Being Decawave: Tech PR One Milestone at a Time
Recently, it was announced that Irish fabless semiconductor firm DecaWave will be sold to Apple supplier Qorvo in a deal reportedly worth $400M – $500M, making it the biggest ever Irish tech exit. Back in 2008 though, DecaWave was a start-up, with some far-out UWB technology and an equally complex vision to convey.
DecaWave’s PR was always guided by a few simple principles. Like all startups, in its early days DecaWave was pitching potential, track record and the expertise of its founders, before later progressing to product development stories like tapeouts, evaluation kits, sample silicon and then eventually to full product launch.
Every one of these company milestones marked another step in building up Decawave's PR story.
Company Milestones As Content
DecaWave organically developed its ‘story’ by using both corporate and product milestones as they naturally occurred. With their first product in development – their first chip DW1000 wasn’t launched until late 2013 - and with an eye to investment, the focus was mostly on corporate achievement, though occasional feature and news forays into leading trade publications like EETimes, Electronics Weekly and RFID Journal, and websites like The Next Web, kept growing industry interest ticking over.
Thus an antenna collaboration with Dublin Institute of Technology, or participation in IEEE 802 meetings, or occasional industry awards, or the visits of overseas firms/industry bodies interested in UWB technology became the mainstay for company news, along with funding stories and key hires as they arose. And bundled together, these also formed content for a quarterly newsletter.
Gradually, as DW1000 neared completion, it also began to generate its own storyline – tape-out, sample silicon, evaluation kits and so on, right up to its first product launch.
By following this simple routine of reporting on company milestones as they occurred, DecaWave soon built up an impressive background story, and importantly, began to establish their credentials with important media editors and writers, both locally and overseas. They also built a strong digital footprint.
Building an Audience from Scratch
From the outset, DecaWave worked on developing an ‘in-house’ database of industry contacts – these were interested parties who contacted the firm directly, or who signed up for ‘gated’ content like internally generated UWB whitepapers, or simply those who requested information through the company website. This list was updated on a weekly basis by DecaWave, and the firm’s quarterly newsletter ensured that regular contact was maintained with everyone on the list.
Additionally, we developed an in-house media list, made up of interested writers from the important local business and technology pages in Irish media, as well as trade/tech writers in international industry journals like EETimes, EETimes Europe, RFID Journal, ElectronicWeekly and so on. The core DecaWave media list was highly focused, comprising no more than 20 – 25 individuals between Ireland and overseas. But they were all specialists, and we were in regular contact, so pretty soon we developed for DecaWave a reputation as a source for good, well resourced (pics, third party comment, etc.) copy.
While DecaWave’s audience was disparate, it was also highly focussed. Most people consider marcom should be directed primarily at the market, and of course they are correct - it should. But many others make up the success of your enterprise, and these too should be borne in mind, both when shaping your story and distributing your message.
This was what we did with DecaWave: so as well as their consumers and leads, consideration was also given to investors, government funding agents, skills pool, employees, suppliers, etc. And as the DecaWave ‘story’ wasn’t just confined to product, but also to funding, key new hires, new customers, potential new applications and markets, and so on, the DecaWave story very quickly found a ready audience in both the RFID, Indoor Location, UWB, semiconductor, as well as the local investor, business and tech community.
Having worked with Ciaran and Michael as DecaWave’s outsourced PR for 6 years - from very small beginnings in East Point in 2008 right up to the international launch of their debut chip DW1000 in UCD Newman House by then Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD- I am delighted for their success; I can certainly attest to the hard grind that eventually brought them here.
CTO Michael was always a quare genius – a genuine, out-on-his-own UWB industry maven and visionary – also a former Young Scientist of the Year, and a proud owner of a ‘Countdown’ clock. When DecaWave came along, UWB was mostly known as a struggling wireless technology for consumer goods; Michael and DecaWave changed all that with their innovative alternate vision for the technology of ultra low power, very precise indoor location.
Meantime, CEO Ciaran had the huge task of keeping the entire DecaWave show on the road - grinding out DecaWave’s incredibly hard yards and milestones, pitching the extraordinary proposition to investors, and raising a breath-taking $50M - sometimes at $5 a time. On its own, this was an outstanding achievement. But then to finally work up a deal worth $400M - $500M as well - well done Ciaran.
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