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Meet Dino Gane-Palmer of PreScouter in The Loop

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dino Gane-Palmer.

Dino, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I came to Chicago in 2009 from London, UK. After several years working in the media and technology sector in the UK, I decided to pivot my career towards doing something more entrepreneurial. I thought coming to Chicago for business school could be a stepping stone towards this pursuit. I joined the full-time MBA program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

While I was at Northwestern, I could not help but be astounded by the innovations being developed in the university’s research labs, and other universities around the US. Very few of these innovations were seeing the light of day, in terms of becoming real products that people could use.

I got in touch with alumni of Northwestern who were R&D Directors at big corporations based in the Chicago area. They told me that there was a real need to know about technologies emerging from not just universities, but also startups, adjacent industries and elsewhere. However, they had busy enough jobs without having to also digging for these technologies.

By the time I graduated from Northwestern in 2011, I had started a company – PreScouter – with a few initial customers. PreScouter serves the need of providing corporate R&D labs with the custom information they need to develop their products. This custom information highlights the innovations from universities, startups and adjacent industries that are relevant to them.

Since then, PreScouter has worked with over 500 clients – mostly from the Fortune 2000, completing hundreds of thousands of hours of research for them. Because confidentiality is of utmost important to our clients, we can’t really talk about the work that we’ve done. However, we know that, based on our work, clients have acquired startups, made enhancements to their products and shifted their plans how the new products they create.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
When you start a company, you inevitably face one problem after another. Over time, you figure out how to solve them, one at a time. The real test is solving those problems before your business runs out of money.

One of the biggest problems that we faced early on was simply getting in front of prospective clients. Our target group is very small – there are perhaps only 100,000 individuals in the world who can be a prospective client. These 100,000 are the people in big companies that are shaping the products that you and I find in stores and consume.

There are conferences, publications and other mediums that target the 100,000 or so individuals who are our target clients. We tried all those things – and still do – as a way to get our services in front of them. However, these methods have only ever had limited success for us. Ultimately, we found that simply cold-calling prospective clients and telling them our story has been the best way to get in front of them and garner their interest. In order to do this, we’ve built extensive operations in India and the Philippines to support the business. While the actual work we do is done in the US, these teams help us get in front of prospective clients.

Once you have clients, you need a talent pool to conduct the work. We work in a wide range of industries, from drug-discovery to oil drilling, airplane manufacture and dairy. The skills required to serve each client are different and unique. We simply could not hire enough staff to serve all the different needs. A second problem we had to solve was how to cope with the wide range of talents that our clients require.

To serve the diverse skills our clients seek, we have basically, over time, cultivated a network of over 2000 researchers and experts. This is a pool of people who largely have regular full-time jobs, but do some ad-hoc work as necessary to contribute to client projects – similar to Uber, but for more high-end technology and science research work. We could never hire the 2000 people needed to meet the diversity of clients we have. However, combined with our in-house scientists and account managers, this ad-hoc talent pool is able to meet the needs of our clients.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with PreScouter – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
PreScouter serves the need of providing corporate R&D labs with the custom information they need to develop their products. In some cases, clients are looking to create a new product – perhaps a zero calorie chocolate bar – and they want to know all the different ways this has been attempted thus far. In other cases, clients may have spotted a trend – such as a shift towards renewable energy – and are simply seeking to understand what it means for their business.

The way PreScouter handles client questions and projects is by dynamically putting together teams based on the skills needed for that assignment. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve developed an extensive network of over 2000 researchers and experts. We pull from this network to create the team that will work on the client’s project. The team gathers information and conducts analysis, presenting its findings through virtual meetings with the client. The client walks away with actionable information that allows the client to make decisions about how they will develop their products or address a particular market.

Our clients are generally in manufacturing business – which covers a wide gamut. We have clients that are looking for biodegradable packaging for their packs of chips, and others that want to know the extent to which they can use self-driving vehicles for managing inventory in their factories.

While the technology and science that each client project requires are very specific, they are all seeking to build better products that serve their customers. They also seek ways to reduce their costs, to be competitive with their peers and make their products more accessible to as many consumers as possible. We’re able to help our clients find the insights they need to make progress on these fronts.

What makes me most proud is hearing the praise we receive from clients about the insights that we have provided, and the impact it is having on their work. For most of our clients, there is no other way for them to do the work that we do, without doing it themselves. Those that try to do it themselves find that they are not able to produce results as useful as that which we produce, or do it in as cost-effective a way.

What were you like growing up? Personality wise, interest wise, etc.
I grew up in the UK. While most kids liked to play soccer, I was learning how to program on my ZX Spectrum. I was fascinated with computers, and fortunately, my parents supported this interest. In time, this led me to take up a Bachelors degree in Computing at Imperial College.

I was always inspired by entrepreneurs, such as Richard Branson and Bill Gates. I think I was naive and have only now really started to understand what it takes to build a company. Nevertheless, learning about these pioneers, and what they had to go through, was inspiring for me.

My parents placed great importance on education, so I spent a lot of time studying. I was shy and probably socially awkward. It was not until that I went to college that I started coming out of my shell.

In some ways, starting a company has been the biggest development experiences of my life — it forced me to do things that I might have been reluctant to do otherwise. I had to develop the skills to persuade people, manage people and get results. I feel it has made me a better person.

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Dino Gane-Palmer, PreScouter

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