In this new post, I would like to expand the perspective on distinguishing start-ups. The extension of perspectives has become necessary because of the increase in start-ups which do not fit into the traditional divisions such as pre-seed phase, seed-phase, growth-phase, etc.
Given the broadened specialization of start-up, several names have been assigned to help differentiate their functions and end products. Examples of these names are Fin-Tech, Med-Tech, Secure-Tech, Bio-Tech, Low-Tech, High-Tech, and succinctly describe the specific topic area or problem by the start-up. For example, the term “Deep Tech”, which was introduced by Swati Chaturvedi in 2015 (See Link) showed us the need for a new term and a better definition of start-ups which are “founded on a scientific discovery or meaningful engineering innovation”.
So why should we introduce a new categorization called “Science-Tech Startups”?
I have been working for more than six years at German universities and advise researchers and scientists on the foundation of start-ups that take scientific discoveries to product commercialization. At TU Darmstadt, I mainly supported and consulted start-ups in the technical field and at University of Heidelberg in the fields of life science, medicine, natural sciences, and other disciplines.
In my opinion, there is a strong focus of investors and the public on deep tech start-ups like Swati defines them, because deep-tech start-ups “have the ability to disrupt several markets to create incredible economic value for early investors and a lasting effect on mankind in positive and meaningful ways”.
What I miss is the expansion of the perspective on start-ups that are not in the classical deep-tech focus, but have a scientific or academic background. Take Spotify for example. At first glance, we wouldn’t assume that Spotify is a science-tech or deep-tech start-up.
It may be surprising to many that Spotify has a strong connection to KTH University in Sweden. Based on the academic setting of the university and especially in the discipline of Computer Science and Communication, “much of the technology behind Spotify comes indirectly from KTH” says Fredrik Niemela, product development manager of Spotify (see the article “No Spotify without KTH”).
Sure, there are many start-ups from science which use deep technology, but there are also start-ups from science without any deep-tech focus.
At this point, I would like to introduce “Science-Tech” as a term includes all start-ups with a scientific background.
What are the key attributes of the science-tech term in a business context?
1. The innovation of the science-tech start-up has a link to science. This link refers to a Master- or Bachelor thesis, a Ph.D. thesis, a postdoctoral qualification, or research & development projects at a university or non-university research institutions.
2. Science-tech start-ups use cutting-edge technologies or knowledge that are very new and need to be explained to the market.
3. Science-tech innovation addresses big societal, environmental and economic challenges and has the potential to impact everyday life. These innovations can be knowledge-based (i.e. know-how, recipes, copyright) or technology-based and do not necessarily have to be patented.
STARTUP FROM SCIENCE addresses all start-ups which are originally from science or research. It’s important that stakeholders from society and businesses recognize the great importance start-ups from science play and the substantial impact which their innovative products and services can offer.