Control your digital presence and harness the vitality of web-based communication

A big part of my job is to bridge the gap between our portfolio companies and the markets they serve. I speak with potential customers on a daily basis about a particular novel technology and the possible value it can unlock; I have found that a large part of successful commercialisation and deal making is in the effective presentation and communication of the product, solution, or service. If it is worth putting in days of preparation around the narrative and framing for a particular meeting that could lead to a million-pound deal, does the same principle not apply to the preparation and maintenance of a company’s communication platforms? Communication platforms are a way of ‘pitching’ to potential customers, partners, or investors as the public image of the company before a face-to-face meeting. I have found, judging by feedback from market validation of some of RIG’s portfolio of clients, that many early stage companies do not pay enough attention to their digital communication which is the most easily accessible expression of their value proposition. This ultimately leads to missing out on deals because the potential value of their technology is not conveyed through clear communication.

Early stage companies are often so focused on lead generation and outbound communication that they forget the importance of the website. A company’s website is a simple, yet extremely effective, tool to build the right narrative – about the technology and about the company itself.

Another considerable part of my remit is to research and find early stage companies with novel, innovative technologies in emerging areas with whom we can engage. There are some extremely exciting technologies that promise to solve critical sustainability challenges; however, this is not always effectively communicated via their websites. Far too often I come across a website that is either a labyrinth of pages with text that requires a code-breaker, or a basic website with outdated information and ‘news’ items.

A website is perhaps the most frequented platform and means of sourcing information: it should be a platform that a company uses to communicate who they are; it should be the keystone of its digital identity. Two of the main causes of page visits are online searches and direct stakeholder engagement. Either it is because an online search has led them to your website, or it is because you have approached a stakeholder, who will revisit the website. I am certain that, every time you have effectively engaged with a potential lead, they will have visited your website at some point. Thus, every aspect of it – the colour scheme, graphics, language, even layout – conveys a message about the company and builds an image. Your company image is only as strong as you communicate it on the website; it does not matter if you have the better, faster, stronger technology. If you are unable to convey why your technology’s advancements or innovation will result in added value for your partner or customer, or the end consumer, then it is unlikely that the technology will be adopted in the first place. Ultimately, this image will form the foundation of your brand.

That said, not all early stage companies will have the resources available to design a swanky, slick website – and given the nature of early stage companies, they will doubtless want to change the content as they constantly iterate, fail fast, and pivot. Therefore, when I have led and overseen website redesigns, I have tried to stick to 4 key guidelines: clarity, conciseness, consistency, and currency.

  1. Be clear. Typically, innovation companies have a unique product, solution, or service that is differentiated by IP. If the technology is not easily grasped, it becomes infinitely more difficult to commercialise. Diagrams, animation, or videos are often more effective than written word.
  2. Be concise. Every word on a website is important and should be used for a reason and avoid over-complication. A website should not publish every detail of a company’s history: there should be enough detail to communicate the core values, mission and vision of the company.
  3. Be consistent. Strive for uniformity in colour, words, and style. This not only consolidates the information and conveys professionalism, but it shows an awareness of strategic brand management; once the product/service is adopted and imitated, the effective use of its brand is one of a company’s main sources of differentiation and defensibility.
  4. Be current. Content is critical. In the first place, up-to-date content shows progression by acting as a log of the development of the company. Your company is only as up-to-date as you publish. Secondly, it highlights the achievements and milestones of the company. Target audiences will not be informed of any developments (e.g. your latest product offering, award, successful test etc.) unless you tell them. Emerging technology companies are judged based on the traction they achieve, and that can only be recognised by generating awareness – keep your news ‘new’.

Whether you are trying to generate leads, fundraise, hire, or simply raise awareness, I can guarantee that people will frequent your company’s website. It is the main platform where your company is presented over which you have control, and it is critical in the development path for early stage companies. Present your company as you want – no one else will do this for you.

Carbon capture, capacitors and a trip to Paris: a first week at RIG

The first week at any new job can always be overwhelming. The brain goes into overdrive taking on board a flurry of new names and faces, company rules, and procedures; all while simultaneously trying to stay calm and remember everything. Although this all definitely happened to me, I will choose to sum up my first week at RIG in one word: exhilarating.

I quickly became acquainted with every individual of the RIG team through lengthy discussions of their respective projects and backgrounds. I immediately discovered that there is certainly no shortage of brilliance here. Even lunchtime conversation was dominated by an intellectual debate about how to best survive the London tube morning rush hour (answer? Get yourself a bike!). I was briefed and asked to assist on three projects; each more different than the next. The projects varied from carbonation of waste residues, to AgTech, to solar power and energy storage. In fact, I left the office on my first day with a textbook on capacitors, much to the delight of my chemical and engineering friends.

On the following days, the whirlwind continued when we landed in the heart of Paris. In the space of 24 hours, I ate croissants, attended the CemLab event, where James delivered a presentation on Carbon Capture technology and met with some key figures of the cement industry. Right away during the networking segment, I was challenged to answer industry-specific and speak confidently about RIG. Immediately after, we dragged our luggage to the other side of the city and witnessed Ffion getting into the ring to iron out the terms and conditions of a partnership. I was left impressed and motivated to one day run a meeting of that sort on my own.

Back in London, the learning curve continued to steepen for the rest of the week. I was given a crash course on RIG CRM protocols, market research process, and client acquisition. There is no doubt that RIG favours a dynamic work environment and one can expect to be thrown in at the deep end, but I have always been a firm believer that full-immersion is the best way to adapt. Overall, I went into the weekend with one text book, half a notebook of acronyms, one trip to Paris, and seventeen points on my to-do-list – c’est la vie!