Innovation Rethought: Raising Your Venture Like Your Child
When you think of innovation, it's mostly picturing something new, something you have created, something that wants to learn, wants to grow, wants to be independent one day, something that needs your money, and that needs your support. In this article by Liza Nitsche you will find out, why your venture is the child you didn’t know you have and what this means for how you should treat it.
January 13, 2020
The Process of Life
With my first image as an indicator, I want to suggest that the bedroom may have more to do with innovation than most of us may have anticipated.
When you think of innovation, you typically picture something new, something you have created, something that wants to learn, wants to grow, wants to be independent one day, something that needs your money, and that needs your support.
Re-read the last paragraph exchanging the word “innovation” for “a child” and you”ll understand immediately why this analogy makes so much sense.
Without making this a Biology class – pretty sure we all know how this works – when creating life, the process is always the same. These two guys are always involved. (see above). Though the complexity of life can be simplified by just explaining the players in the process, and though every pregnancy may look similar for an outsider looking at a pregnant belly, the realities are that inside the belly there are many genetic variations and complex things going on.
And the results? Well, those can come out very differently as well.
Though children, and ventures, come in many shapes, sizes, and personalities, most parents want the same for all children. Most entrepreneurs want the same for their startups. They hope that they can grow to be happy, healthy and successful.
The parenting styles used to achieve those goals along the way, however, are all going to be different. There is no perfect parenting book with all the secrets that will work for every child.
Whether you’re “doing parenting right” or not, your kids are going to grow older eventually, move out of the house, and become independent. They have figured out on their own enough to be ready to walk away from holding hands. As a parent, you hope your kids will never forget where they came from, always knowing there's a place to come back to when they need it.
At this point, you might be off daydreaming of your own kids, thinking of what still needs to get done at home, or maybe making a reminder on your phone to pick up some more birth control. But remember, you first came here to learn about innovation, so let’s move this along.
What Does This Mean For Your Next Venture?
The connection between the life process and ventures should be pretty self-explanatory at this point, but there are still specific lessons that apply. Here are 4 essential pieces of advice on how to create your successful venture.
1. Accept that both partners are equally important
When it comes to creating life, it always takes two; both need one another.
Similarly, go into every venture with your partner as an equal. Not the kind of equality where you are 70% equal and they are 30% equal with a pat on the head; actually equal. One partner may be bigger, with more developed processes, distribution channels, and R&D resources. But at the same time, the other may be more flexible and efficient, with unique knowledge of building MVPs and great products.
The faster you accept what your partner has to bring to the table, the easier will be the creation process of your venture.
2. Follow the Process
When it comes to the birds and the bees – skipping a step (I mean come on, there aren’t many) leads to things not turning out quite as intended.
In the world of innovation and around the office at my workplace mantro, we have a process for these steps called the Digital Innovation Process.
This involves a 6-step framework, you will often repeat at certain phases of the creation of your venture, and that shows how your startup will “grow-up.” Within these single phases of Ideation, Validation, Incubation, Nurture, Scale and Run, you will be able to create mockups for your product, use tools to identify and understand your target group, and use a “lean startup working style” to build, measure, and learn along the way.
What happens if you mess with the process?
Well, at mantro we had a partner venture who, towards the beginning of our project, was persistent on fixing three release dates until our final product. Basically, they wanted to skip over validation and incubation and jump straight into the nurturing phase. This, to sum it up, didn’t work. Ninety-nine percent of the time it never will.
On the contrary, we had another venture-situation where it was tempting to not follow the innovation process through but did it right anyways which was worth it in the end.
We had the first prototype for a product done and almost wanted to take it straight to the market. But the hard truth was that the product as it was, was nowhere near ready. It worked when you used it, but was unstable. If you had dropped it, it would have been the end of it. Not to mention the prototype was way too expensive for mass production. The product would have crashed and burned in the scaling process.
So – though it took many months more to get the product where we wanted it to be, we did it the hard way. Naturally, you want to be fast in your process and bring your product or service to the market and start getting user feedback (and start seeing profits). Having the prototype or hardware in your hand it’s easy to think “well, it’s done!” But in the end – pulling in the reigns and taking the time necessary is more cost efficient and even more profitable.
We know what we are talking about when we say, stick to the process.
3. Accept that all ventures are unique
While I just said that you should always follow the innovation process, I don’t mean the particulars of how you do that will always be uniform.
Every venture you take on will have a different team and size, a different setup with different challenges and will work with a different time frame. Sometimes you will find the product-market-fit in the beginning, sometimes you'll need more effort. Sometimes you'll have a complex backend, which needs to be built even for the MVP. Other times, a simple setup will be enough for your MVP. Sometimes you'll have a team of 4 people and sometimes you will need to involve almost the entire corporate (or at least it feels like that).
You get the point; every venture is different.
4. Step back and let the venture run on its own
As much as you may love your parents and have enjoyed your time and childhood at home, there comes a point in life when you need independence.
Everyone is annoyed at the parent that calls every day, who texts you when it's cold to remind you to wear a scarf, or stops by your apartment unannounced to make sure you’ve been doing your laundry. If you’ve ever been tempted to block your own mom on Facebook, you know what I’m talking about here.
More often than not, kids-turned-adults still want their parents in the picture, not as a figure governing or overviewing every action, but as a mentor and someone they know they can go to for advice when they‘re in need.
The same rules apply for your ventures that are off the ground and running on their own.
Once you have built an MVP and found the right market fit, you need to find a CEO for this new venture. You will mentor it until it is ready to take the ropes on its own and then it's time to take a considerable step back. This often includes changing your role. You may no longer be a primary decision maker of the venture, but a member of its advisory board.
Don’t push your own company culture into the new company, because even if it was working great for you, it might not work for the new team. Don’t push your own strategic goals into the new company either, rather, let it develop its own.
Basically, don’t push at all. Intervening too much may lead to a venture losing own perspectives and authenticity, as we see so often with many accelerator programs (a classic case of parents pushing the kid to be a lawyer; kid hates being a lawyer).
You’ll Miss it When it’s Gone, But Rest Assured
If you’ve gone through the previous 1-4 steps in creating your venture, then chances are you’ve created a successful venture. You might be sad to say goodbye but don’t cry because is over, smile because it happened…
...I’m kidding; cut the cheesy crap and get to work — you’ve got your next venture to create.
With more than 8 years of experience in product development and venture architecture, Liza developed several digital business models and furthered them into the market. Her ideas are oriented on market demands with a focus on scaling. Most recently she won the German Digital Award, category “Digital Transformation” with her successful product “VISN” in the position of co-founder which has also been nominated as one of the top 10 real estate startups in Europe. At the moment Liza is supporting the German non-profit club culture by digitizing the fundraising market with her recent venture Spendenturbo.