I’ve been consulting on intra-company venturing for over 20 years, through three economic cycles, and with dozens of Fortune 500 clients.
Typically, ventures are started during a technology inflection, such as the original dot com, web 2.0 or SaaS; with the intention to drive growth and strategic transformation.
In truth, these objectives are rarely achieved. The return on investment in venturing has never been great, particularly when the full cost of running a program or incubator is accounted for.
The two main reasons for this are: (1) the inherent riskiness of ventures and (2) a badly suited corporate system in which the ventures develop.
The boom in tech startups and transfer of agile ‘lean startup’ methods into corporate environment has helped reduce the first type of risk factors. Most ventures are now built in the same way as they would be on the outside and the approach is reliable – which is not to say that all ventures succeed!
By comparison, there has been virtually no improvement on the corporate risk factors. I’ve seen the same mistakes happen over and over again when it comes to managing internal ventures: poor governance, organizational disconnect between venture and core BU’s; inadequate and inappropriate resourcing.
We created Lean Scaleup to focus on the corporate risk factors facing internal ventures and the incubators that host them. The approach covers the most contentious areas that derail later-stage ventures: how to access corporate assets like data and customer accounts; how to obtain capital investment for alternative business models; how to incentivize entrepreneurial talent within corporate reward framework; how to leverage corporate brand.
These are the reasons why many internal ventures grind to a halt. The goodwill afforded in the early stages evaporates once they start asking for higher levels of corporate commitment and policy flexibility – unless the transition to scale stage has been anticipated and designed for.
The results of using the Lean Scaleup approach are impressive. One of our clients had invested around Euro 250m over a decade and never exited a successful venture. Since adopting the Lean Scaleup approach, they have successfully commercialized two ventures. Another client had cut their portfolio to a handful of ventures and were desperately seeking a successfully scaled project to maintain corporate support: we helped them select the right project to scale, designed the corporate collaboration model, and accelerated the venture into the market. Other clients have used Lean Scaleup to remodel their incubator and increase their investment in venturing as part of overall transformation strategy.
If you are running an internal venture or an incubator and the issues above seems familiar then Lean Scaleup is probably relevant for you too.