I write this from a laundromat in St Kilda, extremely fatigued and keen to hit the hay after the enormous weekend that was #SUCM (or, Start Up Camp Melbourne). The event was based around a simple idea I love – get together with a great group of people, many of whom were strangers or simply twitter associates, and start up a company in a weekend.
So, what we’re my big take aways from the day? What have I learned about innovation and making it happen? Here’s my top 5:
1) Innovation happens best with limited time:
Innovation is something that everyone has. It’s not a special function, and it’s not a gift. The act of creating something new, that provides a new and better solution for an old problem is one that is entirely dependant on the cool people around you to help ideate and the amount of time you have to spend on it.
Ideation doesn’t have to be long. We can get caught up with slick processes and drawn out market research, but in the end there is nothing like a time limit to provoke new creations and group cohesion around a product. At SUCM, we had about 3 hours to form a new company, find a venture idea we liked, register the domain (etc) and then begin planning our attack. If you are stuck with a problem or in an ‘opportunity drought’ try creating a spare half hour, move off for a brainstorm and force yourself to come up with something in the alloted time. You’ll be surprised by the results.
2) Can you exit after 2 days?
This one is a bee in my bonnet. Can you ideate a new venture, do the market research and lay the strategy down, write the business plan, build a working (!) prototype and then…down tools and sell your work to a strategic buyer in the industry you’re new creation was set to play in?
We created the new web-app-service, www.abitofpluck.com. The amazing guys working on the prototype (such as Michael Specht, ‘George’ Provoost, Jason Brownlee, Pieter and John Sherwood) whipped up a working service app that would have (I think) some interest to Twitter. Yes, the business has no traffic, and no brand – but the very fact they experimented with the technology, created a phase 1 working prototype and had about 20 first time users within the first few hours proves the concept may have legs. Would it be possible to sell our progress so far to Twitter for 10k+?
I think it’s a key area for corporate innovation units to focus on in the coming years – both how to find and buy cool immature prototypes from gun innovators OR sell their own internal innovations to existing suitors within the corporate world to leverage new revenue streams and business relationships. Why not?
3) Evaluate opportunities based on revenue streams…not passion
We selected www.abitofpluck.com based largely on the fact that we wanted the challenge of building the business case and prototype for it over the next 48-60 hours. SUCM is largely an experience best used for learning as opposed to revenue creation, so the idea of working on a dull idea which may generate cash wasn’t too appealing to the group.
We would have created a much more valuable (potentially trad-able value…see point 2) business had we started by picking the idea we could generate the most number of revenue streams from. Not most revenue…but the most streams. In the end, we struggled to find more than 3 real revenue streams for www.abitofpluck.com – in hindsight, we should have brainstormed the maximum number of ways we could generate cash (fast) from our ideas at stage one, and picked the business which had the highest number of associated ways to create revenue.
4) Reduce the risk, increase the comfort
When pitching to the angel investor, Jordan Green, I realised that many of us hadn’t prepared to reduce the risk to the investor, whilst raising their comfort. Whilst this one is pretty ‘pitch’ focused, internal innovation still speaks to the need to be transparent with weaknesses and market threats that may upset the apple cart when your new venture launches.
Especially, I found:
– Highlight your Weaknesses and Threats in your SWOT more than your Strengths and Opportunities. Once your weak points are highlighted, link how you will mitigate them with the inherent strengths and industry opportunities of your venture.
– Openly discuss your Critical Success Factors, and then continue to explain how you will ensure that your venture achieves each one. Ask ‘what would kill our new venture?’ and then find strengths and strategies to meet these success factors.
5) Be agile and tell a story
This is a shout to the talented programers named above who I worked with on www.bitofpluck.com. These guys were able to create what they did (from my perspective) because they had a clear idea of the story needed to be told to the user. By breaking down the venture into a clear story, the guys we’re able to split up the tasks required for the user, and then develop the parts in conjunction. As such, we we’re the only group to present a working prototype at events end, because we only created parts of the business required to get us to the simplest form of opperation. This is an existing methodology, and not particularly new in the tech world.
But, where innovation is concerned, try creating each revenue stream as an addition to the whole user story and then split the business planning process up to ensure that each revenue stream is scoped and contributing towards the creation of a sustainable competitive advantage. Try it out and see. Myself and Duncan Riley found this approach worked well during the event.
So that’s it. All up, the event was pretty amazing and the group of people assembled was top notch. A huge shout out to Bart Jellema for seeding the idea for the group (from Sydney) and leading the charge and to Maxim Shklyar for being the ideal host for the opportunity hungry mob that descended on his studio for the weekend. Top marks also to the aforementioned Michael Specht for playing a large hand in organising the event, and making sure the right people knew of it’s existence. Here’s to the next one!!!