Stratetek: Modifying a Design Sprint for a Funded Start-up Pitch

This is a story about a GV style design sprint. If you’ve never heard of that, you can learn more here or read the book.

Stratetek’s founder Mark McNitt invented a new portable engine half the size and weight, but with the same power as a conventional gas engine. He had a couple of prototypes and a patent. This thing was really cool. He even won the prestigious MNCup award for best new startup. The product development was moving along but Mark didn’t have much in the way of branding or positioning. The engine didn’t even have a name. There were so many potential markets and applications for for this product, he didn’t know where to start.

One very promising market was the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry. Think drones and stuff. Mark called Wowza immediately upon receiving an invitation to pitch his engine to investors and potential customers at a big conference in the booming UAV space. To participate Mark needed a video, a PowerPoint presentation, a trade show display, printed handouts and an updated website. And he needed it all by the next Friday. Most people would say that was crazy.

Thankfully, we had been experimenting with design sprints. So we were pretty confident that it could be done. It’s amazing what a focused group of talented people can accomplish in a short amount of time. The process we followed deviated from the standard process in several ways. The biggest difference: putting more time into creating the prototypes. To make the extra time for prototyping we cut out “ask the experts” and “lightning demos” Another big difference was to use the 5th day to work on prototypes. We used the actual conference to test the prototypes instead of a manufactured scenario.

Monday

We gathered at the Wowza office. Mark gave us an overview of his engine and how he thought it could be marketed. We learned more about the UAV industry and he explained the features and benefits of his nifty new invention. We listened to the origin story and Mark’s vision. Using timers and whiteboards our team got to work. We came up with a bunch of names and picked one. We mapped out a story and listed key messages and talking points. Whiteboards were our shared brain, and timers kept us moving with a bias toward action. With a decider in the room the longest we ever had to wait for a decision was the length of a bathroom break.

By the end of the day we had a strategy, a name, key messages and talking points and the bones of a story for the video. All in one day. And it was pretty good too.

Tuesday

Tuesday was a day to generate ideas and make more decisions. We were going to be shooting Mark’s interview in the afternoon and recording an interview with one of Stratetek’s investors via Google Hangout. So we had to have the messaging nailed down. We worked intensively in the morning to work through ideas and write and edit video scripts. Once we landed on a direction and knew we were hitting all the key points, it was… lights, camera, interview.

Wednesday

Kersten organized the video assets and edited the video while Jeff and Sarah wrote and designed the content for the PowerPoint. We all pitched in when we needed to find images and video assets. Mark helped with content, checking our facts and adding things. Indecision never slowed us down.

Some of our quick-turnaround brand collateral

Thursday

The various components were taking shape but things were still a bit rough. We had to wait for a video clip of the engine prototype to come from California. When it finally came we finished the video. With the PowerPoint mostly done we created displays for the trade show. With no time to hem and haw about type of display setup, Mark picked one quickly and we sent the file off to the printer.

Friday

We were on schedule. The video was ready, the PowerPoint looked great and we still had some time left. With the pressure off we worked up some smart trade show fliers and made a looping video for Mark to show at his booth. The final task was to update the website with new content and send Mark on his way to prepare for his big presentation.

The Test

Testing is an important part of the Design Thinking process. For this project we used the conference and trade show as Mark’s test. The naming and branding weren’t set in stone. As his product matures and the markets are established the branding and strategy will evolve. Using this process the sunk cost is minimal, so when things change it will be easy to move on.