The power of ideas: Insights from former Dyson CEO Martin McCourt

The Sixth Sense cohort recently enjoyed a fireside chat with Martin McCourt, the former Dyson CEO with over 40 years’ experience working at the heart of British manufacturing. He spoke to the start-ups about creating a culture that celebrates ideas, the power of doing things differently and how to deliver big ideas in a pitch. Here are just a few of the takeaways from the talk: Embracing ideas Martin spoke about the fact that Dyson created an environment where there was no such thing as a bad idea: “We all know that there is such a thing, but those are the ones you don’t commercialise. The point was that ideas were celebrated and encouraged. This is important when you’re starting out on your business journey, because it’s not just about your original concept – that’s just the beginning. Ideas need to flow like a torrent through the business – they’re the lifeblood of technology and innovation businesses.” Disruption The conversation moved towards the concept of disruption, and Martin called disruption a kind of mindset: “It’s actually setting out to create turbulence and disruption in the marketplace – because that’s when market share changes hands. Generally we only get rich in business when we steal share from someone else. If your competitors are criticising you, you know you’re hurting them – don’t see it as a bad thing necessarily.” He added a little warning to the start-ups before moving on: “It’s quite good for you guys to remember that you are disruptors right now, but you could easily become the disrupted before too long.” Innovation mindset Martin’s overarching message was a reasertation of the Peter Dricker adage, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ “For maintaining a culture of innovation, number one for me was having the right people around you. For me that meant they were young, incredibly bright, fresh graduates. Second thing is, imagine what traditional corporates do and don’t do that. What I mean is the way they restrict creativity and idea processes by having too many meetings, too many rules, too many regulations, too many minutes, too many action points. Thinking is stifled. Get young people in and liberate them.” Differentiating products Differentiating products starts with quality, argues Martin – but then it comes down to creative presentation: “Dyson’s vision was to be known all around the world for making products that were different and better than other people’s. If you have something like this, don’t camouflage the brilliance of your idea in a big PowerPoint presentation. I often look at pitch decks and I say to the founders, ‘I think your idea is brilliant but I’m not sure you do! It’s not hitting me between the eyes, you’ve befuddled it.’ Martin described building powerful pitch decks as a creative process. “I would always encourage teams to sit down and think about what it is that is really magic about the product and then give it the 123 test – if you can only say one, two or three

By |June 23rd, 2022|

Meet the winners of the first Sixth Sense cohort

Following two months of collaboration, tutorials and hard work refining their visions and pitches, the first Sixth Sense cohort of seven start-ups pitched to an audience of entrepreneurs, investors and tech leaders at Demo Day. Although each and every start-up did a fantastic job and impressed the judges, RIIICO and SmartParts were announced as co-winners, with Praemo announced as a runner up. Here’s a little bit more about our winning start-ups which will continue to work with Hexagon to scale their products. RIIICO A software and AI company aiming to transform the manufacturing industry by delivering cutting edge, interactive digital twins of factories. With automation progressing in factories across the world, RIIICO creates an accurate 3D model of everything happening in a factory environment, enabling people to see what’s happening and what could be improved or altered to boost productivity and sustainability. Founders Jan Büchsenschütz, Patrick Mertens and Felix Fink met at university and founded RIIICO in 2021, on a mission to create software that is not just powerful but fun and easy to work with. The company has enjoyed the Sixth Sense experience so far: “The support from Hexagon has been incredible, from senior management right through to the resources we’ve had access to,” explains Jan. “Everyone has been very available, telling us their vision, hearing ours and how we offer a good solution to it. Through everybody’s efforts we were able to show impressive results in such a short time.” Jan sees significant value in the relationship with Hexagon: “Hexagon has a great positioning in the manufacturing industry. As a startup, you're all about these valuable stakeholders who are experienced in the industry, know the problems, and tackle them every day. I think Hexagon is a good match for that. “It’s amazing to win. We see the opportunity, Hexagon sees it as well and now we’re looking forward to continuing our work. In the last few months our team has built the foundation of what will become the RIIICO unicorn! Winning Sixth Sense now opens up new opportunities for us to further leverage the value of our service and expand our use cases on a global scale to Hexagon’s customers.” SmartParts SmartParts was born out of parent company PrintParts – an additive manufacturing service and technology development company. Founder Robert Haleluk realised that traceability was a big issue in additive manufacturing and so developed SmartParts to manage, authenticate, and track additive materials and parts throughout their lifecycle. The start-up uses programmable particles embedded within additive materials or added to parts in post-processing. Its integrated solution combines materials, hardware and software to connect manufacturing data to additive materials and parts. The SmartParts has learned a lot throughout the Sixth Sense experience so far, explains COO Cody Burke: “It’s been great! We've had a lot of really good coaches that we've worked with, they've helped us explore some really interesting applications. It's been really educational to work with a company that has the customer reach that Hexagon has.” The power

By |June 13th, 2022|

How to pitch your business: Insights from Sixth Sense Demo Day

The first Sixth Sense cohort all participated in an innovate-on-the-job scaling programme from March until May, where they were supported by coaching, funding, and best practice examples from Hexagon’s customers.  It is the progress from this programme that the companies presented at Sixth Sense’s inaugural demo day at London’s Tobacco Dock. As host Michael Hayman pointed out, while most US Presidents are given 100 days before being judged, these innovators had just 70.  In that short time, they examined their products, their purpose and their potential, which was put to the test by an advisory panel of expert entrepreneurs and investors.  Articulating your business To succeed, it must be clear what benefit any business provides to the world. Head of Manufacturing at BGF Mark Bryant called for clear articulation from each entrepreneur, which should be framed in terms of what you do, what it provides, why people would use it, and where the company is hoping to go.  Similarly, entrepreneur and investor Elaine Warburton OBE asked to hear passion from the pitches: “I want to understand the business in the first 30 seconds. I want to know you love your baby.” For Innovate UK’s Made Smarter Innovation Deputy Challenge Director Ben Farmer, the word for the day was ‘credibility’. “I want to see that you understand your product, your market and how they fit together. Be confident that your founding team can execute the strategy.” Tips for investment Looking ahead, the panel provided their advice on how to develop relationships with investors. “Be open to taking advice and follow it,” was the key message from Drew Rogers, Senior Director for Corporate Development and M&A with Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence. And the advice from Mark Bryant was to keep it real: “Entrepreneurs can be extroverts or introverts. But they are always optimists. They believe in what they’re doing – that’s great – but they have to be realists too.” Elaine Warburton added that the secret to successful scaling and avoiding becoming a minnow in your industry is to know what the customer needs and to make it easy for them.  The future of manufacturing Mark explained the adoption of technology is something that has historically been fragmented and siloed, with a discrepancy in capabilities and supply chain relationships across the industry. But Ben Farmer says manufacturing is increasingly getting its act together on sustainability, and that advancing digital and AI capabilities are at the heart of this.  While each of the Sixth Sense cohort are different businesses, they all have a common goal and a belief in technology as the driver of a better, more efficient world. It was in the best articulation of this vision, demonstrating how it could be applied to the future of manufacturing, pushing the boundaries of engineering, design and technology, that the demo day winners were selected.

By |June 1st, 2022|

And the winners are…RIIICO and SmartParts

A fantastic day yesterday at London’s Tobacco Dock for the very first Sixth Sense Demo Day! And we are absolutely delighted to reveal our two winners… RIIICO – a confident and clear presentation from co-founder Jan Buechsenschuetz on how it is bringing factories into the 21st century with a collaborative planning platform, which disrupts how managers visualise their physical spaces and equipment. SmartParts – a near perfect pitch from Cody Burke on how this company is enabling organisations to unlock the full potential of additive manufacturing, by introducing intelligent materials that are scannable, traceable and cloud-connected. A further congratulations must go to Praemo, our runner-up and to the rest of our brilliant cohort. After two months of hard work refining their visions and pitches, our seven start-ups pitched to a live audience of entrepreneurs, investors and tech leaders in London, and hundreds more watching online around the world. The quality of the presentations was outstanding throughout, making it a very difficult decision for our brilliant advisory panel: Ben Farmer, Elaine Warburton OBE, Mark Bryant and Drew Rogers. A further thank you must go to Michael Hayman MBE DL for hosting this landmark event for Sixth Sense, and to Mark Stevenson for his gripping keynote address. This is only the beginning of the journey for all of our inaugural cohort and we cannot wait to see what they all do next.

By |May 26th, 2022|

Sixth Sense start-up spotlight: EyeFlow

Meet Eyeflow Mission: To democratize Artificial Intelligence EyeFlow is the no-code SaaS platform enabling anyone to build computer vision applications with AI in a simple, fast and intuitive way. The platform teaches machines to understand the real world and solve real problems, simplifying complex issues using trained data sets. The process can be customized according to your needs. It enables you to upload videos or images, identify and fill in what you want to detect, train the neural network and start using. Use cases can be anything from quality inspections (such as detecting wrinkles in leather car seats) to safety (identifying the presence of people on rail tracks or monitoring PPE during the daily routines of factory workers). We caught up with CEO, Alex Sobral de Freitas, to see how they are getting on with the Sixth Sense programme so far… What makes Sixth Sense stand out as a programme? We’ve recently done some other accelerators, one in Austin, Texas recently, and I think the main difference is that Sixth Sense is very focused on the market. There’s a lot of thinking about how we can tap into demand and get real customers for the start-ups. This is important for us because access-to-market and finding real opportunities is the hard part for us. I’m a nerd, technology and software development is easy for me, but selling isn’t. Sixth Sense is bringing us lots of opportunities, avenues and confidence about how we can access demand that is out there. What have you learned? We are a little different to many of the other start-ups on the programme because we are quite experienced. We have lots of white hair! So it’s hard to teach us things but definitely the mentoring has been useful – particularly around how to pitch our company. I have no experience in raising funds – it’s not a particularly common thing in Brazil, certainly not like it is in the US. With that in mind I need direction when it comes to what investors want to hear about. As I said, I tend to be quite a technical guy so it’s good to know that investors are often interested in different things, not just the tech. Have there been any particular highlights so far? I think this would be how the pitch training is making us think differently about how we communicate what we’re doing. It’s opening our minds to the idea of presenting to audiences with different worldviews to us. We’re starting to think about what we do in a social impact way rather than the technical. It’s actually changing our view of ourselves. Do you have a good relationship with the other cohort members? We are starting to get to know each other. Everyone is very busy with this start-up life – it’s 100 hours a week. Very hard! But I look forward to Demo Day when we will be in the same place and have an opportunity to have lunch together. I’d like to use

By |May 25th, 2022|

The dos and don’ts of fundraising with Mathieu Carenzo

The Sixth Sense cohort has been enjoying a number of fireside chats with industry experts throughout the programme so far. The latest was with serial entrepreneur, investor and lecturer, Mathieu Carenzo.  Carenzo is on a mission to empower entrepreneurs by bringing some transparency to the early-stage fundraising process. The conversation allowed us to hear some key insights on the ‘dos and don’ts’ of fundraising, the challenges of growth and scaling, and how to be a good storyteller.  Here are the main takeaways from the conversation: DO generate a sense of urgency for the investor. Bringing a concept or project that is unique and innovative, and building a narrative around the monetisation of that insight, is how you foster that feeling. DON’T be afraid to start with a strong hook. In a six-minute presentation, this will keep your audience alive for at least three minutes.  DON’T just say that your project is ‘good’ and worthy of investment. This has low credibility, as investors are already expecting you to say this. DO use quotes from a third-party source such as a customer, or a well-known analyst, or an expert in the field, which supports what you are pitching. DO use quantified data that shows your value proposition is effective to your customers. This is the strongest form credibility.  Do challenge assumptions – whether they’re positive or negative. It always equals progress.  DO personalise the story of your business. Start with a case study and work up to the macro number; anybody can empathise with how your product or service helped one singular customer’s life. DON’T just take the first offer that comes your way. Entrepreneurs should picture themselves as a surfer. You are waiting and waiting for a wave, and one comes along. The best surfer will know not to ride that wave and to wait because there are bigger and better ones on the way. DO establish different roles as your company grows. The role of CEO changes and the challenge is being able to master evolving responsibilities. DO keep focusing on funding by reviewing new opportunities every 12 to 18 months. Fundraising is a role in itself, so dedicating one co-founder to fundraising is useful. DO foster a positive company culture. CEOs that spend time ensuring their employees understand the company’s values will see growth development. It is not just lead by example, but lead by message and mission.  

By |May 24th, 2022|
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