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September 04, 2017
Taking aim at digital safaris: Tips for hunters and the hunted
By: Meghan Conroy

Meghan Conroy is the CEO and founder of CaptureProof, named a Top Innovator in the 2017 Accenture HealthTech Innovation Challenge. (CaptureProof is a clinical photo and video platform harnessing computer vision for medicine.)

Digital safaris in Silicon Valley, where big companies go on the hunt for startups to gain an innovation edge, don’t show any sign of waning. But are they really valuable for either the hunter or the hunted? My answer: A definite “yes,” and a bit of “no,” too. Especially for startups. Here’s why. Safaris can change the destiny of a new company, marrying scale and resources with inspiration and out-of-the-box thinking. That’s the good news. The bad news: Dedicating three days (with travel) makes it a steep investment for many startups.

Does that mean you should turn your back on meet and greets? Absolutely not, especially if you’re a new startup hungry for connections. But startups need to be choosy when it comes to hunting expeditions. My advice is this:

  • Consider the hunter. Is this company traditional or innovative? (We all know who’s who in healthcare.) If they’re stodgy, slow-moving, think twice about meeting.

  • Enter the organization at the pain point. Vision and solution should align. CaptureProof has the ability to support large corporate sponsors with visual end points in R&D and patient engagement. Knowing what is on the corporate agenda helps align the approach and solution offered. If you are working with a health system directly, find a champion on the ground – often an orthopedic surgeon who has the largest revenue in the hospital – and thus more political pull. This has worked for CaptureProof.

  • Be clear about what you want—paying clients. Large companies should understand your end game: revenue. (After all, it’s their end game, too.) Be clear upfront with what you want. Resources committed to bringing your ideas to reality.

And my words of wisdom to the hunters: Startups can propel you into new spaces and sources of revenue much faster than you could get there on your own. You can even leapfrog one of your competitors, if you do it right.

But a few things to keep in mind when working with startups:

  • A week for us is a month for you. Everything I do is about revenue generation. Startups are excited to talk about the future, and kick the can, but be attentive to the amount of time you are requiring, what the startup gets for that time, and if this is moving you closer to a signed contract.

  • We dare to fail, so should you. It’s counter culture for most big organizations, but if you’re going to safari, and embrace the spirit of startups, do it right and put your money where your mouth is. Invest. Have the gumption to take a chance.

At the end of the day, digital safaris can be a lot of noise and distraction. Big players: Don’t do them for the sake of “having a Silicon Valley experience” or to simply engage in the startup scene. It’s a waste of time for hunter and hunted. Know the problem you are looking to solve, talk about that problem openly, and see what the innovative minds bring back to you.

Startups: Make up your own mind and show up prepared, you’re not just helpless prey. Be discerning about who you take meetings with and clear about what you want. Real action.

At the end of the day, digital safaris can be a lot of noise and distraction. Big players: Don’t do them for the sake of “having a Silicon Valley experience” or to simply engage in the startup scene. It’s a waste of time for hunter and hunted. Know the problem you are looking to solve, talk about that problem openly, and see what the innovative minds bring back to you.

Startups: Make up your own mind and show up prepared, you’re not just helpless prey. Be discerning about who you take meetings with and clear about what you want. Real action.

Now a blatant pitch for another way of raising your game: Contests and startup challenges. CaptureProof walked away from the Accenture HealthTech Innovation Challenge experience with, among other things, a top 4 health system as a promised client. For us, the regional round was even more valuable than the final run-off. Why? Because you’re given so much face time with industry players and judges who can write checks for partnerships and innovation.

In the meantime, happy hunting. And here’s hoping 2018 brings you closer to realizing your innovation goals.

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