PreScouter has come a long way in the last 6 years.
PreScouter was founded in 2010 in Evanston, Illinois, USA by four Northwestern University graduate students (two MBAs and two PhDs). The idea for the company was sparked by a seemingly avoidable tragedy in China, which – along with the experiences of a Northwestern alumnus who was an R&D Director at a medical device company – exposed the difficulty of accessing and utilizing university research.
In early 2011, while two of the founders were developing a business plan, the other two began the process of building what is now known as the PreScouter Global Scholar Network. They began asking colleagues and friends at other top universities if they would be interested in working on a project to gain exposure to industry leaders and make a bit of money on the side. After completing pilot projects with Kraft Foods, UOP (Honeywell) and DSM, the founders realized that while corporate leaders were indeed eager to learn about relevant academic research, these veteran scientists and engineers were especially interested in the fresh perspectives and unbiased, critical analysis that PreScouter’s talented scholars were providing about their findings. So the founders set about to develop a Global Scholar Network consisting of aspiring scientists, engineers, economists, analysts, and developers who share a common ambition to apply their academic knowledge and problem-solving skills to challenges faced in industry.
The initial concept involved members of this scholar network to work in teams to help connect corporate R&D labs with the research coming from academia included university labs, but also incorporated analysis. Soon though, both the early scholars and the founders began to realize that clients were less interested in exactly where the information came from, and more interested in being exposed to new technologies and understanding more about innovations and scientific research that might be relevant to their industries. Thus, PreScouter began to offer a broader scope of services, which included a wide range of sources that included university labs, but also included analysis of startups, competitors, and even innovations in other industries that could be applicable. By this time, PreScouter’s operations had moved from hourly meeting rooms on campus at Northwestern University to the Evanston Technology & Innovation Center, a small incubator in downtown Evanston. A team of three sales representatives was hired, and the Global Scholar Network – with nearly 100 members – was beginning to develop an identity, thanks to an aggressive email marketing campaign. On the Service Delivery side, a project manager was hired to manage project timelines, coordinate schedules, and serve as a point person between the client team and the scholars working on a project.
By early 2013, PreScouter had learned from prior experiences with early clients and developed an effective process. Part of the evolution of the company involved the definition of three product offerings: Technology Landscapes were intended to provide a broad view of potential solutions in an area of interest in which the direction the client wanted to take was not yet clear. Landscapes provide identification and high-level analysis from scholars of 30-50 potential solutions to the client’s challenge. Technology Portfolios were (and still are) ideal for clients with a more well-defined challenge. Scholars would identify potential solutions and offer a bit more in-depth analysis of each one in order to allow the client leadership team to determine whether a deeper dive was warranted. Technology Investigations were (and still are) the tool for the deeper dives. These fully customized reports provide in-depth profiles of solutions, including interviews with solution providers, ratings on IP position, evaluation of the state of the technology, and more client-requested analysis. In addition, the client service teams had evolved as well, with the most experienced scholars gaining the title of “Senior Scholar” and eventually “Lead Scholar” status being assigned on each project. Additionally, PreScouter began a relationship with the Project Management Institute in order to provide scholars with free training and certification opportunities to enhance their preparation for careers in industry.
2014 marked a major transition for PreScouter. By the end of the previous year, it was clear that the company had outgrown its incubator space. So, early in 2014 the headquarters office moved into its current office suite, also in Evanston. At the same time, an experienced sales director was hired and the sales and service delivery processes were both re-defined. At the end of the year, PreScouter held its first live event and published its first report - “Nine Disruptive Technologies Changing the World” - which was written entirely by PreScouter scholars. This coincided with monthly publications of scholar articles to the PreScouter Journal. By the second half of the year, PreScouter began hiring scholars into full time Service Delivery roles as project managers and staff scientists. Meanwhile, the network continued to expand to over 500 scholars worldwide, and the list of clients served reached nearly 200, with many signing on for additional projects after the completion of their initial agreements.
The company has grown to include over 30 full-time employees (working in Evanston and from remote home offices) and 800 scholars representing five continents, coming from the top research universities in the world. The Service Delivery team has evolved to the point that it is made up almost exclusively of ‘graduates’ of the Global Scholar Program, individuals who are using their experience as scholars to help continue the evolution and growth of the company and the Network, and to deliver the highest quality services to clients. PreScouter continues to progress toward faster, better projects and is developing technology to automate the experience and make it “effortless” for the client and the scholars.
PreScouter hosted a webinar, presented by scholars, titled "Graphene: How This Wonder Material is Transforming Every Industry". PreScouter scholars also presented a webinar - "Building A Real Jurassic World" on the future of biotechnology and genetic engineering .This research was featured in San Francisco Gate and Genetic Literacy Project. Coming up in Chicago on Sept 10th, PreScouter's scholars will be giving a live presentation on Synthetic Biology, the next big disruptor in food, fuel, pharma, and chemicals.