Cogent Labs is a Collaborative Innovation Centre funded by Latent Ventures in Brisbane, Australia.
We work with driven entrepreneurs by collaborating across many disciplines such as business strategy, business model development, technological verification/evaluation/analysis, technology planning/resourcing, technical development, and if required appropriate corporate structures (including assistance with required investor documentation and disclosure).
Due to our eclectic approach our preferred engagement model is developing and guiding appropriate partner relationships that can guide entrepreneurs through the resolution of issues, methods to propel the opportunity, and ultimately towards the delivery of a sustainable commercial engagement.
Our number of partnerships are growing as well as our overall capabilities. Each partner operates a separate sustainable business with proven practices and market engagements that collectively deliver an increasing pool of capabilities entrepreneurs can benefit from, and importantly, develop with existing.
Ideas recording and validation is key to any startup as a basis for good planning and Intellectual Property protection.
Many entrepreneurs undertake product or service development activities too early without considering their business model.
By providing an active network of professionals we are able to assist at any stage in the development of nearly any opportunity.
Sometimes existing corporate structures need to be re-evaluated in order to make them more flexible for investment, spreading of risk & better corporate governance.
Often entrepreneurs are so involved in their business that they forget to explain the benefits & opportunity it delivers — guidance can make a big difference.
Establishing a business is totally different to managing the daily activities. We can draw upon partners whom have a deep experience in business administration & technical operations.
Often referred to as ideation this early stage development of the business is crucial and underpins the business model and valid positioning of any product or service.
We strongly suggest the use of an appropriate Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) to facilitate confidential discussions & disclosure as well as meaningfully recording the proof of discussions. This is crucial to retaining the nascent value of any establishing business.
Our goal during this stage is to challenge entrepreneurs to evaluate the fundamentals of their opportunity and in the process determine not only a robust SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) but also the key assumptions of the operating market, customer segments and methods of engagement.
No business should rush past this stage until robust answers to these fundamental questions are examined in depth — and recorded for further verification.
Many entrepreneurs either rush past this stage in the development cycle or try to hide the true value of the opportunity from trusted advisors. If formal NDA and engagement recording processes are in place then entrepreneurs should use this stage to robustly analyse their opportunity with their trusted advisors and experts in order to uncover any deficiencies before being scrutinised by investment groups.
Both the business and technical elements need careful consideration, planning and most importantly — alignment. Often entrepreneurs focus upon one element of establishing the business. This mis-alignment often causes pressure upon budgets & business assumptions (e.g., market volume)
This stage also includes detailing planning for both the business (business models in particular) as well as the technical developments. Whether an agile approach is undertaken with technical developments or the detailed planning of each component.
Planning and alignment of a transparently validated opportunity leads to a business with easier to execute objectives/milestones and a robust foundation for future investment and partnering discussions.
Creation of a business from an opportunity requires several threads to operate independently with agreed common milestones and importantly, clear goals. This phase covers gaining the right people for each thread (business, technology, governance, etc) and ensuring transparent evaluation meetings are in place to ensure issues are raised and planned for in a timely manner.
If the teams are established with transparence in mind then an effective feedback can be established to re-evaluate the early assumptions throughout each stage — greatly strengthening the team communications and building robustness into the business plan and associated assumptions.
This phase can also be used as the time to recruit staff or just executives, and use a model that employs a team of contractors, e.g., outsourcing the initial technical developments required — however, ensure knowledge is retained to ensure successful operation of the business & support future enhancements or extensions.
Do not ignore the verification that the business has a suitable corporate structure, both from the perspective of gaining favourable future investment, but also to ensure clear ownership of the Intellectual Property (IP) of the business is acknowledged — some IP protection activities should also be started to collect the details required, and bolster the value of the business.
The challenge of operating any new business is often overlooked — particularly if the planning has not been carefully recorded, and the technical knowledge retained.
Many believe that the same people whom have been engaged for development of the opportunity into a business can maintain it — often not the case, each requires a different skill set. This is not just concerning the technical staff, but can also be true across the business as the products/services solidify and a more detailed delivery approach has to be maintained.
One common difference is in sales activities: during establishment sales activities are concerned about gaining volume and suitable initial "reference" clients; later sales management is around measuring sales targets and providing suitable staff incentives.
Operational elements of a business require detailed understanding of the financial model and the dynamic between product/service development and technical operations. This skill set becomes even more specialised when knowledge of different markets, and even remote delivery and support, is required.
The concept of evolution is sometimes perceived to be more radical and referred to as a "pivot" — particularly if the business is changing either the product/services delivered or a dramatic change in the market segments being engaged. Although perceived as dangerous to a sustainable business, a "pivot" is often necessary to gain greater market penetration better delivery of a more scalable product/service.
A less risky endeavour is to extend the products or services and consider existing offerings "end-of-life" once customers can be transitioned through support and marketing activities.
Regardless of the level of change (e.g., pivot or end-of-life strategy), evolution of a business is one of the most difficult activities to undertake — not only do the current business activities have to be maintained but the new offerings have to be analysed, developed and made operational; both incurring considerable costs. Then the business needs a clear path to moving the understanding of customers.
Our extensive experience in business and technology transformation assists entrepreneurs through all of these choices, including the possible paths to funding and staff realignment.