Conversations with Innovators - Part 4

(spoiler, it’s the data)

One of the challenges is that many corporations don’t have a systematic process for scouting and selecting solutions, partly due to capacity and capability but in our experience one of the real problems is data (startup databases, social feeds, news, research etc.*).

Data into the startups space comes in many forms, but in my opinion it is impossible for any one data source to be complete – it’s not possible.

The result is multiple sources are needed, which creates a discovery, comparison and correlation problem (separate thread on this coming).

One of the major problems is that startups can be poor at explaining what they do.

This means any data source, regardless of how many are used, is reliant on what the startups publishes and is, at that point, inaccurate.

7 Reasons why startups struggle to explain themselves

The founders might not understand their proposition fully yet, or branding is not a strong point, or the content is too broad, too narrow or non-specific;

  1. Lack of experience: Startups are often founded by young entrepreneurs who may not have the experience or expertise in effective communication, marketing, and branding. This lack of experience can result in difficulty in explaining their ideas, products, and services in a clear and concise manner.
  2. Lack of focus: Startups are under intense pressure to grow and succeed quickly, which can result in a lack of focus on important aspects such as communication and branding. The rapid pace of growth can also lead to a lack of time and resources being allocated to these critical areas.
  3. Limited resources: Startups are often working with limited resources, including time, money, and manpower, which can make it challenging to allocate resources to effective communication and branding. This can result in a lack of investment in marketing and public relations efforts, making it difficult to effectively explain the startup’s value proposition to potential customers and partners.
  4. Complexity of the product or service: Some startups offer innovative and complex products or services, which can be difficult to explain in simple terms to a broad audience. A lack of understanding of the technology or product can make it challenging to articulate its benefits and value proposition to stakeholders.
  5. Hasty decision-making: Startups can sometimes make decisions too quickly, leading to a lack of thought and preparation in terms of explaining their ideas or products. This can result in a lack of clear messaging and branding, making it difficult for the startup to effectively communicate its value proposition to potential customers and partners.
  6. Narrow target audience: Startups may have a very specific target audience in mind, which can result in a lack of effort to communicate with a broader audience or stakeholders. This narrow focus can lead to a lack of understanding of the startup’s value proposition by those outside of its target audience, making it difficult to secure investment or partnerships.
  7. Reluctance to reveal information: Startups may be reluctant to reveal too much information about their product or service, which can make it difficult to effectively explain what they are offering. This reluctance can stem from concerns over intellectual property or a desire to maintain a competitive advantage. However, a lack of transparency can make it challenging for startups to build trust with potential customers and partners, making it more difficult to explain their value proposition.

For startups it’s a continual exercise in refining propositions, product descriptions, branding, blogs, points of view, social and other content – making sure what is published accurately reflects what your customers want.

This problem isn’t going to fix itself, nor will startups all become good at this at the same time, meaning some digging by corporates is required to understand who does what, who are competitors, who has customers and who should they actually talk to and avoid wasting anyone’s time.

*We get around this by aggregating multiple (40+) data sources and am happy to talk through it.

Part 1 – the different models we’ve come across as we talk to corporate innovators.

Part 2 – the themes within successful internal teams.

Part 3 – solving complex challenges, often beyond exploration and including ROI.

In this edition we’re looking at the things that are keeping our innovation clients awake at night…not literally, of course (although quite possibly!), but the areas that provide both challenges and opportunities within the context of their role in their organisation.


The things that keep innovation execs awake at night

1. Staying relevant

  • This is an obvious one…but that’s true for a good reason.
  • The rapid pace of technological change and customer preferences means that companies must continually evolve to remain relevant.
  • Heads of Innovation worry that their company might not keep up with these changes, leading to a loss of market share, customer loyalty, and competitive advantage.

2. ROI on innovation

  • Innovation initiatives require varying levels of investments in terms of time, money, and resources.
  • Our clients are concerned about the potential for these investments not yielding the expected returns, both in terms of financial gains and long-term growth for the company.

3. Lack of resources

  • Innovation requires funding, skilled personnel, and time for research and development.
  • Limited budgets, time constraints, and a shortage of talent could hinder the ability to execute projects effectively, particularly ambitious projects.

4. Resistance to change (internal and externalc

  • Introducing innovation often disrupts established workflows and processes, which can create resistance from employees or stakeholders who are comfortable with the way things are done currently, leading to challenges in implementing new ideas.

5. Market disruption

  • The rise of competitors that introduce new technologies or business models is a significant concern.
  • Heads of Innovation worry that their company could be caught off guard by these changes, impacting their market position and revenue.

6. Short term focus

  • Companies face pressure to deliver results, particularly in downturn times like we are in now, which can divert resources and attention away from longer-term innovation initiatives.
  • Striking the right balance between short-term goals and strategic innovation is an ongoing challenge.

7. Intellectual property and security

  • Developing new intellectual property and protecting this IP can be a concern.
  • There’s also the worry of ensuring data security and preventing breaches as new technologies are integrated.

8. Cultural shift

  • Cultivating a culture of innovation across the organization is important to most of our clients.
  • However, changing a company’s culture is a significant challenge, needing to overcome resistance to change and foster a mindset of creativity and experimentation.

9. The global economy

  • Economic downturns or uncertain market conditions can (and are) impact innovation budgets.
  • Heads of Innovation might worry that economic instability could limit the company’s ability to invest in and take risks on new ventures.