Home » Steve Blank’s Corner (Page 4)

  • It’s Time to Play Moneyball: The Investment Readiness Level

    Steve BlankOriginally published Nov. 25, 2013, at www.steveblank.com

    By Steve Blank

    Investors sitting through Incubator or Accelerator demo days have three metrics to judge fledgling – 1) great looking product demos, 2) compelling PowerPoint slides, and 3) a world-class team.

    We think we can do better.

    We now have the tools, and data to take incubators and accelerators to the next level. Teams can prove their competence and validate their ideas by showing investors evidence that there’s a repeatable and scalable business model. And we can offer investors metrics to play – with the Investment Readiness Level.

    Here’s how.

    ————–

    We’ve spent the last 3 years building a methodology, classes, an accelerator and software tools and we’ve tested them on ~500 startups teams.

    • Lean Startup methodology offers a framework to focus on what’s important: Business Model Discovery. Teams use the toolkit: the Business Model Canvas + process + Agile Engineering. These three tools allow startups to focus on the parts of an early stage venture that matter the most: the product, product/market fit, customer acquisition, revenue and cost model, channels and partners.

    Lean moneyball

    • An Evidence-based Curriculum (currently taught in the Lean LaunchPad classes and NSF Innovation Corps accelerator). In it we emphasize that a) the data needed exists outside the building, b) teams use the scientific method of hypothesis testing c) teams keep a continual weekly cadence of:
      • Hypothesis – Here’s What We Thought
      • Experiments – Here’s What We Did
      • Data – Here’s What We Learned
      • Insights and Action – Here’s What We Are Going to Do Next

    Evidence moneyball

    • LaunchPad Central software is used to track the business model canvas and progress of each team. We can see each teams hypotheses, look at the experiments they’re running to test the hypotheses, see their customer interviews, analyze the data and watch as they iterate and pivot.

    LPC

    We focus on evidence and trajectory across the business model. Flashy demo days are great theater, but it’s not clear there’s a correlation between giving a great PowerPoint presentation and a two minute demo and building a successful business model. Rather than a product demo – we believe in a “Learning Demo”. We’ve found that “Lessons Learned” day showing what the teams learned along with the “metrics that matter” is a better fit than a Demo Day.

    “Lessons Learned” day allows us to directly assess the ability of the team to learn, pivot and move forward. Based on the “lessons learned” we generate an Investment Readiness Level metric that we can use as part of our “go” or “no-go” decision for funding.

    Some background.

    NASA and the Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
    In the 1970’s/80’s NASA needed a common way to describe the maturity and state of flight readiness of their technology projects.  They invented a 9-step description of how ready a technology project was.  They then mapped those 9-levels to a thermometer.NASA TRL

    What’s important to note is that the TRL is imperfect. It’s subjective. It’s incomplete.  But it’s a major leap over what was being used before.  Before there was no common language to compare projects.

    The TRL solved a huge problem – it was a simple and visual way to share a common understanding of technology status.  The U.S. Air Force, then the Army and then the entire U.S. Department of Defense along with the European Space Agency (ESA) all have adopted the TRL to manage their complex projects. As simple as it is, the TRL is used to manage funding and go/no decisions for complex programs worldwide.

    We propose we can do the same for new ventures – provide a simple and visual way to share a common understanding of startup readiness status. We call this the Investment Readiness Level . 

    The Investment Readiness Level (IRL)
    The collective wisdom of venture investors (including angel investors, and venture capitalists) over the past decades has been mostly subjective. Investment decisions made on the basis of “awesome presentation”, “the demo blew us away”, or “great team” is used to measure startups. These are 20th century relics of the lack of data available from each team and the lack of comparative data across a cohort and portfolio.

    Those days are over.

    Hypotheses testing and data collection
    We’ve instrumented our startups in our Lean LaunchPad classes and the NSF I-Corps incubator using LaunchPad Central to collect a continuous stream of data across all the teams.  Over 10 weeks each team gets out and talks to 100 customers. And they are testing hypotheses across all 9 boxes in the business model canvas.

    We collect this data into a Leaderboard (shown in the figure below) giving the incubator/accelerator manager a single dashboard to see the collective progress of the cohort. Metrics visible at a glance are number of customer interviews in the current week as well as aggregate interviews, hypotheses to test, invalidated hypotheses, mentor and instructor engagements. This data gives a feel for the evidence and trajectory of the cohort as a whole and a top-level of view of each teams progress.

    leaderboard moneyball

    Next, we have each team update their Business Model Canvas weekly based on the 10+ customer interviews they’ve completed.

    canvas updates moneyball

    The canvas updates are driven by the 10+ customer interviews a week each team is doing. Teams document each and every customer interaction in a Discovery Narrative. These interactions provide feedback and validate or invalidate each hypothesis.

    disovery 10 moneyball

    Underlying the canvas is an Activity Map which shows the hypotheses tested and which have been validated or invalidated.

    activty updates moneyball

    All this data is rolled into a Scorecard, essentially a Kanban board which allows the teams to visualize the work to do, the work in progress and the work done for all nine business model canvas components.

    scorecard update moneyball

    Finally the software rolls all the data into an Investment Readiness Level score.

    IRL

    MoneyBall
    At first glance this process seems ludicrous. Startup success is all about the team. Or the founder, or the product, or the market – no metrics can measure those intangibles.

    Baseball used to believe that as well. Until 2002 – when the Oakland A’s’ baseball team took advantage of analytical metrics of player performance to field a team that competed successfully against much richer competitors.

    Statistical analysis demonstrated that on-base percentage and slugging percentagewere better indicators of offensive success, and the A’s became convinced that these qualities were cheaper to obtain on the open market than more historically valued qualities such as speed and contact. These observations often flew in the face of conventional baseball wisdom and the beliefs of many baseball scouts and executives.

    By re-evaluating the strategies that produce wins on the field, the 2002 Oakland A’s spent $41 million in salary, and were competitive with the New York Yankees, who spent $125 million.

    Our contention is that the Lean Startup + Evidence based + LaunchPad Central Software now allows incubators and accelerators to have a robust and consistent data set across teams. While it doesn’t eliminate great investor judgement, pattern recognitions skills and mentoring – it does provide them the option to play Moneyball.

    Watch the video here

    Last September Andy SackJerry Engel and I taught our first stealth class for incubator/accelerator managers who wanted to learn how to play Moneyball.

    We’re offering one again this January here.

    Lessons Learned

    • It’s not clear there’s a correlation between a great PowerPoint presentation and two minute demo and building a successful business
    • We now have the tools and technology to take incubators and accelerators to the next step
    • We focus on evidence and trajectory across the business model
    • The data gathered can generate an Investment Readiness Level score for each team
    • the Lean Startup + Evidence based Entrepreneurship + LaunchPad Central Software now allows incubators and accelerators to play Moneyball
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  • When Product Features Disappear – Amazon, Apple, Tesla and the Troubled Future for 21st Century Consumers

    Steve BlankOriginally posted Nov. 21, 2013, at www.steveblank.com

    By Steve Blank

    One of the great innovations of the 21st century are products that are cloud-connected and update and improve automatically. For software, gone are the days of having to buy a new version of physical media (disks or CD’s.) For hardware it’s the magical ability to have a product get better over time as new features are automatically added.

    The downside is when companies unilaterally remove features from their products without asking their customers permission and/or remove consumers’ ability to use the previous versions. Products can just as easily be downgraded as upgraded.Loser

    It was a wake up call when Amazon did it with books, disappointing when did it with Maps, annoying when did it to their office applications – but just did it on a $100,000 car.

    It’s time to think about a 21st Century Bill of Consumer Product Rights.

    ——

    Amazon – Down the Memory Hole
    In July 2009 facing a copyright lawsuit Amazon remotely deleted two books users had already downloaded and paid for on their Kindles. Amazon did so without notifying the users let alone asking their permission. It was a chilling reminder that when books and content are bits instead of atoms, someone can change the content – or simply disappear a book – all without users’ permission. (The irony was the two books Amazon deleted were Animal Farm and 1984.)

    Google – Well It Looks Better
    In July 2013 Google completely redesigned Google Maps – and users discovered that on their desktop/laptop, the new product was slower than the one it replaced and features that were previously available disappeared. The new Google Maps was worse then one it replaced – except for one key thing – its User Interface and was prettier and was unified across platforms. If design was the goal, then Google succeeded. If usability and functionality was a goal, then the new version was a step backwards.

    Apple – Our Code Base is More Important than Your Features
    In November 2013 Apple updated its operating system and cajoled its customers to update their copies of Apple’s iWork office applications – Pages (Apple’s equivalent to Microsoft Word),  Keynote (its PowerPoint equivalent), and Numbers (an attempt to match Excel). To get users to migrate from Microsoft Office and Google Docs, Apple offered these iWorks products for free.iwork

    Sounds great– who wouldn’t want the newest version of iWorks with the new OS especially at zero cost?  But that’s because you would assume the new versions would have more features. Or perhaps given its new fancy user interface, the same features? The last thing you would assume is that it had fewer features. Apple released new versions of these applications with key features missing, features that some users had previously paid for, used, and needed. (Had they bothered to talk to customers, Apple would have heard these missing features were critical.)

    But the release notes for the new version of the product had no notice that these features were removed.

    Their customers weren’t amused.

    Apple’s explanation? “These applications were rewritten from the ground up, to be fully 64-bit and to support a unified file format between OS X and iOS 7 versions.”

    Translated into English this meant that Apple engineering recoding the products ran out of time to put all the old features back into the new versions. Apple said, “… some features from iWork ’09 were not available for the initial release. We plan to reintroduce some of these features in the next few releases and will continue to add brand new features on an ongoing basis.

    Did they think anyone wouldn’t notice?

    Decisions like this make you wonder if anyone on the Apple executive staff actually understood that a “unified file format” is not a customer feature.

    While these examples are troubling, up until now they’ve been limited to content or software products.

    Tesla – Our Problems are Now Your Problems
    In November 2013 Tesla, a manufacturer of ~$70,000 to $120,000 electric cars, used a software “update” to disable a hardware option customers had bought and paid for – without telling them or asking their permission.

    Tesla Model SOne of Tesla features is a $2,250 “smart air suspension” option that automatically lowers the car at highway speeds for better mileage and stability. Over a period of 5 weeks, three Tesla Model S cars had caught fire after severe accidents – two of them apparently from running over road debris that may have punctured the battery pack that made up the floor pan of the car. After the car fires Tesla pushed a software release out to its users. While the release notice highlighted new features in the release, nowhere did it describe that Tesla had unilaterally disabled a key part of the smart air suspension feature customers had purchased.

    Only after most of Telsa customers installed the downgrade did Tesla’s CEO admit in ablog post,  “…we have rolled out an over-the-air update to the air suspension that will result in greater ground clearance at highway speed.”

    Translation – we disabled one of the features you thought you bought. (The CEO went on to say that another software update in January will give drivers back control of the feature.) The explanation of the nearly overnight removal of this feature was vague “…reducing the chances of underbody impact damage, not improving safety.” If it wasn’t about safety, why wasn’t it offered as a user-selected option? One could only guess the no notice and immediacy of the release had to do with the National Highway Safety Administration investigation of the Tesla Model S car fires.

    This raises the question: when Tesla is faced with future legal or regulatory issues, what other hardware features might Tesla remove or limit in cars in another software release? Adding speed limits?  Acceleration limits? Turning off the Web browser when driving?  The list of potential downgrades to the car is endless with the precedent now set of no obligation to notify their owners or ask their permission.

    In the 20th century if someone had snuck into your garage and attempted to remove a feature from your car, you’d call the police. In the 21st century it’s starting to look like the normal course of business.

    What to Do
    While these Amazon, Google, Apple and Tesla examples may appear disconnected, taken together they are the harbinger of the future for 21st century consumers. Cloud-based updates and products have changed the landscape for consumers. The product you bought today may not be the product you own later.

    Given there’s no corporate obligation that consumers permanently own their content or features, coupled with the lack of any regulatory oversight of cloud-based products, Apple’s and Tesla’s behavior tells us what other companies will do when faced with engineering constraints, litigation or regulation. In each of these cases they took the most expedient point of view; they acted as if their customers had no guaranteed rights to features they had purchased. So problem solving in the corporate board room has started with “lets change the feature set” rather than “the features we sold are inviolate so lets solve the problem elsewhere.”

    There’s a new set of assumptions about who owns your product. All these companies have crafted the legal terms of use for their product to include their ability to modify or remove features. Manufacturers not only have the means to change or delete previously purchased products at will, there’s no legal barrier to stop them from doing so.

    The result is that consumers in the 21st century have less protection then they did in the 20th.

    What we can hope for is that smart companies will agree to a 21st Century Bill of Consumer Product Rights. What will likely have to happen first is a class-action lawsuit establishing consumers’ permanent rights to retain features they have already purchased.

    Some smart might find a competitive advantage by offering customer-centric products with an option of “no changes” and “perpetual feature rights” guarantee.

    A 21st Century Bill of Consumer Product Rights

    • For books/texts/video/music:
      • No changes to content paid for (whether on a user’s device or accessed in the cloud)
    • For software/hardware:
      • Notify users if an update downgrades or removes a feature
      • Give users the option of not installing an update
      • Provide users an ability to rollback (go back to a previous release) of the software

    Lessons Learned

    • The product you bought today may not be the product you have later
    • Manufacturers can downgrade your product as well as upgrade it
    • You have no legal protection
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  • Lean LaunchPad for Life Sciences – Revenue Streams

    Originally posted Nov. 18, 2013, at www.steveblank.com

    By Steve Blank

    Steve BlankWe’re teaching a Lean LaunchPad class for Life Sciences and Health Care (therapeutics, diagnostics, devices and digital health) at with a team of veteran venture capitalists. The class has talked to 2,056 customers to date.

    This post is an update of what we learned about life science revenue models.

    Life Science/Health Care Revenue Streams Differ by Category
    For commercialization, the business model (Customers, Channel, Revenue Model, etc.) for therapeutics, diagnostics, devices, bioinformatics and digital health have very little in common.

    This weeks topic was revenue streams – how much cash the company can generate from each customer segment. Revenue streams have two parts: the revenue strategyand the pricing tactics.

    Figuring out revenue strategy starts by gaining a deep understanding of the target customer(s). Setting a revenue strategy starts with understanding the basics about the customer segments:

    • who’s the user, the recommender, buyer, and payer
    • How the target customer currently purchases goods and services and how much they currently pay for equivalent products
    • Their willingness to pay for value versus lowest cost?
    • How much budget they have for your type of product?

    Revenue strategy asks questions like, “Should we offer cost-based or value-based pricing.  How about demand-based pricing? Freemium? Do we price based on hardware sales or do we offer hardware plus consumables (parts that need to be disposed or replaced regularly)? Do we sell a single software package or a subscription?  These strategy hypotheses are tested against the target customer segment(s).

    Once you’ve established a revenue strategy the pricing tactics follow. Pricing is simply “how much can I charge for the product using the selected revenue strategy?”  Pricing may be as simple as setting a dollar value for hardware or software, or as complicated as setting a high price and skimming the market or setting a low price as a loss leader.

    You can get a feel for how each of the cohorts address the Revenue Streams by looking at the Revenue lectures below – covering the therapeutics, diagnostics, devices and digital health cohorts.

    At the end of the lectures you can see a “compare and contrast” video and a summary of the differences in distribution channels.

    Diagnostics

    Week 5 Todd Morrill Instructor 

    To see the presentation, click here

    Digital Health

    Week 5 Abhas Gupta Instructor 

    To see the presentation, click here

    Devices

    Week 5 Allan May Instructor 

    To see the presentation, click here

    Therapeutics

    Week 5 Karl Handelsman Instructor 

    To see the presentation, click here

    Life Science and Health Care Differences in Revenue Streams
”
    This weeks lecture and panel was on Revenue; how much cash the company can generate from each customer segment – and the strategy and tactics to do so. Therapeutics, diagnostics, devices and digital health use different Revenue Strategies and Pricing Tactics, in the video and the summary that follows the instructors compare and contrast how they differ.

    If you can’t see the video above click here

    Therapeutics (Starting at 0:30)

    • Therapeutics revenue is from drug companies not end users
    • 18 months to first revenue from a deal
    • Predicated on delivering quality data to a company
    • Deal can be front-end or back-end loaded
    • Quality of the data has to be extremely high for a deal

    Diagnostics (Starting at 4:10)

    • Diagnostic revenue is from end users: a hospital or clinical lab
    • You need to figure out value of your product but…
    • Pricing is capped by your reimbursement (CPT) code limits
    • Reimbursement strategy is paramount, design to good codes avoid bad ones
    • Find a reimbursement code consultant
    • Don’t do cost-based pricing… go for value-based pricing

    Medical Devices (Starting at 8:23)

    • There really is no such thing as a perfect First Generation Medical DeviceRevenue models are typically direct product sales
      • So Medical Device companies often start with a Volkswagen product and then build to the Ferrari product
    • Don’t do cost-based pricing… go for value-based pricing, especially where your device lowers the treatment costs of the patient
    • In most cases, pricing is capped by your reimbursement (CPT) code limits
      • Or pricing can be capped by what competitors offer, unless you can demonstrate superior cost savings
      • In a new market there is no reimbursement code but if you show high cost-savings you can get a high reimbursement rate
    • A risk in device hardware is getting trapped in low-volume manufacturing with low margins and run out of cash

    Digital Health (Starting at 10:35)

    • Digital Health revenue models are often subscription models to a company per month across a large number of users
      • Intermediation fees – where you broker a transaction – are another source of revenue (i.e. HealthTap)
      • Advertising is another digital health revenue model, but requires at least 10 million users to have a meaningful model, but can be lower if you have higher value uses like specialist physicians because  you can charge dollars not cents
    • Don’t do cost-based pricing… go for value-based pricing
      • Value-based pricing is based on the needs you’ve learned from the customer segment and the strength of your product/market fit
        • the sum of customer needs + product/market fit = the pricing you can achieve

    Lessons Learned

    • Each of these Life Science domains has a unique revenue strategy and pricing tactic
    • In therapeutics revenue comes in lump milestone payments from drug companies based on quality data
    • Diagnostics revenue comes value pricing to hospital or clinical lab
      • capped by reimbursement (CPT) code limits
    • Device pricing starts by offering an initial value-priced base product and then following up with a fully featured productDigital health products use subscription value pricing. Alternatively may use advertising revenue model
      • capped by reimbursement (CPT) code limits
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  •  
  • Well They ‘Should’ Be Our Customers

    Steve BlankOriginally published Nov. 13, 2013, at www.steveblank.com

    By Steve Blank

    When scientists and engineers who’ve been working in the lab for years try to commercialize their they often get trapped by their own beliefs  - including who the customers are, what features are important, pricing etc.

    I hear nothing

    ——–

    One the key tenets of the class is that every week each team gets out of the building and talks to 10+ customers/partners to validate a new part of their business model.  Back in class they present their findings to their peers and team in a 10-minute Lessons Learned presentation. One of the benefits of the class is that the teams get immediate unvarnished feedback on their strategy.

    For researchers and clinicians who’ve been working on a project in the lab for years, getting out of the building and talking to customers at times creates cognitive dissonance.  While they’ve been in the lab they had a target customer in mind. However when they leave the building and start talking to these  supposed customers there’s almost always a surprise when the customer is not interested in the product.

    Often when they consistently hear that their expected customers aren’t interested the first reaction is “the customers just don’t get it yet.”  Rather than testing a new customer segment they keep on calling on the same group – somehow thinking that “we just need to explain it better.”

    Some times it takes a nudge from the teaching team to suggest that perhaps looking at another customer segment might be in order.

    They Should be Our Customers
    The Mira Medicine Team is trying to accelerate the path to the right treatment for each patient in complex Central Nervous System diseases. They spent years building their first tool MS Bioscreen, which was developed for the physicians at the Dept of Neurology. So they naturally believed that their first customers would be neurologists.

    This was a very smart team who ran into the same problem almost every smart researcher attempting to commercialize science faces.  Here’s what happened.

    To see the video click here.

    Listen for:

    0:35 “Our primary customer we built this app for was neurologists…

    1:00 “(but neurologists have told us) your prototype is interesting… and probably some features are nice to haves…

    2:26 “What’s special about neurology?  Doesn’t cardiology and oncology have problems like this?

    3:00 “Is neurology a key component of what you’re trying to do?

    3:15 “I’ve worked on this for two years…”

    3:24 “You’ve already done too much prototyping work. You’re hung up on the prototype.”

    3:29 “You have a square peg you’er trying to jam in a round hole…”

    3:43 “Don’t be afraid to think laterally”

    Postscript: 70 customers later they no longer talking to neurologists.

    Lessons Learned

    • Don’t get trapped by your own beliefs
    • When reality outside the building doesn’t match your hypotheses – test alternate hypotheses
    • Most of the time your vision is just a hallucination
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  • A New Way to Look at Competitors

    Steve BlankOriginally published Nov. 8, 2013, at www.steveblank.com

    By Steve Blank

    Every startup I see invariably puts up a competitive analysis slide that plots performance on a X/Y graph with their company in the top right.

    Competitive XY

    The slide is a holdover from when existing companies launched products into crowded markets. Most of the time this graph is inappropriate for or existing companies creating new markets.

    Here’s what you need to do instead.

    ——-

    The X/Y axis competitive analysis slide is a used by existing companies who plan toenter into an existing market.  In this case the basis of competition on the X/Y axes are metrics defined by the users in the existing market.

    This slide typically shows some price/performance advantage.  And in the days of battles for existing markets that may have sufficed.

    But today most startups are trying to resegment existing markets or create newmarkets. How do you diagram that? What if the basis of competition in market creation is really the intersection of multiple existing markets?  Or what if the markets may not exist and you are creating one?

    We need a different way to represent the competitive landscape when you are creating a business that never existed or taking share away from incumbents by resegmenting an existing market.

    Here’s how.

    The Petal Diagram
    I’ve always thought of my startups as the center of the universe. So I would begin by putting my company in the center of the slide like this.

    Slide1In this example the startup is creating a new category –  a lifelong learning network for . To indicate where their customers for this new market would come from they drew the 5 adjacent market segments: corporate, higher education, startup ecosystem, institutions, and adult learning skills that they believed their future customers were in today. So to illustrate this they drew these adjacent markets as a cloud surrounding their company. (Unlike the traditional X/Y graph you can draw as many adjacent market segments as you’d like.)

    Slide2Then they filled in the market spaces with the names of the companies that are representative players in each of the adjacent markets.companies updated

    Then they annotated the private companies with the amount of private capital they had raised. This lets potential investors understand that other investors were interested in the space and thought it was important enough to invest. (And plays on the “no VC wants to miss a hot space” mindset.)

    Slide4

    Finally, you could show the current and projected market sizes of the adjacent markets which allows the startups to have a ”how big can our new market be?” conversation with investors.  (If you wanted to get fancy, you could scale the size of the “petals” relative to market size.)

    Slide5

    The Petal Diagram drives your business model canvas
    What the chart is saying is, “we think our customers will come from these markets.”  That’s handy if you’re using a methodology because the Petal Chart helps you identify your first potential customer segments on the business model canvas.add the canvasYou use this chart to articulate your first hypotheses of who are customers segments you’re targeting.  If your hypotheses about the potential customers turn out to be incorrect, and they aren’t interested in your product, then you go back to this competitive diagram and revise it.

    Lessons Learned

    • X/Y competitive graphs are appropriate in an existing market
    • Mapping potential competitors in new or resegmented markets require a different view – the Petal diagram
    • The competitive diagram is how develop your first hypotheses about who your customers are

    Update: I’ve heard from a few entrepreneurs who used the diagram had investors tell them “”it looks like you’re being surrounded, how can you compete in that market?”

    Those investors have a bright future in banking rather than .

    Seriously, I would run away fast from a potential investor who doesn’t or can’t understand that visualizing the data doesn’t increase or decrease the likelihood of success. It only provides a better way to visualize potential customer segments.
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  • Lean Goes Better with Coke – the Future of Corporate Innovation

    First published Nov. 7, 2013, at www.steveblank.com

    By Steve Blank

    Steve BlankIn 2012 I got together with Alexander OsterwalderHenry Chesbrough and Andre Marquis to think about the Lean and the future of . We had some radical thoughts how companies were going to have change to remain competitive in the 21st century in a blog post. What we didn’t envision was that one creative corporate VP would take that post and build a world-class corporate program around it.

    David Butler is the VP of Innovation and  of at The Company – responsible for finding breakthrough innovation and building an entrepreneurial culture.  Here’s how he’s shaping the future of corporate innovation.

    Coke logo

    Innovation isn’t the destination it’s the Journey. What CEOs, management teams and shareholders care about is growth—revenue growth, greater user adoption, increased market share, bigger margins, etc. So the first step for any corporate  “innovation” organization is to tie the word, “innovation,” to the more tangible concept of “growth.” That single step can create a lot of clarity and direction for the organization.

    “Breakthrough Innovation.” Innovation can create 2 kinds of growth: sustaining innovation (small and incremental growth yet predictable) and disruptive innovation (explosive exponential growth yet highly uncertain). Like most big companies, we’re pretty good at the kind of innovation that creates incremental growth. We know how to fund it, how to staff it, how to measure it, etc.

    For the past year or so, we’ve been focused on disruptive “breakthrough” innovation (game-changing, etc.) to create exponential growth.

    Innovation sounds easy. It never is. In our case, we’re local in over 200 countries with operations in basically every city on the planet. We have a portfolio of more than 500 brands and 4000 products and people invite us into their lives more 1.8 billion times a day. Our market cap is around $170B. For most big, established companies like us, our business models were developed years—even decades ago. We’ve built up strength in executing our business model, not creating new ones. So, if you’re Coca-Cola, where do you begin?

    It didn’t take us very long to connect the dots between exponential growth, business model innovation and the “” movement. The Lean Startup movement is almost a decade old now and it’s now easier than ever for anyone to learn “Lean Startup” methods and become more entrepreneurial. In fact, I believe the movement is now mainstream—, VCs, accelerators, are no longer “new.”

    There are co-working spaces in basically every city in the world—from Nepal to New York. Almost every large organization has some kind of incubator or accelerator program. And this has created a global entrepreneurial ecosystem.

    But most big companies are still in the shallow-end of the entrepreneurial ecosystem pool. And this is ironic because big companies have so much to add. Big companies know how to scale—most have a lot to learn about starting (as in Lean Startup) but they know how to leverage assets, use network effects, plan and execute. Big companies with big brands have a lot to learn from startups but together, they can do things neither one of them could do alone. And that has become our vision—to make it easier for starters to be scalers and scalers to be starters.

    So this is where my head was when I read Steve’s “The Future of Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship” post last year. At the time, we were definitely in the shallow-end. Now, a year later, (and A LOT of learning), we’re moving into the deep-end and Steve’s 8 strategies are more relevant than ever. Based on our experience, here’s are our Lessons Learned from Steve’s 8 corporate innovation strategies and then four more from Coke for consideration:

    Lessons Learned

    1. 21st century corporate survival requires companies to continually create a new set of businesses by inventing new business modelsWhat is sometimes missed is the opportunity for big companies to leverage their enormous assets (brands, relationships, routes-to-market, etc.) in developing these new models. Most startups can only dream of the kinds of assets most big companies have.
      We believe that using the process to monetize these assets through new business models can create huge competitive advantageand more speed to market for us and other big companies.
    2. Most of these new businesses need to be created outside of the existing business units. We’ve found that this can only happen if it’s just on the edge of a business unit. Startups need to be close enough to the BU to validate assumptions and leverage BU resources (people, funding, relationships, etc.) but just far enough out to be able to use different processes and systems to move fast, pivot, etc. But there’s no one-size fits all approach to this—every company will have to figure out what works for them.
    3. The exact form of the new business models is not known at the beginning. It only emerges after an intense business model design and search activity based on the customer development process. This is so true but so foreign for most big companies. And why wouldn’t it be? All of their internal systems are designed to keep doing what they’ve always done best. They are also under huge pressure to deliver quarterly earnings for shareholders and meet analysts expectations. Using an alternative process including different systems and metrics is key.
    4. Companies will have to maintain a portfolio of new business model initiatives, not unlike a firm, and they will have to accept that maybe only 1 out 10 initiatives might succeed. We’re hoping for 1 out of 10 but hedging our bets by launching and networking  “Accelerators” around the world in both developing and developed economies—from Bangalore to Buenos Aires. We call this our Accelerator Program but our goal is to create new startups, not really invest in existing startups like most traditional accelerator programs. When we need to mash-up with a startup to do something neither of us could do alone, we’re doing that but or goal is to really build new companies.
    5. To develop this new portfolio, companies need to provide a stable innovation funding mechanism for new business creation, one that is simply thought of as a cost of doing business. Absolutely, but it’s not just about a new “innovation” fund—that’s almost the easy part. The hard part is designing all of the systems to enable the success of the startups. From Tax to Legal to Finance to HR, designing the new systems requires enormous amount of collaboration, transparency and trust.
    6. Many of the operating divisions can and should provide resources to the new businesses inside the company. That’s the only way this works. Everybody has to have “skin-in-the-game.” But again, when you get this right, it can create enormous engagement and excitement inside the Business Unit and across the company.
    7. We need a new organizational structure to manage the creation of new businesses and to coordinate the sharing of business model resources.Again, absolutely true. But in our case, creating the new structure and systems has been almost like starting a startup. Pitching to senior management, using minimum viable products (MVPs), validating assumptions through lots and lots of testing, pivoting hard when you need to—all of this is required in setting up the structure and systems to do this inside of a big company.
    8. Some of these new businesses might become new resources to the existing operating units in the company or they could grow into becoming the new profit generating business units of the company’s future. We’re betting on the latter. Our goal is to create new, high-growth companies outsideof the NARTD industry (non-alcoholic ready-to-drink) through this program. We have literally hundreds of thousands of people focused on our core business. We’re hoping to use this opportunity to leverage our assets in new, fast-growing industries.
    9. In building capability, the company should look for “starters,” not “scalers.”Starters have a completely different mindset and skills than scalers have. We found we needed to hire expert starters—people who knew how to bootstrap, build MVPs, find a free or very low-cost way of testing a hypothesis, pitch, pivot, etc. We also learned that creating the same kinds of conditions that enable co-founders to thrive on the “outside” is very important to maintain on the “inside.” We had to design a whole new hiring process, compensation model, operating model, co-working spaces, etc. to find, attract and retain “starters.”
    10. But it’s not only about creating new revenue streams—creating new behaviors across the company’s culture is key. Getting everyone on the same page with the same language and familiar with new methods and tools is key to making this stick. So along with our Accelerator Program, we’ve also introduced a new “Open Entrepreneurship” program to give everyone inside our company the opportunity to learn Lean Startup methods and tools. This is what we mean by making it easier for “scalers” to be “starters.”
    11. Finding the balance between transparency and opacity is critical. Inside the company, the person or team or group that’s been asked to lead this effort must be completely transparent—function agnostic, open, inclusive, freely sharing everything. This is so new for everyone involved, that there can’t be any kind of “black box” or “cool club” perception around this or it won’t work. On the flip side, just like it is for every startup, there is so much iteration, learning, testing, etc. going on that even if you wanted to talk about what you’re doing in detail, it would sort of depend on the day as things change so frequently. We’ve found it best to take a “more is more” approach internally and a “less is more” approach externally.
    12. Nobody, no matter how smart they are, can do this alone. Forming informal networks, both internally and externally, is key. It’s really important for the co-founders of the internal startups to build relationships across the company. And in the same way it’s equally important for the company to authentically connect with the startup community. Being very open and honest with what they’re trying to do is key. And we’ve found that once we built this bridge, we’ve been able to count on a lot of help from the startup community (and visa versa). And as the relationship grows, so does the trust.

    These are still early days for us at Coke and we have a lot to learn. But we feel that if we and other big companies can get this right, it could be really big.Butler Fast Company

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  • This Will Save Us Years — Lean LaunchPad for Life Science

    Steve Blank 2011 Photo

    Published Oct. 11, 2013, on www.steveblank.com

    We’re deep into week 2 of teaching a Lean LaunchPad class for Life Sciences and Health Care (therapeutics, diagnostics, devices and digital health) this October at with a team of veteran venture capitalists.

    Part 1 of this post described the issues in the drug discovery. Part 2 covered medical devices and digital health. Part 3  described what we’re going to do about it.

    This is post is a brief snapshot of our progress.

    Vitruvian is one of the 28 teams in the class. The team members are:

    • Dr. Hobart Harris  Chief of  General Surgery, Vice-Chair of the Department of Surgery, and a Professor of Surgery at  UCSF. Dr. Harris is also a Principal Investigator in the UCSF Surgical Research Laboratory at San Francisco General Hospital.
    • Dr. David Young,  Professor of Plastic Surgery at UCSF. His area of expertise includes wound healing, microsurgery, and reconstruction after burns and trauma. His research interests include the molecular mechanisms of wound healing and the epidemiology and treatment of soft tissue infections.
    • Sarah Seegal is at One Medical Sarah is interested in increasing the quality and accessibility of healthcare services. Sarah worked with Breakthrough.com to connect individuals with professional therapists for online sessions.
    • Cindy Chang is a Enzymologist investigating novel enzymes involved in biofuel and chemical synthesis in microbes at LS9

    Vitruvian’s first product, MyoSeal, promotes wound repair via biocompatible microparticles plus a fibrin tissue sealant that has been shown to prevent incisional hernias through enhanced wound healing.  The team believed that surgeons would embrace the product and pay thousands to use it.  In week 2 of the class 14 of their potential customers (surgeons) told the team otherwise.

    Watch this 90 second clip and find out how the class saved them years.

    (If you can’t see the clip above click here.)

    Lessons Learned

    • Get out of the building
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  • The Air Force Academy Gets Lean

    By Steve Blank

    Originally published Sept. 17, 2013, at www.steveblank.com

    Steve Blank 2011 PhotoI can always tell when one of my students has been in the military. They’re focused, they’re world-wise past their years, and they don’t break a sweat in the fast pace and chaotic nature of the class and . Todd Branchflower took my Lean LaunchPad class having been entrepreneurial enough to convince the Air Force send him to Stanford to get his graduate engineering degree.

    In class I teased Todd that while the Navy had me present my Secret History of Silicon Valley talk in front of 4,000 cadets at the Naval Post Graduate School, I had yet to hear from the Air Force Academy.  He promised that one day he would fix that.

    True to his word, fast-forward three years and Todd is now Captain Todd Branchflower, computer engineering at the .  He extended an invitation to me to come out to the Air Force Academy to address the cadets and meet the faculty. Besides the talk I brainstormed with Todd and other faculty on how to integrate the into the Air Force Academy Capstone engineering class (a Capstone class puts together all the pieces that a students has learned in his or her major.)

    Here’s Todd’s story of how we got there and progress to date.

    ——-

    Not That Long Ago
    In 2007, I graduated United States Air Force Academy as a computer engineer and entered the Air Force’s acquisition corps, excited and confident about my ability to bring to bear for our airmen.

    Graduation day with classmate Joseph Helton (right), killed in action in Iraq in 2009

    Graduation day with classmate Joseph Helton (right), killed in action in Iraq in 2009

    And I couldn’t have been put in a better place: testing the Air Force’s newest network security acquisitions. I was their technical man on the inside – making sure big defense contractors delivered on their promises. We were modernizing data centers, buying vulnerability-scanning software, and adding intrusion detection appliances – all things typical of anyone running an enterprise-scale network.
    46th test sqd

    I was in the thick of it – chairing telecons, tracking action items, and drafting test plans. I could recite requirements and concepts of operations from memory. I was jet-setting to team meetings and conferences across the country. I was busy.

    Sure, I wasn’t working very closely with the airmen who were going to use the equipment.  But they called into the weekly telecons, right? And they were the ones who had given the program office the requirements from the outset. (Well, their bosses had.) And I’d distilled those requirements into system characteristics we could measure. Well, more measurable versions of the original requirements. And meeting the requirements was the most important thing, right?

    Doing it Wrong
    Here’s what I learned: I was doing it wrong. The way our process worked, customers were just a stakeholder that provided input – not drivers of the process. That meant that program offices were only accountable to a list of requirements, which were locked early. Success only consisted of passing tests against these requirements, not delighting our airmen. I began to wonder – how could we learn about user needs earlier?  How could we deliver them solutions more quickly?  More cheaply?

    It was only after returning to Stanford and taking the Lean LaunchPad class that I became convinced that a radically different, customer-centric approach was the solution. I returned to the Air Force Academy as an instructor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, intent on spreading the gospel of and Lean.academy ee

    Our existing Capstone senior engineering design course followed the defense acquisition process; the focus of defense acquisition is to “nail down requirements” early and manage customer expectations to “avoid requirements creep”. I saw this as counter to the joint, iterative discovery process between and customers I had experienced on my Lean LaunchPad team.

    I kept in touch with Steve as I started teaching. We discussed how the Lean LaunchPad approach might find a place in our curriculum, and how it might be adapted to fit the unique Air Force Academy / military environment. We grew excited about how showing success here might prove a good model for how it could be done in the broader Air Force; how exposing future officers to the Lean philosophy might bring about change from within.

    So when I invited Steve out to the Air Force Academy to speak last spring, there was more at stake than the talk.  We set up a meeting with our department head, Col Jeff Butler, and Capstone course director, Lt Col Charlie Gaona, to pitch the idea.  They shared our enthusiasm about the impact it could have on our future design projects and how it might bring a change in perspective to our acquisition corps. They gave the go-ahead to send a pilot team through the program in the Fall semester, with the potential for it to be applied across the entire course if we delivered results.

    I found a willing co-conspirator in Capt Ryan Silva, a star instructor who mentors a project named Neumimic, using technology to aid in the rehabilitation of patients with chronic loss of limb motion.  In the first year, they had developed a proof of concept around the Xbox Kinect – and Ryan had high hopes for the future. But he found some elements of the traditional systems engineering process cumbersome and frustrating to cadets. Ryan signed on to lead our test class.

    V-Model of Systems Engineering
    The current Capstone class follows the V-Model of Systems Engineering, with teams creating a detailed system design throughout the Fall semester and building their design in the Spring.

    Vmodel

    There are a series of formal reviews throughout the two semesters, in line with the Air Force acquisitions process.  Requirements and a concept of operations are presented at the first, the System Requirements Review.  Cadets receive instruction on the process in about a quarter of the course lessons.

    What we decided to do instead was have semi-weekly informal reviews Lean LaunchPad style, focusing on product hypotheses, customer interactions, learning, and validation / refinement.  We emphasize customer interaction via “getting out of the building” and rapid iteration through “cheap hacks.”  We’ve removed most of the structure and firm requirements from the original course in favor of a “whatever it takes” philosophy.  Instruction is presented in tandem with the reviews, focusing on areas we see as problematic.

    Last year’s team meeting with Dr. Glen House at Penrose-St. Francis Hospital

    Last year’s team meeting with Dr. Glen House at Penrose-St. Francis Hospital

    Back to the Present
    We’re about a quarter of the way through the fall semester. Team Neumimic consists of nine sharp cadets across multiple academic disciplines. Based on initial customer interactions, they divided themselves into two complementary but standalone teams. One will focus on design, execution, and measurement of therapy sessions – building on the original Xbox Kinect work.  The other will work on adjustable restriction of patient motion – forcing patients to use the proper muscles for each movement.

    Here’s Ryan on the impact of the process change:

    “Last year the team found themselves handcuffed to a process that required a 100% design solution on paper before we could even think about touching hardware…crazy right?! We spent the entire first semester nailing down requirements for a system that was supposed to meet the needs of stroke and traumatic brain injury patients as prescribed by their occupational therapists. For five months we slogged our way through the process emerged with a complete design for our system, custom-built to meet the needs of patients and doctors alike. Our design was flawless. We had nuts-and-bolts details all the way down to the schematic level. We were ready to build! The fact that we had yet to even see a patient or spend any real time with an occupational therapist had not even registered to us as a problem, until we were invited to watch a therapy session.

    Our entire team walked out of the hospital ashen-faced and silent. We knew we had just wasted half the course designing a system that wouldn’t work. We were back to square one. The remainder of the course was spent in a frenzy of phone calls with doctors and therapists paired with many design reviews, but this time with our customers in the room. We were able to iterate a few solutions before we ran out of time, but the customers were thrilled with what they saw. I could only imagine what we could have accomplished if we didn’t waste the first half of the course on a solution that ultimately wasn’t what the customers wanted. I was fired up when Todd approached me with his idea to fundamentally change the way we did business.

    So far the results have been incredible compared to last year. The team has learned more about the problem in a month than last year’s team learned in an entire semester. I’m not saying this year’s cadets are any more capable than last year’s; just that I believe this year’s team has been given a better chance to succeed.  They’re freed of a lot of stifling overhead and are embracing a process where requirements are derived from those who will actually use the system…imagine that! I’m excited to see what the team does with their remaining eight months.”

    Current team members observing Dr. House conduct a therapy session

    Current team members observing Dr. House conduct a therapy session

    But we have experienced challenges in implementing this approach. Here’s what we’ve noticed so far:

    In typical Lean Launchpad classes, students apply as teams with their own idea.  There’s also the potential for teams to pursue the opportunity beyond the class if they’re successful. In our Capstone, projects are predetermined and cadets are assigned based on preference and skill set.  Cadets will graduate and be commissioned as officers, doing various jobs throughout the Air Force. It’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to continue their project. These factors might make the initial motivation of our team less than that of other Lean Launchpad teams.  We found that early interactions with customers excited about their work went a long way to remedy this.

    We’re offering cadets much less structure than they’re used to. Some cadets are uncomfortable with the ambiguity of the requirements (“What are you looking for?  What do I have to do to get an A?”).  I’d imagine this is typical of most high-performing students.

    We’re trusting cadets with more freedom and less oversight than they’re used to.  There’s the potential for our trust to be abused.  I’m hopeful that our cadets rise to this challenge.  I think they’ll feel ownership of the project and empowerment, rather than see an opportunity to shirk responsibilities.

    Since this course is a senior design experience, cadets expect to be “using their major.”  There’s the tendency for some to sit on the sideline if the pressing work isn’t directly related to their area of expertise.  It has taken some prodding for cadets to embrace the “hustler” mindset – to take any job necessary to move the team forward.

    These are challenges we can overcome.  I know we’re moving in the right direction.  I know we have the right team and project to be successful.  I know our cadets will make us proud.

    Up the hill!

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  • Why Real Learning is Outside the Building, Not Demo Day

    Steve Blank 2011 PhotoOriginally posted Sept. 5, 2013, at www.steveblank.com

    By Steve Blank

    Over the last three years our Lean LaunchPad / NSF Innovation Corps classes have been hundreds of entrepreneurial teams a year how to build their by getting out of the building and testing their hypotheses behind their business model.  While our teams have mentors, socialize a lot and give great demos, the goal of our class final presentations is “Lessons Learned”  – about product/market fit, pricing, acquisition/activation costs, pricing, partners, etc.  We think teaching teams a formal methodology around the Lean Framework (Business Model design, and Agile Engineering) is a natural evolution of how successful incubators/accelerators will build startups.

    Here’s the story of one such team; Jonathan Wylie, Lakshmi Shivalingaiah and the Evoke team.

    —–

    Imagine if, in the course of ten rollercoaster weeks, your customer segment changed from executives on corporate campuses to moms on playgrounds, a tool that was just part of your product turned into the killer product, and the value of the problem you were solving went from number 47 to customers trying to give you money when you demo’d.  Here’s how that happened.

    We came to the Lean LaunchPad class wanting to build a mobile/web research management system aimed at helping qualitative researchers better manage the media they captured in the field. We were ready to learn, but pretty confident we would end the journey in the same market space in which we started.  We had a killer team and all the right skillsets.  I was a consultant and ethnographer, another teammate was a market researcher, and two others had the software engineering skills to build what the market needed.  And what the market needed would, of course, be exactly what we had envisioned. After all, there must be a huge number of researchers struggling with the exact same problems we had, right?  Not quite…

    Out of the Building
    In the first 4 weeks, our team got out of the building and spoke with employees at 42 different companies.  We spoke with people at all levels, from front line user experience researchers at large tech firms to the CMO of a fortune 500 consumer goods company. Discover X WorkflowFrom the first 10 interviews, we learned that video is a big problem for researchers who use that medium.  It takes an average of 4 hours to mine every hour of video for the relevant 10 seconds of insight that matters.  Thus, we focused our early minimum viable product on helping researchers save money and time in finding insight in market research videos.

    Wireframes
    We built wireframes as a Minimum Viable Product to elicit feedback and began showing them to customers during our interviews.  At this point, things got real…and a bit ugly.  Given something tangible, customers were able to start gauging their willingness to use and pay.  Discover X wireframeTurns out, researchers were “just not that into us.”  We heard consistently that the product looked good and solved a problem, but it was not an important problem.  It was number 47 on their list, and there was no way they could justify paying to solve that problem.

    First Pivot
    As disappointing as this was, we dug deeper with our questioning.  To our surprise, customers started offering ideas on where there might be a true need; one of which was the legal market, specifically the deposition process. We thought this would be perfect for our product. There is a lot of video being recorded, and attorneys need to be able to pull out the insights quickly. After a solid week of speaking with lawyers and attending webinars on real-time deposition software, we had mapped both the and the buying relationships.  What we learned was that, we would just be an incremental feature to the incumbents and would need to integrate our solution with theirs. This, combined with regulation from the courts, a 2-year sales cycle, and the realization that e-discovery groups are not early adopters, made this an unattractive market.

    Technology in search of a market
    By this point, we were a technology in search of a market…not a good place to be.   The next customer segment we tried was startup founders.  After all, they are just like us – researching their markets and needing a way to share insights and keep their teams connected to customers. However, we found that most just assume that what they are building will have a market. The few who did get it felt uncomfortable using video during the interview process.

    Pivot Two
    While at times we felt like we wanted to give up, we began to hear a positive signal in the noise of all the customer rejections. Evoke BrainstormingAt first it was faint.  While customers in all three markets were lukewarm for use at work, they got visibly excited telling us that it would definitely solve a problem at home. Say what??  They told us “too bad we weren’t making a consumer product so they could document their kids… they would pay a lot of money for that product.”  Whoah…were customers telling us we are a consumer product rather than B-to-B??

    We settled on a small-scale experiment to test the consumer market. We decided to speak with 10 parents over the course of a week. If 5 had a similar problem, we would dive deeper. What we got was a landslide of interest.  All 10 parents had the problem.  Even more amazing to us, 9 of them liked our solution!

    We learned that parents capture moments with their families to:

    1. remember and relive later
    2. share with those closest to them
    3. pass along a memoir to their kids

    To our surprise, it turns out that none of these are being accomplished well with existing products, and parents are stressed because they feel like they are failing in an important responsibility.

    Eureka!
    Since that initial experiment in class, we’ve validated these findings (and many others) during over 200 hour-long interviews.

    1st evoke wireframes

    We even partnered with the university on a 112-person design workshop to learn more about how photos and videos fit into people’s lives.  It’s always an incredible experience to be invited into someone’s home to learn about how they capture their most precious family moments.  Sometimes, the learning is immediate and conclusive. Other times, we have to do multiple rounds before we arrive at an answer to an important question.

    The result of all this effort is that we have found a large and underserved market in hidden in plain sight, right in the middle of an area that gets a lot of attention – photos and videos!

    Lessons Learned
    There’s no way we would have learned any of this unless we were out of the building and in the trenches, with parents over an extended period.

    Knowing our customers and their problems first hand has given us a huge head start and a competitive advantage. Most seem to just make this stuff up for a pitch deck or to please stakeholders, but the validated learning that we gained through these interviews and other methods of business model experimentation is not something that can be easily replicated.

    As for our current status, we are building the product, continuing customer development, exploring and validating other aspects of our business model, and…oh yeah…hitting the pavement to raise our first round of funding!  If you want to talk to us about that, or if you know parents that we should be speaking to, please feel free to reach out.

    For all the parents out there, relief (and much more) is on its way… http://www.evokeapp.com

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FounderLY Photos

			FounderLY posted a photo:	Future of Education - FounderLY			FounderLY posted a photo:	Future of Education - FounderLY			FounderLY posted a photo:	Future of Education - FounderLY			FounderLY posted a photo:	Future of Education - FounderLY			FounderLY posted a photo:	Future of Education - FounderLY			FounderLY posted a photo:	Future of Education - FounderLY

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