E D U B O T S
SHAPING THE FUTURE OF ROBOTICS
KITE Robotics Part V: Building Our Clientele, by Stefan Spanjer
Stefan Spanjer is part of the Mechanical Engineering & Mechatronics program at Twente University, Enschede, Netherlands, and the founder and CEO of KITE Robotics.
The KITE Story to Date.
The first four installments of EduBots began with my inspiration for KITE robots during a visit to New York’s Empire State Building, watching window washers suspended high above the city, hand cleaning thousands of windows. The next step was establishing the team and developing the prototype. This was followed by several successful field trials. We then revealed the system to the media, a very important event that came with a lot of stress, but was a complete success. Finally, we began seeking investors. In this next phase, as we continue to approach those all-important investors, we are developing and fine-tuning the best method for demonstrating our unique product to potential clients. This phase of the process may seem obvious, but closing a deal requires a high degree of finesse and skill, no matter how fantastic our product might be.
The Diffusion of Innovation Theory.
Developed by E.M. Rogers in 1962, the Diffusion of Innovation is one of the oldest social science theories. It seeks to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures. This helps us by providing insight into how high-tech products are adopted by potential customers. Potential customers are divided into five categories based on several criteria, for example, their willingness to take risk, their sensitivity to new technologies, and their degree of skepticism.
The first two categories are “innovators” and “early adopters.” They are highly sensitive to innovative products, even though the products might not be totally perfect. For the innovators, technology is a central interest in life, while the early adopters purchase innovations since they already see the potential benefits. These groups are risk takers that are satisfied with a functional product, although some product features might not be optimal yet. These groups are very important for us since they are the door to the majority of the market. With KITE Robotics we have listed all the benefits of our technology and are able to show demos, which are needed to convince the early adopters. The benefits of our technology are: excellent cleaning, intrinsically safe way of working, cost savings, increased possibilities for architects, extremely fast cleaning, and it’s no nuisance for building users.
Although the benefits of our system are very clear and the technology is easy to understand, the process of finding innovators and early adopters requires effort. We talk with cleaning organizations, building owners, facility managers and building users. These new contacts are interesting and also provide us excellent feedback resulting in new, useful insights. However, the challenge here is that we have to find the specific innovators who also have the decision-making power. This is not always obvious since for every building, a different actor might be in authority. A great challenge!
Looking for Smart Money.
Next to talking with potential customers, we are also busy now with finding the right investors. We are currently in contact with four different potential investors who are very enthusiastic about our technology and like our spirit. We are looking for smart money, because it is most advantageous if an investor brings more than money alone. Smart money is cash invested or wagered by those considered to be experienced, well informed, “in the know,” or all three. For example, it would be great if we could attract an investor who could also open doors for us in the United States or Dubai.
I’ll be reporting on progress with investors and the initial marketing campaign in the next installment. In the meantime, please visit our website, Twitter, and Facebook page for updates!