For companies

4 minute read • updated August 29, 2018

How the Guild works with companies

The Data Guild is pioneering a new model for facilitating product and market development activities in early-stage ventures in healthcare, life sciences, and renewable energy / climate change. In these industries, product development is increasingly intertwined with and dependent on data - how it is collected, processed, and then leveraged to drive decision-making and improve the user experience.

The Data Guild brings to bear a world-class team of designers, product and data engineers, machine learning experts who have collectively taken on some of the most challenging projects in these areas, from rethinking clinical trials to improving health outcomes in poor and underserved communities to implementing new models for peer-to-peer renewable energy trading.

Common startup challenges...

Teams we encounter often arrive with deep domain expertise and impressive technical ability – they are deeply immersed in their opportunity, and aware of the complexity they face in cracking these markets. Their biggest challenges in translating their initial efforts into product/market fit are:

  • Getting access to the right talent at the right time - without recruiting becoming the founders’ full-time job. Early-stage companies in data-intensive domains must compete for design and tech workers who have limitless options and are fiercely recruited.
  • Sourcing and delivering on early sales engagements without being overwhelmed by the one-off professional services portions of these arrangements that often draw scarce resources away the core product.
  • Transforming core, differentiated IP and domain expertise into compelling, data-driven products.

...and how we address them

These challenges lie at the core of the team, market, and product struggles that founding teams must navigate in order to successfully bring new offerings to market. The Data Guild delivers three forms of value to mitigate them:

  • Easy access to key talent that is needed to build out early product iterations and data infrastructure - for equity rather than cash, under flexible arrangements, and via a model that is far more congruent with the reality of early-stage ventures than typical contracting arrangements
  • Business development leading to engagements that are aligned with core product and market goals, including strategic partnerships and contracts that can provide transformative learning and market development
  • Strategic, operational, design, and technical mentoring to help domain experts navigate the business challenges of bringing technology and data to bear on their problems and opportunities

In addition to these main benefits, the Guild also provides access to shared resources-in-common, including access to legal assistance, operations support, and a variety of technical resources and tools that help companies operate efficiently.

Talent

The Guild deploys its members and affiliates to work directly with portfolio companies in return for equity, at a rate that is highly discounted relative to the cash replacement value of that labor - even before the overhead of recruiting and onboarding is taken into account. These engagements can range in duration from a few weeks to many months, and they are designed to accommodate the dynamism and rapid iteration cycles of product development in early stage ventures.

Not every startup in the sectors where the Guild operates is a good fit for this approach. We look for the following conditions, among others, when assessing whether an engagement makes sense:

  • The founding team must be technically sophisticated - they must be mature in their ability to assess and assimilate technical solutions.
  • The company must be at an early stage, pre-product/market fit, when flexibility and adaptivity in team composition is paramount.
  • The technology developed in the engagement should be crucial to furthering the company’s product and go-to-market strategy, but it should not constitute the long-term IP or differentiation of the company.

Business development

Early startups face an uphill battle selling into large enterprises: sales processes are long and complex, and the landscape of internal needs can be very difficult even for industry veterans to map out in sufficient detail. Distracting and resource-sapping professional services commitments take energy and focus away from core product and market development.

The Guild addresses these challenges in two ways. First we use our deep relationships with strategic partners to help portfolio companies make early sales. This goes well beyond typical intros and advisory services; instead we serve as extensions of your team to identify champions and obstacles, articulate the value proposition, and navigate the procurement process. In addition, we can often serve as an “adapter”, absorbing much of the one-off professional services aspects of an engagement so that the portfolio company can focus on the work that is most relevant to its product and market strategy.

Mentoring

Advice and coaching can come from many sources, but the Guild has a closer view of its companies’ context and challenges by dint of its high-touch engagement model. Combined with our experience in the domains in which we operate, this allows us to work with teams at a consistent, organic cadence that requires less outreach and “relationship management” by founders.

While some of the companies we work with come in with deep expertise in data engineering, data science, and machine learning, others benefit greatly from our world-class talent pool - especially when it comes to leveraging data to deliver delightful, valuable, and context-aware experiences to users. We are experts in using data to improve products as a whole, not just to deliver analytics and insights.

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