Dr Adrian Burden is the Group Chief Executive Officer of Singular ID, a high technology anti-counterfeiting company headquartered in Singapore with a subsidiary in Padua. Singular ID won the inaugural Nanochallenge 2005 International Business Plan competition and has also been recognized as a Red Herring 100 Asia company and won the ZDNet Breakthrough Award in 2006/7. Singular ID was the first spin-off company from the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering in Singapore, and after raising seed and Series A rounds of investment, Singular ID was acquired by Bilcare in December 2007.
Dr. Burden, what are the challenges to commercializing micro and nanotechnology?
Starting a high technology business and making it a success is fraught with pitfalls – taking it from the lab to the market place requires a team that can make technical, commercial, legal and financial decisions quickly; a team that can work efficiently with a clear focus on what’s important but a good appreciation of the bigger picture; and it certainly requires luck in both timing and seizing opportunities.
What tools are useful?
Keeping track of progress is very important. It helps to show investors that their money is being well spent. In order to track progress, you need not just a business plan, but a more holistic roadmap. Methodically creating and maintaining an operational and technology roadmap for the company is a very beneficial practice and in many ways the ultimate tool from which others (such as project plans, accounting records, quality manuals, etc) derive.
What are the key ingredients?
Every business venture is different, but a high technology one needs a good foundation of protected and defendable intellectual property. After that, it is imperative to create news about the company and its offering. Disseminating good news keeps potential investors alert to the opportunity, comforts commercial partners that the business that they are involved with is heading in the right direction, and keeps staff moral high. Finally, of course, the more satisfied customers, the better, as this proves that a concept is commercially viable, provides references for future customers and ensures that the company creates revenues (and eventually profits).
Is internationalization important?
Ultimately yes. But it has to carefully paced. Running a subsidiary or just communicating with agents overseas can be very demanding on time and resources, and unless it is well managed, it can damage your nascent brand and seriously affect cash flow. But with the internet and electronic communications, it is both easier and a more pressing necessity, as if you don’t do it your competitors will.