Sea4Us is a Portuguese biotechnology startup created in the sequence of the participation of the team in COHiTEC 2013. The company aims to develop novel therapeutic drugs, particularly for chronic pain, a syndrome caused by various pathologies (diabetes, cancer, arthritis, fibromyalgia, shingles, etc.) and that affects 1.5 billion people worldwide, causing a huge negative impact on society.

Sea4Us’ strategy relies on the study of some marine invertebrates such as sponges, anemones, corals or bryozoans, that, due to the fact of being fixed to the rocks and at the mercy of predators, have developed chemical defense strategies based on the secretion of toxins, many of which act as paralyzing anesthetics or powerful painkillers.

The company is settled in Sagres and is composed by three researchers, Pedro Lima, Filipe Vilas-Boas e Marisa Sousa, and one economist, Hugo Pacheco.



BioMimetx is a biotech startup dedicated to the research, development and marketing of innovative solutions for the control of biological proliferation.

The company is currently developing its first product, a natural-origin antifouling solution to be applied in paints for sea submerged structures. The product overcomes traditional issues such as environmental accumulation and dangerous handling of classical antifouling compounds, at a lower cost.

BioMimetx’s headquarters are in Évora and the company is composed by three researchers, Gonçalo Costa, Patrick Freire e Romana Santos, and a manager, Cristina Simões. The project that led to the company had previously participated in COHiTEC 2013 and is the result of research developed at the National Institute for Agricultural and Veterinary Research and at the University of Lisbon.



Vitacontrol, Lda. is a startup that is dedicated to the development of diagnostic kits for infectious diseases through the identification of new markers that enhance the sensitivity and specificity of the method. The immobilization of these markers in electrochemical sensors allows the company to identify small quantities of antibodies that can not be detected in diagnostic kits available on the market. The project has participated in COHitEC 2014, with the name InVita Sens.

Vitacontrol has focused its efforts on developing a diagnostic kit for leishmaniasis. This first product is distinct from the other already available in the market due to the fact that it is able to cover the asymptomatic cases, which allows a better monitoring and control of the spread of the disease.

Using a B2B business model, Vitacontrol’s mission is to develop innovative and more reliable diagnostic kits that enable saving human lives. These products are destined both to the domestic and international markets. The company’s values are based on transparent and solid relationships with all partners, customers, suppliers and employees in order to provide a high quality service and at the same time add value to society and the environment.



INNOVCAT is a technology-based startup, originated from research developed at the University of Porto, that centers its activity in the research, development and commercialization of innovative materials and solid catalysts for industrial applications in various areas, but having as main target the biofuels market.

INNOVCAT has developed a solid catalyst – X-CAT – which, along with a simple and clean technology, enables the production of biodiesel from various types of waste, significantly reducing the costs of production and operation, allowing to obtain biodiesel at a competitive price when compared with petroleum-based diesel. This solution is part of CATALVALOR project that participated in the 2013 edition of COHiTEC.

The company is composed by two researchers, Andreia Peixoto and Cristina Freire, from the Associate Laboratory for Green Chemistry – REQUIMTE, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Faculty of Sciences, University of Porto.



Exo-T is a biotechnology company dedicated to pre-clinical and clinical development of innovative cellular based therapies applied to regenerative medicine, specifically for the skin lesions treatment. The company is presently developing its first product, Exo-Wound, for the treatment of chronic wounds.

Incubated in Biocant Park, the company was founded in 2015 by two researchers, Joana Simões Correia and Ricardo Neves and a manager, Luísa Marques. The project that led to the creation of the company (Nanoinspire) participated in COHiTEC 2014 program and is the result of the research developed in collaboration with Crioestaminal SA, Biocant and Centre for Neurosciences and Cellular Biology of Coimbra University.


Performing ‘cold calls’ is an essential task for any startup, because through this form of communication the promoters can speak with several key contacts and gather essential information to assess the potential of the business idea. However, it is an unpleasent and time-consuming task. In this article, we give you some tips for successful ‘cold-calls’.


1. Focus on the goal

For most ‘cold calls’, the main goal is collecting information and building a relationship, and not pitching an idea or product. If you talk too much, you will not have time to listen to your respondent. Establish what the goal of your call is and focus on it.

2. Plan and investigate

Preparation is key for ‘cold calls’. First, start by defining what information or feedback you are looking for. What is it that you do not know and cannot know simply by searching the web or print? Then, search for the people that can help you with their information, advice and credibility. Make sure you are calling the right person within an institution, i.e., the person that is best suited to give you the information you are looking for. Then, investigate as much as you can about the institution or person you are calling: google them, consult LinkedIn profiles, search for common connections, etc.

3. Prepare a script

Prepare an appealing and concise opening statement for your script. Think about possible reasons why the person you are calling can also be interested in talking to you. Plan the questions you are going to pose to each respondent and query for an appropriate level of response detail. Think about possible objections the respondents will pose you and plan them in your script.

4. Be kind to gatekeepers

In many of the calls you make, you will talk to gatekeepers before, or even instead, of talking to the people you actually meant. Although this can be time-consuming and sometimes frustrating, remember to always be nice to gatekeepers. If gatekeepers are your allies, you will more easily gain access to the person you want to talk to.

5. Go where data leads you

Accept the answers that you are given and do not try to second-guess market responses. The best answers are the true ones and not the ones that fit your theories. This does not mean that you are not aware of possible sources of bias from respondents… Also, use the data that is given to you to iterate your ‘cold calling’ process by adding new relevant information, asking for novel contacts from respondents, etc.

6. Respect proprietary information

This statement is both true for you and for your respondents. When you present your startup idea, make sure you use ‘black-box’ conversations, where you focus on inputs and outputs, on what your product or service idea does and not on how it works. Same wise, when you are inquiring respondents for sensible information, please respect their callings. For example, if they give you information but state it is confidential, please do not use it publicly in your pitches.

7. Keep detailed records

Keep track of your calls: write down who you talked to, their name, job, company, contact and the record of the call content. Include new insights they gave and also the learnings from your cold-call process: what went on well and what can you improve?

8. Be positive and start calling

‘Cold calling’ is no one’s idea of a good time. But is has to be done, since it is vital for you to assess the market opportunity of your product or service, gather valuable information and gain credibility. If you are positive, confident and honest the person on the other side of the line will understand it and the ”cold call’ will be more productive. Try to establish a connection with your respondents. And remember Travis Kalanick, Uber’s co-founder, advice: “if you’re cold calling and three out of ten say ‘let’s meet’, you’ve got something!”.


A current debate on the startup ecosystem is the importance of intellectual property assets in securing venture financing, especially regarding patents.

Historically, it has been argued that possessing intellectual property favours the attraction of venture capital investment. This happens mainly because of three reasons:

Patents confer monopolistic market rights and offer protection from competition, which is viewed in positive light by investors.
Patents hold informational value and can act as signals of the quality of the technology, because, although they do not relate directly to market potential, they confirm the innovative status of the invention, which can lead to commercial gains.
Patents show startup commitment, indicating that the startup has matured enough to consider commercial utilization of the technology and that it is willing to invest in the protection of its technology.

In tech startups, intellectual property rights gain an even greater importance, since they are an important objective negotiation asset in a scenario that is mainly uncertain. In fact, tech startups are difficult to evaluate: they have no track record, they are years away from revenues, possess mainly intangible assets and present a high failure rate.

In the biotechnology, medical device and IT hardware fields intellectual property rights are highly relevant. Yet, in software or internet startups intellectual property rights seem to be less relevant, because of the rapid evolution in technology. Still, this is not a consensual subject and there is fierce debate about the real value of possessing patents in software startups.

In the side tab of this article, you can find links to three texts with different views on the issue of the importance of industrial property in different types of startups.

Regardless of the different points of view, there is a solid body of empirical evidence about the relevance of industrial property in the attraction of venture capital investment, compiled by authors like David Audretsch, David Hsu and Rosemarie Ziedonis, among many others. Some of the conclusions of their work are:

patents tend to attract prominent venture capital funds
patents prompt the funds to invest faster
patents increase the amounts invested in target firms
granted patents have more value than patent applications
larger portfolios of patents are more likely to attract prominent investors
firms with strong IP receive a higher number of venture capital financing rounds
firms with strong IP  have a lower probability of bankruptcy and a higher probability of successful exit


Last week, Apple launched its widely expected Apple Watch in 9 countries, making us one step closer to discover: are smart watches just a hype or will users find new meaning and applications for them, making them mass consumer products such as the iPod and the iPhone?


This reflection is particularly relevant in our current tech landscape, marked by technology hypes: some new technologies are received with laud and exaggerated enthusiasm, but will they really be “the next big thing”?

The past teaches us numerous lessons about heavily promoted technologies that did not live up to the hype surrounding them. The Apple Newton, Sony Betamax, Electric Vehicles, QR Codes and the Segway, all failed to meet the expectations that were imposed upon them.

In this article, we cover some of the most overhyped technologies nowadays. Will they live up to their promised potential?

Wearable technology is on the agenda today, with the release of Apple Watch last April, 24. However, the history of modern wearables dates back to the 1960’s and 70’s, when inventors first started building wearables to…cheat casinos. Counting cards and improving gambler’s odds at the roulette table were some of the applications of these wearables. As for the smart watch, in 1975 Pulsar brand had already released a calculator watch that was quite popular among science geeks.

But after some lull, and with the contribution of strong developments in sensor technology, wearables are back on the agenda, forming a market that was estimated by Statista to be worth 12.6B$ by 2018. While fitness and health trackers were some of the first wearables to succeed (e.g. FitBit, Jawbone), their impact goes well beyond and reaches, for example, the workplace. In fact, wearables have the potential to make work safer and more productive, as proves, for example, the smart glove for automotive manufacturing workers developed by German startup ProGlove.

Consumer adoption will determine exactly how far the wearable technology will go, being sure that it must address some issues, including its current short battery life and the privacy concerns related to storing electronically our entire life.

DroneIntelligent Drones
If you have being reading the news lately, you’ve been flooded by information about new companies in the intelligent drone sector. They present a vision where the future will be marked by thousands or even millions of flying drones accomplishing tasks such as product delivery, agricultural and public space surveillance, wireless internet distribution or image collection for entertainment and advertising purposes.

The buzz started in 2013 with Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, presenting on “60 minutes” program the “Prime Air”, a futuristic device to deliver the company’s products. In 2014, the popularity skyrocketed, with drone startups receiving 108M$ of venture funding, more than double the previous year.

But while the technology for drones is getting cheaper, there are still some drawbacks that need to be overcome, among them the fact that current technology does not allow total control of drones, the vulnerability of drones to hacking and, most importantly, the need to regulate the deployment of drones as well as the traffic challenges posed by their frequent use.

Oculus riftVirtual Reality
The Man has long dreamed of a world where virtual reality is possible, with several computer scientists and science fiction writers exploring such idea. However, the first efforts to produce credible virtual reality gadgets, developed in the 1990’s, were quite disappointing.

Currently, with the development of equipment such as processors, screens and accelerometers, a new wave of companies is starting to bet again on virtual reality. The idea is to create immersive experiences that trick your brain into believing that reality is in front of you without needing to leave your living room.

Facebook, Google and Microsoft are some of the companies competing in this space, backing startups such as Oculus (acquired for 2B$ by Facebook in July 2014), Magic Leap (which has raised more than 540M$ venture funding from a group of companies, including Google, by October 2014) and Microsoft’s HoloLens, an augmented reality headset that overlays 3D images with real ones, by using a tiny projector that sheds light directly onto the user’s retina.

3D Printing
3D printing, a process that creates objects by layering plastics, metals and other materials with the aid of computer models, has entered mainstream in the past years. It is a technology that has the potential to revolutionize our everyday life, since it can be used in a wide range of fields, including the industrial, biomedical and consumer ones.

To produce cheaper buildings, to download and print useful products at home or to fabricate human organs on-demand – these are some of the applications that 3D printing is aiming at. In particular, considering home printing, 3D printing could allow the democratization of manufacturing in a way never seen, by allowing individuals to print their own furniture, food, clothes, musical instruments, etc.

Currently, two companies dominate the 3D printing market, both from the USA and both founded in the 1980’s: 3D Systems and Stratasys. According to Gartner’s market research firm, this year approximately 217,000 3D printers will be shipped worldwide. But while 3D printing is becoming more accessible it still has to improve its performance with regards to speed, surface quality and running costs, in order to be able to reach larger audiences

Discovered in 2004, Graphene ensured the 2010 Nobel Prize of Physics to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov from the University of Manchester. This one-atom thick material, made from pure carbon, is the strongest material ever created and has excellent electrical conductivity.

Since it was isolated, many application ideas were proposed, in the fields of electronics, biological engineering, filtration, composite materials, photovoltaics and energy storage. The research community praised its potential and distinguished studies in the graphene field.

However, so far graphene is not used in commercial applications, mostly because of its high manufacturing cost. According to experts, the creation of easy-to-use products (and consequent production scale-up) might be the secret to unlock graphene’s market, but for that graphene must identify applications where it has first mover advantage.

Synthetic Biology
Imagine that you could re-engineer organisms the same way you program computer software. This is not science fiction; it is the task of synthetic biology, a hybrid discipline of biology and genetics engineering that allows the production of artificial biological systems and devices.

It writes genetic code and inserts it into simple organisms to change their function, for example making them more efficient in the production of a certain end product or reducing the toxic outputs of the process. Synthetic biology can revolutionize the way we produce fuel, clean up hazardous waste, produce affordable drugs, create products with improved nutritional properties or detect pathogens effectively – just to quote some examples.

While it is still a nascent field, with barriers concerning its time-consumption and laborious process, it has a wide potential, with the industry being expected to reach 5.6B$ by 2018 ( Companies like Intrexon, Fermentone and Gingko are hurrying to get a slice of this market, but many future developments are certainly yet to come.


Common sense says that the less competition a company has, the better. In line with this principle, INSEAD professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne launched in 2005 the bestseller ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’, which argued that companies can succeed if, instead of battling competition, they find uncontested market spaces.


Although entrepreneurs and investors sometimes agree that not having competition would be a positive thing, evidence proves that actually having competitors is important for startups, especially for those based in innovative products and services.

A 2013 study by Cranfield lecturers Andrew Burke and Stephanie Hussels indicated that early exposure to competition can increase the long-term survival prospects of startups. The study, which included a universe of 2 million companies launched in the UK between 1995 and 2005, discovered that companies launched in crowded markets had higher odds than others of failing in the first year, but if they survived such period they had a greater chance of making it to the three-year mark.

In this article, we present 6 arguments that highlight the importance of competition:

If you are launching a startup and have an idea, the fact that other people are working on similar concepts is a validation. It shows that the idea is good enough to be pursued and it is an indicator that there might be an interesting market to be served.

Customer receptivity
Being the first one to enter the market can be an ungrateful task. Sometimes customers don’t even realize that they have the need that your product or services tries to address. Marketing and education costs for new products and services are costly but when you have competition some of those tasks have already been done.

Your competitors offer you invaluable opportunities to know your market and your customers. Study your competition to understand their products and services, their business model, revenues, funding, etc. Learn from your competitor’s victories and failures and adjust your own plan.

Competition pushes companies to move faster, be more innovative and differentiate, all positive actions. Companies with little competition tend to live in their comfort zone and detract innovation.

Competition leads firms to focus in their core activities. Without competition, companies tend to deviate from their original objectives and sometimes create new offerings that may not make sense. Also, competition makes companies focus on key customers and find ways to serve them better.

At times collaboration can be a good strategy for competing companies. For example, when markets are big enough, joining forces and clustering is a good option. Collaboration is also a strategy for industries fighting similar products or services and needing lobbying power.


Launching a startup is no easy task. It is an iterative process that relies heavily in the need to contact several stakeholders in order to validate a business idea. Team members, mentors, potential customers, partners, suppliers and investors, all give valuable feedback to a startup…but the feedback is not always positive.


Receiving negative feedback is one of the many challenges a startup must face, and it is especially difficult since it can be discouraging and it is easy to take it personally and get offended. Nevertheless, negative feedback can actually be more valuable than positive feedback, since it is part of a learning process that will save you time and money and let you know what you are missing and what can be improved.

In this article, we collect some tips for startups to handle negative feedback and use it in their advantage:

1. Get perspective and accept the other person’s point of view
Most often, feedback is given by people who invested their time and energy to talk to you and give you constructive criticism about your idea. Don’t personalize the feedback you receive. Avoid getting emotional or angry and trying to convince them you are right. The process of feedback gathering is not about winning an argument but about collecting valuable information.

2. Get a deeper understanding of the feedback
Try to understand the “why” behind the feedback. Unbundle the several points of your value proposition in order to understand which ones are receiving negative feedback and why. And do not hesitate to ask additional information about the feedback.

3. Take notes and analyze them
Feedback is usually given in a quick and not always direct manner. Don’t suppose you will be able to remember all the feedback that was given to your project. Take notes of the most important points mentioned and, latter on, take your time to analyze them.

4. Understand the “context” of the feedback
When was the feedback told and by whom? When analyzing the feedback, it is important to understand the biases behind it. Distinguish between opinion, experience and fact. You also have to distinguish between form and content: did they criticize your idea because it was not solid or because you were not able to communicate it properly?

5. Extract value from feedback
Use the feedback to take decisions and change. Assess the most important learning points and incorporate them in your strategy. Be cautious: extracting value from feedback does not always mean to follow every advice you are given. In fact, often startups receive contradictory pieces of advice and they must reason them and decide on the best direction to go.

6. Move Forward
Feedback is meant to be received, thought and incorporated. After doing this, don’t get discouraged or overthink about the criticism you received. Move forward.