Technology vs. Product

The topic for our conversation today is “technology vs. product”. If it sounds like a trick question, it’s because it actually is – let me explain.

As VC’s and angels review pitch decks from startup founders vying for investment, we often hear comments like “yeah, maybe it’s a good product, but it’s not an investable company”. And that’s a valid point, as to become an investable and scalable company, your startup should focus on building a platform technology, with various potential applications and opportunities to scale up the business expanding in hopefully multiple directions down the road.

But when it comes to SBIR applications, that notion needs to be set aside, and your focus, as you are working on your SBIR proposal, should be on a specific product, or a solution to a specific pain point (no pun intended). You may eventually end up with multiple proposals (most likely, to various agencies or different institutes within NIH), employing your proprietary platform technology for various applications, but each proposal should focus on solving a specific problem if you want to improve your chances of getting it funded.

Part of that reasoning is in the way SBIR proposals are being evaluated by study sections. Your reviewers will likely be rewarding proposals that focus on offering a viable solution to a significant problem in their medical field.

That often necessitates a deep look into the applications of your technology and their fit with the choice of the solicitation you’d be applying under. As a PI writing an SBIR or STTR proposal, you’d need to push yourself to be laser focused on communicating a compelling story how your proposed innovation would specifically impact a specific important health-related issue. Your story needs to be cohesive and explain not just your proposed solution and its advantages, but also the nature of a problem you are addressing; existing competing solutions (both on the market and those being under development); challenges that you would need to overcome in order for your proposed solution to become technically and commercially viable; and what your path to the market would entail, from entering it to your vision for the exit strategy.

The bottom line – FOCUS. Tell a clear and convincing story how your product solves an existing pain point and explain how your startup will bring it to the market.

So that’s it for today – please stay safe and healthy in these crazy times, and reach out to us via [email protected] or take our short questionnaire to let us know how we could help you think strategically about aligning various SBIR/STTR and other non-dilutive funding opportunities with YOUR unique path to commercialize your technology or product faster, so that your innovation could make a difference in people’s health and lives sooner.


Eugene Krentsel
Chief Scientific Officer, XLerateHealth, LLC