6 Tips to Demonstrate Traction for Startups

As a scientist keen to communicate the value of my research I quickly learned the benefits of publishing and presenting, but it wasn’t until I bridged the academic and startup arenas that I realized private industry has its own evidence of success – traction. Most scientists are familiar with the idea that in academia peer-reviewed journal articles are akin to currency. In general, the more high-impact articles you publish, the better known you are as a researcher, and the easier it is to bring in new funding. Believe it or not, there’s even a scoring system for the impact of each publication. 

Of course to publish your research you have to actually do the research and generally find positive results, which requires funding. This may lead to a “chicken or the egg”-like question of, “Where do you even start?,” and is why most research institutions offer early investigator research funding. They want to help new researchers get their lab up and running so they can hopefully enter into the cycle of pilot research → funding → more research → publication → funding. 

Similarly, the startup funding world may leave you with a question of “Where does one start?” Your first funding will likely be ‘faith-based’ funding, those friends and family that demonstrate their faith in you as an entrepreneur by opening their checkbooks. However, you need substantial funding to truly advance your technology – whether you’re iterating on prototypes or trying to get your clinical trial off the ground – but investors want to see results before they invest. 

So how do you get the funding you need to demonstrate the value of your technology? You communicate to your investors the traction that you already have and are gaining. As Gabriel Weinberg, founder of the DuckDuckGo search engine and author of Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth, writes, “Traction is the best way to improve your chances of startup success. Traction is a sign that something is working.” 

We often jump to customer followers, sales, or other market-based values as metrics of traction, but for emerging technology and biotechnology startups there are many steps that must come before you can get your product to users or into the clinic. Communicating your success through those steps and how you will be able to leverage your success into eventual customers and sales demonstrates your early-stage traction. Before your next networking event or meeting with potential investors, consider how you can use stories of recent traction you’ve made as “currency” in the realm of startups. Have you:

  • Built an experienced team and advisory board, 
  • Solidified a new strategic partnership, 
  • Protected your intellectual property, 
  • Set and achieved R&D milestones,
  • Addressed industry-specific barriers or regulations (e.g., met with the FDA), or
  • Heard from interested customers and/or experts?

You may not have finalized your prototype or completed your next study, but there are other moments in your startup journey, other progress that you’re making, that you can highlight to demonstrate traction. 

At s2s PR we’re excited to hear about all of the traction your team is making and help you highlight your momentum. If we can help you identify and amplify your story of progress, we’d love to help. 

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