The Neue Industry
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The Neue Industry

The Deep Tech Founder’s Journey: 3 Questions for Sean Mitchell, Founder of Movidius and Chairman of Opteran

Sean Mitchell speaks about the startup journey at Join’s Portfolio and Investor Day, 2022

Sean Mitchell has spent 33 years in the semiconductor industry with four successful startup businesses. In 2005, he co-founded Movidius as CEO. While bringing to the market the industry’s leading Edge Compute platform for Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence, the Movidius team raised over $100 m in venture capital. In 2016, the company was sold to Intel.

Speaking at Join’s Portfolio and Investor Day in June 2022, Sean explained how founding a startup usually never follows the linear path we meticulously plan at the beginning. Instead, it’s a rollercoaster ride — and one that, while worth it in the end, requires perseverance and strategy.

Here’s our quick take with Sean.

Because there is this complex journey to building a company with an oftentimes unexpected reality, what kind of advice do you have for founders? How can founders push through the challenges?

First of all, I think they should steel themselves for the journey. Looking back on it, ours took twice as long as the initial plan, cost twice as much and gave us ten times as much heartache. So, you know, it is going to be hard. It’s not always going to go your way. You should really ensure that you believe in your mission at the level that you are willing to stick with it through all these things.

How can founders really ensure alignment with investors?

That’s a really important issue. If you have the luxury of having multiple suitors in particular, as investors, it’s worth doing your homework and understanding what’s going on behind the scenes in that investor partnership. It’s important to get some insights into the dynamics. How patient are they going to be? How do they really feel about the sector you’re operating in? You might then be able to filter out some folks who — although they’re prepared to come in and invest — wouldn’t be great partners because they’re not aligned. So, again, if you have the luxury, doing the homework is worthwhile.

At Join, we have an ambassador program in which we connect founders directly with tech evangelists inside major organizations and corporates. This helps create more opportunities for companies when it comes to customer acquisition and seamless tech adoption. Can you discuss the role this has played for you and your journey?

Yes. You hear about these types of deals all the time, but you don’t get great insight into the decision making processes within these companies. What does it really take to get a deal like that? How do you convince all the interested parties? You need somebody on the inside who’s prepared to stick their neck out and say, ‘This is my deal. I want us to do this deal.’ And they’re working on your behalf to convince everyone within the company that has an influence on the decision.

I think it’s critically important. On paper, the deal may be perfect for them. But there’s still the process of making it happen, which can be hugely complicated and political. You really need to have an advocate on the inside.

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