Expert Insights: Brian Lim on Market Sizing and running PoCs

We are excited to be back this week for the Rainmaking Expand Expert Insights series. Every week we sit down with a different speaker for the workshops in the Rainmaking Expand: South Korea program and discuss their key insights into their area of expertise.

This week, we invite Brian Lim to our series to share his insights on market sizing and PoC management. Brian has extensive experience in multiple regions in Asia on these topics, and has shared his key learnings with us in today’s article.

Firstly, thank you for joining me in this series, Brian. Since not everyone knows you here, would you be able to give us a self-introduction?

Brian: Hi! I am Brian, I’m the Head of Startup Programs at Rainmaking in APAC. I am based in Osaka, Japan, but work closely with our teams in Singapore, South Korea and, of course, Japan. I focus on helping the teams deliver various programs targeted at helping startups expand their business internationally.

Having worked in the technology industry for the past 8 years, I realised that there are huge areas of opportunities for startups to address, each with their own prospective customers in new markets and commercial opportunities with larger companies. I am driven by discovering these opportunities, and am eager to help companies of all sizes to collaborate and focus on producing commercial outcomes. More often than not, I have seen startup-focused programs fail due to mismanagement or a lack of focus on achieving mutually beneficial outcomes for startups and their partners or customers. I am determined to keep the focus in our programs, and help all parties find success.

Absolutely, when startups enter programs, this guidance and focus is key to helping them achieve their goals. From your perspective, what is the biggest mistake you see when a startup tries to enter a new market, and how would you advise them to avoid it?

Brian: Referring to the article Rainmaking Expand previously published on red flags that startups are not ready to expand, the biggest mistake I see startups making is when they have not yet achieved product-market fit for their home market, and instead of addressing that issue, they try to boost revenues by entering new markets with a largely untested product or service. This would only lead to a drain of precious resources, both in terms of money and time for the startup’s leadership team; and they can avoid this by ensuring that they regularly speak to their current customers, potential customers and customers who have churned. This then allows them to be acutely aware of the problems they are solving for their customers and if they have identified the right customer segments.

Within the Rainmaking Expand: South Korea program, you ran a great session for the participants on Market Research and Market Sizing for a new market. Based on your experience, what are your top 3 tips for companies to help navigate this?

Brian: My top 3 tips for startups would be:

  1. Use local data sources if and where applicable – South Korea has a wealth of data points and platforms available for startups to access for free. I recommend researching these for your specific industry.
  2. When performing market sizing, it is important to localise to the local market context and ensure that you understand why certain conditions may or may not apply to you and your company.
  3. Document all assumptions and rationale used when performing market sizing – this allows you to go back and sense check if your initial hypotheses and assumptions were accurate. (Read more on assumption tracking in our interview with Amanda)

You also have some great experience in helping startups and corporates run proof-of-concepts (PoCs). Would you be able to share some key items that startups should consider when they build their own PoCs with partners?

Brian: Absolutely, here is a short checklist on what startups should definitely consider and discuss when designing and implementing a PoC with a corporate:

  • Objectives we would like to jointly achieve
  • Experiments we would like to run together
  • Our shared success criteria
  • Metrics & KPIs to measure those success criteria
  • Potential risks & mitigation strategies
  • Communications preferences
  • Areas which are in-scope and out-of-scope
  • Timeline

Besides following this checklist, I would highly recommend that startups keep in mind the following ground rules before embarking on a PoC with a corporate:

  • PoCs should never be your end goal; instead they are a means to an end – with the end being that the corporate having sufficient confidence in continuing to partner with you for the long run.
  • PoCs should always be limited in terms of time and scope – I have seen my fair share of “zombie” PoCs with open-ended timeframes and unclear scope. I term them zombies as they are similar to the undead; the PoC lurches along from meeting to meeting with either party being reluctant to put an end to it. This is also highly resource-intensive and time-intensive when it comes to taking up precious time and resources of the startup

This checklist and ground rules should equip any startup to navigate PoC design and implementation well.

Wonderful, thank you for sharing such great insights and some resources that startups could use when they are looking to take the next steps in their expansion journey.

Read more in our Expert Insights Series

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Written by
Meghan Bridges
July 12, 2022
Marketing Director, Rainmaking Expand