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Opportunity Scouting - Evolution throughout 2016

Reviewing some of our searches in 2016 made us ask ourseves "are companies looking for different mechanisms for differentiation and to find new routes to market?"

Three weeks into the New Year and it's probably a little late to review 2016, but the evolution, and some may say revolution (due to the “pace” of change), of our services over this last year is noteworthy. Is it a temporary phenomena or an indication of a shift in the way companies are seeking technology differentiation and new market access?

Strategic Allies Ltd have been undertaking technology scouting assignments for major manufacturing companies for over 20 years. Although dynamic, this valuable service is now reliable, predictable and robust, allowing companies to cost effectively search internationally for external sources of differentiation, product innovation and solution generation to shortcut time-to-market and manage internal development risk. Our 2016 was similar to many previous years with this service in high demand from our diverse range of international clients.

What was new then?

Well it's the diverse nature of the type of search that our clients have asked for this year and their frequent request to adapt our services to search for new routes-to-market for their businesses, business models or potential differentiation for their products. So, not just technology scouting but searches for distributors, VARs, resellers, niche processing suppliers, solutions to complex problems, acquisitions, strategic partners, capability and even product/technology landscaping. Let me briefly explain by way of example. Everything we do for our clients is confidential so please excuse me, as I must leave out the relevant client names.

• A large manufacturer/service provider requested a search for strategic distribution partners for its telecoms products but selected specific vertical sectors to search in, rather than the ‘normal suspect’ partners from the telecoms sector.

• A family owned group wished to embark upon an acquisition strategy however the CEO had no internal M&A team to initiate the process. We agreed the criteria, which involved financial and equally importantly non-financial requirements, and then conducted identification, first filter, initial contact and subsequent filter before passing to the group CEO for post filter discussions.

• A UK, AIM listed company, undertook a search for VAR (Value Added Resellers) for its IoT product platform in Scandinavia and Northern Europe

• One client had developed a new product that was dependent on a particular piece of niche processing technology. Prior to going into full production the client needed to manage its risk by finding an alternative strategic supplier of this unique process technology.

• Another organisation requested SAL to look for evidence of use/development of a particular chemical entity outside of its traditionally established markets. Seeking adjacent market opportunities maybe?

• One client wished to identify organisations capable of delivering a particular service that they wished to use, gain knowledge of and then establish an internally capability to meet its developing needs.

• A large European manufacturer wanted to find and assess a range of enabling technologies to build into the new portfolio of products it was developing. With our expertise it was able to broaden its initial scope and consequently connect with many more companies that were able to address current and future development paths.

So, the diversity of searching required from our clients has increased considerably over this last twelve months from pure technology scouting into a spectrum embracing distributor to acquisition scouting, and almost everything in between. This may indicate an increasing willingness from companies of all sizes to employ external expert help and resources when seeking additional growth, differentiation and new market access.

I’ve no doubt that some companies will continue to do all this for themselves and indeed some do have size and reach to deliver this capability internally. But in our evolving world of increasing specialization, customization and outsourcing, the smarter companies appear to be recognizing that others can do a better job and offer a more cost effective route.

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