Forming a start-up? Looking for investment? You'll need a compelling Value Proposition

Posted on: 06/05/2020

Expert tips to help create the right offer provide key insights for CyberASAP teams at this vital stage of development.


Taking a product from concept to market involves many stages. One of the first, and arguably the most difficult and important, is developing the Value Proposition. This stage should answer key questions such as: what need does this product or service meet? In what way is it unique and valuable to its customers? The Value Proposition should also identify and profile those customers; and quantify the market opportunity.


It is this vital first stage that the new cohort of the CyberASAP* programme has just faced. The programme, which helps academic teams commercialise their cybersecurity ideas, guides teams through the entire product journey, from concept to market, and last week they were challenged to present their Value Propositions to a panel of experts.


We asked some of those panel members for their tips on what, for them, are key ingredients for a standout Value Proposition. First up, Dr Budgie Dhanda, Managing Director of 3BDA which provides strategic consultancy, advice and support to organisations working in the Cyber, Defence, National Security and Law Enforcement sectors.


I’d suggest a couple of points to focus on:

  1. Understand the impact of the customer problem that’s to be addressed: Is it significant?¬† Is there a ‚Äòdo nothing‚Äô option?¬† If so, is it a big enough problem?¬† What makes this problem big enough to feature on the Board‚Äôs agenda when they have so many other issues to deal with?
  2. Articulate the unique selling point of the proposed solution – Why is this solution a game changer that will make [them] want to spend money?”.


Next up, Rockman Law, Founder of technology and strategy consultancy Quarry Bay Company. His advice?

  • Get their attention quickly. This means the pitch has to be clear, concise and easy for the buyer to consume quickly. Remember CISOs only spend 1-2 hours a week reviewing vendor pitches, and they receive hundreds of pitches annually.
  • Think about the business case. You should focus on the business problem you are trying to solve for the buyer, instead of telling them about your technology.
  • Data breeds credibility. Your value proposition will be made much stronger if you include evidence and data to back up your claim. Does your product save a SOC team X hours of manual tasks? Does your technology save them £Y per year?


Ian Tracey, formerly head of KTN’s Access to Funding and Finance team, now working as an independent consultant added:

“ Make your story personal & human, it engages more with the reader / listener and they are more likely to connect with it when it feels less abstract. 
Find your niche and make sure your niche is big enough to be interesting.  If an idea is too broad, it suggests a lack of drive and clarity; too focussed, it feels too small to be interesting”.


CyberASAP Alumni, Mark Graham, Founder and CEO of spin out company, botprobe ltd, spoke from experience about developing his own Value Proposition. He stressed how a Value Proposition should be a dynamic thing: “Never stop amending your value proposition” Рjust as the market and customer needs are not static, it is important to constantly review your proposition throughout the lifecycle of the product/service so that it evolves in line with changing market needs. He also recommends remembering to “Use the right language” in your Value Proposition, adding “you’ll only find out what this is by talking to people”.


The 2020/21 programme, which started last month and completes in February 2021, will initially have 28 teams participating in a range of workshops, bootcamps, and advice clinics designed to help develop commercially robust plans for their offerings. The programme has been successfully conducted online so far. As one member of the cohort commented:

CyberASAP has been a whirlwind of excellence, business communication and the “how to” models of change. We are loving our journey and look forward to building our vision into reality.

Ellen Kay, University of Wolverhampton.


This positive reaction was shared by another cohort member: The CyberASAP Mid Term Review was efficiently run through Zoom and provided a good alternative to the planned event in London. It was good to have the facility to post questions through the Zoom chat box which were answered straight away by Emma, Robin, Anita or the other team members. The Panelists provided very useful feedback on our project, which we will address for our Value Proposition Assessment. The industry speakers on Day 2 gave insightful presentations containing tools that we can apply to our project. Thanks for organising an excellent online event!”

Dr Paul Whittington, Postdoctoral Researcher in Assistive Technologies, Faculty of Science & Technology, Bournemouth University.


Find out more about the programme here.

Follow us at @cyberasap, #cyberasap,


*The only pre-seed accelerator programme in the Cyber Security ecosystem, the Cyber Security Academic Start-up Accelerator Programme (CyberASAP) exists to help commercialise academic ideas in the cyber security space. CyberASAP is funded by the UK government department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and delivered through Innovate UK and KTN.


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash.

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