I recently popped into Basingstoke’s DeskLodge to meet with some of the 40+ companies that are part of the start-up incubator run by Adrian and the team, having been asked to share what an Industry Analyst does based on my role at 451 Research. It made sense to share some of this here with specific examples around my coverage areas of IIoT, AR, VR and Autonomous Robotics.
Whilst I have only been an industry analyst at 451 Research for just 3 years (this month) I have been in the emerging technology industry for over 30 years as a software engineer and architect and as a writer and presenter. It is not uncommon for an analyst to have a lot of field experience, I used to brief analysts during my corporate life. Equally many analysts are from a journalistic or statistics background, trained in finding and sharing facts and figures. Of course, there are many personality types too within the overall, though in general the analyst profession is a people based one developing contacts and relationships across industry areas. Analysts have to take on board a lot of information, but cut through the marketing hype to find patterns and facts based on their experience. Not all analysts are going to be slightly longer in the tooth, but it often helps. For me it helps a lot, as I have previously written here, to have been part of the virtual worlds wave in 2006, the pre IoT connectivity days of things like MQTT and the early days of many current technology trends. This is because we cover primarily cover emerging technology at 451 Research, and everything old is new again. An important thing to add, and certainly ne that is true at 451 Research is that analysts maintain integrity by being separated from the commercial side of the company. The integrity of what we cover and say is not based on how much clients pay, nor is it is based on how much the analyst relations department spends on a dinner. Everyone has their own motivation and connection to a subject but impartiality, trust in treating off the record discussion and building a reputation is core for our analysts.
Large enterprises and the smallest of start-ups, and everyone in between, share a need to understand the market they are currently in, or look to move to. What is the competition up to? What is resonating in a market? What is going to totally disrupt the current plan? Start-ups need attention and connections in order to raise funding, enterprises need ongoing growth for shareholders and investors. Analyst companies are there to help provide answers and perspective on these sorts of questions. A large corporate entity may well have a competitive analysis department, but they will be focussed on the other big companies, less the quirky start-up set to make a dent in the industry. Smaller companies are busy just trying to do what they do, and may not have the time to look up and see what is going on around them. Analysts are always across a spectrum of companies, sizes and industry types. Whether it is writing regular short form reports on companies and their latest services, longer form reports across an entire industry sector, running ongoing surveys across thousands of industry types for directional data, custom consulting work, webinars, presentations, offering Merger and Acquisition (M&A) due diligence or just a quick call to answer a client question, analysts offer their considered opinions, backed by experience and data.
One of the other things that is important to consider, especially as a start-up, is to be in the minds of relevant analysts. We talk to people all the time, and suddenly a subject might come up, it may be a complete tangent, which is where we pattern match to say “I saw this really interesting approach from…”. So those conversations might be with VC’s, with companies looking for partners or with potential customers of the company.
The actual answer to this is anywhere. We take briefings from companies, typically for around 30mins – 1 hour on the phone, over web video conference, in person at trade shows. At 451 Research we ensure we do talk to companies, not just look at the web or a press release, as I mentioned above this is a people business. Trade shows such as the huge MWC last month that Chris wrote about are a bread and butter to analysts. My experience of MWC this year, and last, was 30-minute meetings scheduled with 30 mins walking time between then for 3 days, I logged 10 miles a day walking just in the conference centre. That is a lot of conversations and presentations from a varied set of companies. Whilst the show may seem focussed on the latest phones it has a lot of IoT and some IIoT related developments on show. The Microsoft Hololens 2 release was my highlight as far as my coverage areas go pushing AR further. The next show is even bigger though with Hannover Messe Industrial (1st April). This is bigger than MWC and even than CES and has become more than a nuts and bolts engineering event with IIoT at its heart. I will be there talking to the usual companies but also extending into autonomous robotics on the back of this publicly available report on a 9 level classification for robots to help people understand the implications and issues.
Social media has always been a useful place for me personally and professionally since the early days, and analysts are often to be found there now. I am always willing to hear about interesting things on twitter as @epredator
Anytime you need to know something across your industry or you need the industry to know about something you are doing or about to do that’s when you can benefit from an analyst company, or multiple analysts’ perspective. A start-up may be in stealth, not ready to announce yet, and that is where analyst’s integrity is key, tell us what you are doing off the record and that may well lead to some suggestions that help or when you come out of stealth a better description from us as we share what you are doing.
Whilst we are separated from the commercial side of things, at least at 451 Research, we are aware that what we produce is the core product for the company. Companies pay to access the basic reports, long form reports and detailed survey data is also charged for at a different rate, as is our time on the phone answering questions or doing custom consulting. However, companies telling us things is not something that anyone pays to do and, in those conversations, we do often share our thoughts, so you can get something from a briefing, no need to just broadcast what you do.
A final tip, if you are publicly known, have as much information as possible easily accessible, in a slide deck, or on a website. We all take notes during conversations but being able to look things up after the event is important. Who is the company, where were they founded, not just how cool the product is has great importance, this is a people business.