Venture Advisor Session with Mnemolytics
This week Tandem NSI’s Venture Advisor John Casey and Managing Director Jonathan Aberman met with Mnemolytics co-founders Eric Kaprowski and Jeff Schott to provide guidance on business expansion. Eric and Jeff’s backgrounds in government technology and business have led them to creating sophisticated algorithms which normalize and analyze independent streams of data. Their “value add” is to layer in observation and trending functionality across seemingly unrelated behaviors to support new decision making. Given the big data movement, it’s clear that both consumer and business markets provide countless applications for this type of technology and there are several companies – all of which are west-coast based – who are already starting down this path. Mnemolytics is unique because their algorithms apply different types of learning to draw sophisticated conclusions that can save time and money, change behaviors, identify problems or prevent disaster.
Questions brought to TandemNSI’s Venture Advisors
- Given the huge opportunity and limited resources, where do we focus?
- What level of readiness does the product need to be in to attract investors?
- Does grant funding inhibit a company’s ability to attract investors?
- Is the opportunity greater for an enterprise product, consumer product, BTB product, etc?
- Their current inflection point in the product development cycle requires that decisions be made about funding. What should guide those decisions?
TandemNSI Venture Advisor Imperative
- Look at the west coast companies who are already dabbling in this space and determine what market opportunities exist. Start talking to potential customers to gauge whether the product is a nice-to-have, or a need-to-have product. Any business readiness programs advises that emerging companies talk with 10+ prospects per week in order to validate a product idea. Investors will want to see this type of due diligence as well. Programs such as i-Corps provide infusions of $50k but typically require an affiliation with a university, providing interesting resourcing opportunities for companies who are resource constrained.
- Study the problems that NSA is trying to solve and determine if your technology can help with any of those problems. Companies are much more likely to score a conversation with decision makers at NSA if they further the agency’s agenda.
- Funding: Tandem’s advisers were aware of companies who have successfully straddled simultaneous funding through grant programs and from investors. This takes clarity and appropriate management of expectations but eventually a path becomes obvious. Applying for grants can be an effective way to accelerate product development and is not an automatic deterrent for investors. Investors will only become interested if the company has effectively targeted a market segment and has the appropriate subject matter expertise to penetrate that market.
- Product Development: Given the countless applications for such technology, it will be helpful to have a real-world example that solves a potentially local problem. Tandem advisers suggested using publicly available data from organizations such as DC Public Schools or data that Federal Agencies are eagerly now making available to develop a prototype that can be used in prospect calls. Tandem’s VA advisers agreed to provide contacts that would facilitate the acquisition of data sets.
- General: Typically the people who are quick to reach out to early-stage organizations are those who have their own agenda. The people who will be most useful to Mnemolytics won’t be easy to reach so continuous networking is required. Attending data events at 1776 and networking at TandemNSI events is a great place to spend time this summer. A great book to be familiar with is The Startup Owners Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Great Company by Steve Blank.
TandemNSI’s advisors agreed to meet with Mnemolytics in the fall once they have done further development.
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