How we work
Our approach tends to be a breath of fresh air for partners who have either:
a) Struggled with engaging with early-stage entrepreneurs in the past, or
b) Are looking for ways to build outside innovation and investment capabilities, but don't know where to start.
These "building blocks" do not exist on their own nor are they "phases" in an engagement. They are an integral part of what tends to be a long-term, iterative process of value creation for the three types of stakeholders: international startups, investors (family offices, VCs, angels, corporate VC) and corporations with innovation agendas.
We know that the work that we do is only a part of the innovation activities that our partners may already be engaged in, or planning to do - this includes the internal R&D, outside investment, and collaborations with various local and international academic institutions and entrepreneurial ecosystems.
The starting point is different depending on the partner we are working with, and where they are on their innovation and investing journey:
Some have a well-defined roadmap and set of priority areas that we can use as a jumping-off point.
Others have a general vision and strategy defined, but require some shaping (e.g. via a workshop and scoping exercise).
Since we build long-term partnerships, our programs help to create the "muscle" for our partners, and we also become an extension of their innovation teams over time
Regardless, it is extremely important to leave room for serendipity and surprise. You never know where the next great idea or business model is coming from.
We know that Silicon Valley does not have a monopoly on innovation, but we also know that engaging with startups in an effective way is not a simple process.
Scouting means strategically connecting with entrepreneurs so that mutual value can be created between the startups, corporations and investors. It is not as simple as putting out a call for applications or organizing a “demo day” for startups to pitch.
Creating long-term value with entrepreneurs can only work if it is managed with a strategic mindset. It is easy to put entrepreneurs on a stage to pitch their ideas. On the other hand, finding the right startups, at the right time in their journey, linked to the right investors and corporate stakeholders - that requires a structured process, expertise and access to a global ecosystem.
At the same time, our partners to be open to a number of potential outcomes for startup engagement, and the more potential commercial and funding opportunities for startups that can be created, the higher the chances are of engaging with high-quality startups in any given program.
Sente’s scouting program is designed to be outcome-driven, to deliver lasting business impact through engagement with global ecosystems
Become a customer from PoC to pilot to full scale-up
Partner or form a joint venture with a startup to sell together to customers
Invest with corporate VC for longer term financial or strategic benefit
Acquire the startup for immediate competitive advantage
Do nothing and notify the startup with decision and rationale
Thus, taking an outcome-driven approach that is linked to our partners' strategies and laser-focused on emerging trends and technologies, we can be systematic with our processes and tools. Because of this, we also see that it is the entrepreneurs with a strategic mindset that find their way into our ecosystem.
Where are the key areas of innovation and international ecosystems to explore?
Who are the startups that show the most potential?
How to target potential areas of innovation in the context of emerging technologies, market trends and partner priorities?
What decision to make to capture the potential of each startup?
Key questions that we will answer via the scouting process
Investing time, money, or reputation on early-stage startups requires confidence.
Our cohort-based investment programs create confidence on the part of investors, corporate innovators and the entrepreneurs themselves:
With our structured programs and proprietary tool sets, entrepreneurs emerge with better data, a clear plan, and an experience that has tested them on each and every aspect of their business
Our investor and corporate partners receive detailed deliverables at each stage, along with the confidence that Sente has fully vetted the startups: including the attractiveness of the market, strength of the team, the business model, economics and technology
We believe that our analytical approach, in collaboration with the startups, mentors and corporate innovation professionals, brings confidence and data-driven decision making ability.
Examining industry key players, business model analogs, competition and fundraising/exit comps
Evaluating the industry and the competitive dynamics of the startup’s target market
A collaborative process with the startup to describe, evaluate and improve on its business model, financial plan and growth strategy
Forecasting the bottom-up and top-down revenue potential (“roll-out”)
Understanding cost structure, fundraising requirements and capital needed to scale
Evaluating the team - capabilities, character, focus & risks
Understanding the technology, its applications and intellectual property protection
Collaboration between startups and corporations can be challenging, even after well-defined scope of pilots or contracts, especially with investment decisions. The negotiations with early-stage companies or dealing with complex processes of a corporate can be slow, expensive, and sometimes overly complicated. This is stage where really rubber hits the road and utilizing the new solution brought forward by the startup is the key benefit for the corporation.
We help our partners and portfolio companies manage this efficiently.
Unlike startup accelerators, when the main part of an investment program completes, Sente continues to do portfolio management, which helps to advance startups' progress on projects with our partners, monitors their progress in fundraising and revenue growth, and provides guidance and access to our network along the way.
Long-term relationships that help mitigate the common risks facing international startups
Monitoring proof of concept projects and commercialization pilots’ KPIs to assess the impact of each startup to our partners’ top and bottom lines
A unique international ecosystem that creates synergies, anchored in Chicago, a capital-efficient, friendly B2B ecosystem
Quarterly progress updates to monitor the performance of each of the portfolio companies
Technology perspectives that evolve as industries evolve and disruptions occur
We believe that the typical accelerators, incubators, hackathons and innovation events miss the mark in truly creating value for innovation ecosystems.
We have a new way, and it is data driven, built for the long term, and maximizes the value of the synergies created in specific industries when you bring corporates, startups and investors together using a platform approach.