The immense value of product-market fit, and how Octopus Springboard can help

Brilliant technology does not automatically translate into a great product unless the customers desire it, the company knows how to sell it, and – crucially – it is correctly priced.

This is doubly true for deep tech start-ups, which are developing potentially disruptive technologies which may not be immediately valued in the current market or may even be creating a new market.

This is where Octopus Springboard comes in. In addition to funding, one of the key challenges that early-stage businesses face is customer discovery – that is, understanding what their target markets are, what their challenges are and how the tech they’re developing can translate to a compelling product that meets a real need. Through our new programme we aim to help them tackle just that.

Springboard is designed to enable customer discovery for founders and help start-ups identify the right markets for their products, including those that may not be immediately obvious, while challenging and stress testing their assumptions on customer challenges and market segmentation.

There are 3 main aspects to Octopus Springboard:

  • Tailored training through a flexible, 3-month part-time programme which is free of charge, and with a strong emphasis on “getting out there” and engaging with target markets.
  • 1-2-1 mentoring by matching each start-up with a relevant industry expert to support and challenge them and unlock further opportunities,
  • Access to a network of corporates, portfolio companies and experts across Octopus Group, to help entrepreneurs engage with their potential customer segments early on.

Ultimately, Octopus Springboard aims to help start-ups start de-risking and enhancing their value proposition from the get-go to be more market ready.

Taking our own advice on striving for market fit, we ran a pilot earlier this year at Octopus Ventures. We received 100 start-up applications and selected 12 start-ups to take through the pilot programme. Our three key findings are:

  1. Nearly half of the applications were from diverse teams with female founding members and/or from a minority ethnic background. We know the diversity is crucial in driving innovation, which is the foundation of deep tech. This showed us that if we find the diverse, promising entrepreneurs early enough, we can provide the right guidance, networks, access to funding and support to accelerate them in their journey.
  2. Mentors were found to be extremely helpful in challenging the start-up’s thinking, helping pivot where needed, and identifying new opportunities that may not have been immediately obvious, and bringing industry insights to guide technology development.
  3. There is a need to bring together entrepreneurs, advisors, large corporates and investors in the same room to facilitate exchange of ideas. Often, for a deep tech start-up to succeed, new infrastructures have to be considered, new ecosystems have to be built, or new business models have to be developed which require collaboration across key players.

Abiel, founder & CEO of Vuala (one of the start-ups on the 1st cohort) said: “The Octopus Ventures programme was a game-changer for Vuala. The highlight of the entire experience was working closely with our mentor, Richard. He provided us with the support and guidance we needed to grow and thrive, and we cannot overstate how helpful his insights were. 

The connections we’ve made during the programme have been invaluable, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to have participated in such a supportive and transformative programme.”

Following the success of the pilot, we are launching Octopus Springboard today! This will be a recurring bi-annual programme that will be run by the Octopus Ventures team, led by myself and Zoe Reich. The programme will focus on deep tech businesses enabling a sustainable planet, one of the three Octopus investment themes. We are in the midst of multiple global crises – not least of which is climate change, but we are also facing a water crisis, food security and increasing need for energy security. Deep technologies, stemming from years of underlying research and significant technological advancement, are not only key to tackle these challenges but they can create a long-term competitive advantage for the companies and countries that pioneer them.

Octopus Ventures has a heritage of championing deep tech founders. We believe we’re strongly positioned to support entrepreneurs through our programme as we can provide more than just funding to entrepreneurs. Through this programme, we will be supporting entrepreneurs from the very beginning by providing a unique mix of training, 1-2-1 mentorship from industry experts, and access to our network.

Another key aspect is the need for a strong innovation ecosystem to develop, de-risk and scale deep tech and climate tech. We have fantastic universities, innovative start-ups, investors backing and supporting founders wanting to change the world, strong industry with the resources and experience to enable adoption and scaling of new technologies, and a supportive government. At Octopus we are well positioned to bring together a strong and coordinated ecosystem across these five key players to truly foster cross-sector collaboration for accelerating deep tech.

Applications for our next programme are now open – please apply if you think Springboard can help you start up!

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