanford, Max Planck, MIT, Fraunhofer, Oxford, CNRS, ENEA, and around 80% of top 100 research centers and universities have at least once replied to us!)
2. Grant awardees and conference presenters: hundreds of top SMEs and startups in the US and the EU
3. Market leader corporations (as clients, e.g. BMW AG, Repsol, JABIL Inc.).
Nonetheless there is a huge untapped potential in ‘hidden’ small research groups, SMEs and companies in general who are not in the news, or have published or received public funding and in emerging markets like China, India, Brazil, Colombia or Chile. Today we are only able to get to those we discover by doing great content aggregation, but the day will come when this kind of relevant players discover us.
One of the main objectives during Phase 2 to achieve TRL 8-9 is to focus on this new group in order to incorporate them to our system. By adding the big ones first, we will create a traction force to attract those entities and experts who go ‘under the radar’ and hence create a sustainable competitive advantage.
We expect to make an impact for SMEs and researchers by aggregating out of the ordinary sources of data, resulting in insights that otherwise would remain under the radar for them. We want to:
- Make data and metadata readily accessible, by aggregating and indexing both structured text (publications, conference proceedings, grants, patents, and others) and other data sources such as web monitoring under one unique profile (also known as ‘record linkage’). In the future it would have a big impact to also be able to put under that unique profile unstructured sources of data (for what text mining capabilities are needed). A dynamic CV would be available for every single business with the capability to filter by a myriad parameters and do fine-grained search and discovery. Our feasibility assessment of this is also present in our report.
- Make sense of the data, by indexing and creating on-the-fly data visualizations.
- Provide data-driven insights. Provide a data-driven opinion for any topic, instead of just relying in experts, whose opinions may be biased and will always be conditioned by subjectivity.
- Democratizing trend/innovation/market information access. Over the last 2-4 years, big corporations have started to make even stronger bets into advanced technologies offices, innovation hubs, or accelerators, since tech-to-market readiness is shorter and they need to stay on top of emerging technologies. Therefore, our tool will be especially useful and accessible for SMEs as they cannot afford such tech scouting teams and lack of lobbying capabilities.