The case for a corporate incubator (an organization designed to accelerate the development of a product or service) and the benefits it can bring remains extremely relevant in today’s world. This is not only isolated to the new revenue streams it can generate, but to the way it can energize the culture, customers, and employees of a business.
Since North Highland released our incubator’s first product “Culr” (a performance management tool to enable constant feedback via mobile), we have been working on putting a lightweight process in place with the aim of creating a sustainable pipeline of innovation. We now regard the internal accelerator program as an increasingly integral part of our business. See the below steps to start your own innovation journey:
Be ready to expedite a great idea and don’t let yourself be constrained by the process when it isn’t needed. In our latest round, a team had an idea to that didn’t require much funding and could be done as part of their day jobs. Recognising that not all new ideas need to run through the accelerator can often help a team to just get on and do it without delay.
… In either direction
Identifying and accepting when your hypothesis has failed can be difficult. If it makes sense to 'pivot' and head in a new direction then do so, but quickly recognizing a 'miss' should also be treated as a success. Anything else and you risk wasted effort or worse, damaging your growing culture of entrepreneurship.
You are not your customer
It’s great (and tempting) to solve a problem you have, but to be truly successful you’ll need to know a concept has a market outside your four walls. Think more broadly about other use cases, and look to validate the existence of a market where you can. We love CrunchBase as a way of seeing what VC’s are betting big on for the future, but work out what it is about your product or service that means you’re better placed to deliver it than a competitor.
Back it like you mean it
By dictating up front the funding available throughout the year to get a product to MVP (Minimal Viable Product) stage and providing clear criteria for accessing it, a company can show employees that it means business. Resist the temptation to put traditional corporate decision-making hurdles in the way as it will kill progress before it has started.
Have scale in mind
If your product has a B2B focus, make design choices that consider scaling for corporate use. Depending on the product or service, and the target market, you need to tailor your decisions to who you’re going to sell to. Manual logins are fine for an organization of 20 but wouldn’t work for 200+.
Don’t get 'Winklevossed'
Before farming your great idea out to an agency, make sure you have the right advice on engaging with developers regarding ownership, trademarks, and transfer of source code. There’s not much worse than realizing you don’t own the successful new product you’ve just built in partnership.
Build a community
It’s critical to have a community building around your accelerator as the learning process for those involved will likely be fast and furious, so you’ll want them sharing as they go. Look at how you can share a code and make things easily repeatable across teams for maximum efficiency.