So, you have a big idea for a new technology or innovation but what comes next? We sat down with Kite Magnetics founder Dr Richard Parsons to find out more about the founder journey and his experience in partnering with Breakthrough Victoria.
Breakthrough Victoria (BV): Can you shed light on how you started Kite Magnetics?
Dr Richard Parsons (Richard): My journey had been a little bit of an unusual one.
I fell into entrepreneurship while going through my research program. When I was finishing up my PhD back in about 2016, Professor Kiyonori Suzuki and I discovered a new material called Aeroperm, which is a new magnetic materials technology. This material allows for electric aircraft motors to become smaller, lighter and more efficient.
At first, we spoke to people from industry to see if there was any interest to license this technology. While we had plenty of interesting conversations, we quickly found there were also plenty of questions around production and end applications.
Where’s the higher value applications? How can production of this material be scaled? So we quickly realised that licensing this technology at this early stage will mean giving a lot of that value away without much reward.
So we thought, why not instead try and spin out a company from Monash University? From there, I went down a journey of learning all I could about the start-up space for about two years. I started building my own personal network, talking to other founders in Australia, which led to introductions to investors and learning about what their expectations are.
Venture capitalists are interested in the potential of scaling innovation for worldwide applications which then generates benefits for them. We then successfully obtained the license agreement for our new technology and that’s how Kite Magnetics was born.
Pitching to Breakthrough Victoria
BV: How was the process of pitching? Any tips to share with other emerging founders as someone who has successfully received investment?
Richard: For Breakthrough Victoria, you submit an online form that if your proposal shows potential will lead to a conversation directly with their team. You will need to have a plan, show documentation about the technology, the people who already work at the company, and also a plan for how you plan to progress with the funding should it be awarded.
With my main lead investor, I spoke to a panel of board members on the investment committee about the new materials technology, about Kite Magnetics, and my vision for the company’s future. Each investor does their process a little differently so it’s worth doing your research.
By then, I had already had Kite Magnetics up and running, but the whole process of pitching to venture capitalists and the like took a while from start to finish. So, it pays to start early.
BV: How difficult was it to navigate through this process as a research founder from university?
Richard: Look, it was a real learning process. I wasn’t an extrovert, I was happy as a PhD candidate, coming into the labs and saying hi to my colleagues in the morning and bye on the way out in the evenings. Having to switch from making academic style presentations to pitching investors was quite an adjustment, but it can be done with some practice.
Getting out there and making conversations with as many stakeholders as possible involved in the aerospace industry sounds daunting, but in reality, it’s no more complicated than sending lots of emails and connecting with people on LinkedIn. I started ending every conversation I had with: who else we should be speaking and connecting with? You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn just by attending events and talking to people.
Richard: My team and I were really excited! While everything else was already formalised, getting our name and technology out in the aerospace industry and to media outlets were crucial to the growth and long-term success of .
I worked closely together with the investors leading up to the announcement. In fact, the Breakthrough Victoria team came down to do a as part of the preparations. While I’ve learnt to speak to investors in-person, speaking into the camera was yet another skill I had to master quickly.
Advice to other founders
BV: What would be your advice to founders starting out?
Richard: Go talk to as many people as you can. As often as you can. It's the one bit of advice that you will hear from me over and over.
Be it customers, potential investors or other founders, just go out there and have as many conversations as you can. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn.