Reflecting on six months of a European manufacturing startup studio
A little over six months ago, my four co-founders and I chose to 🚀 launch a startup studio, OSS Ventures. Of all things, we chose to launch it in France, and specialize in manufacturing. This post aims at reflecting over what happened since then in the form of learnings about the manufacturing field, the studio model, and the founder mentality.
You should consider giving this article the five minutes it deserves because:
It represents the aggregated learnings of hands-on entrepreneurs with skin in the game, in a little-penetrated market, manufacturing;
It gives insight about the nascent model of a startup studio;
It has plenty of thoughtful and colorful emojis.
🤔 About our social & business thesis: it‘s unfortunately very true, and it’s pressing
Inequalities between territories are there, and people (all people) are noticing. I don’t know if you heard about the Gilets Jaunes (if not, please get out of your cave), but they are all over the news and basically urging us to tackle this pressing social issue. One big learning is that we as a company have to hurry up to keep up with that pressing matter before it is too late and our social contract is definitively torn up. Data point: open your favorite news app.
Willingness to go forward but lack of formalized knowledge & visionaries founders: general sentiment across founders, corporate partners, specialists is that “there is something to do, but the path ahead is unclear.” Our sentiment is that two main parts are lacking, the basics about startup development & innovation, and vision-driven companies to show the path to manufacturing 4.0 by taking bold steps and be vocal about what they want the future of manufacturing to be Data point: over 50 conversations with partners.
🦄About founders: they are looking for meaning and unfair advantage
Meaning brings exceptional people: The very first thing we did at the Studio was to define why we fight, general thinking about our values, what we stand for, and why the Studio was needed. Six months in, three separate teams of founders have joined on this alone and we received over a hundred applications from all over the world, with a level of quality that we were humbled to discover. Data point:our teams of founders.
Unfair advantage is sought out by our founders, mainly about vertical knowledge, ability to recruit, network of potential buyers/testers, and money: our founders all used extensively the various resources of the Studio, with huge hits being the network of early testers, pieces of training about the industry vertical, the recruitment funnel and the money at disposal. Data point: our founder’s use of available resources.
📚 About manufacturing: it has its own set of rules
Cost of acquisition & activation is actually surprisingly low in middle-sized manufacturing, for solutions which are not getting too deep in the operations. Data point: our first team achieved a whopping 60%+ conversion rate for their first clients, from cold calling for their used goods marketplace, only friction being when they need to actually get particular data. For those not familiar with conversion rates, this is incredible.
Legacy systems are a pain that you can circumvent: Plugging a solution to existing systems is painful, more often than not uneconomic, essentially because the systems are legacy and designed to not be connected to anything. Lack of standardization in interfacing solutions is also a pain to overcome for newcomers. Good news, those hardships do not mean it’s impossible to plug new services in manufacturing, just that you should be thoughtful about it. Data point: our second team early user research stepped on multiple issues when local IT teams got involved because their early solution was meant to connect with existing systems. Getting rid of anything that should connect to existing legacy systems, as early as value proposition definition, should be an integral part of the process of early discovery.
Users in manufacturing, especially at shopfloor-level, are dying for good design & usability: we saw aging UX in almost every place, not thought for humans, and people aware of it. The dissonance between the consumer experience and the software people are using at work, in the manufacturing field, is becoming more pressing as a new workforce enters the market. The main change is that users are aware that another world is possible and are less and less complacent with the current state of UX. Data point: around 50 visits to manufacturing companies.
This is where we stand after six months. It’s humbling to realize that in those short months, seven founders started their entrepreneurial journey, two companies were created, four professionals were brought to those companies, over 60 partner companies were brought in, and more than two hundred users were impacted.