There and back again — an intrapreneur’s tale

An unexpected journey

It all started around Hallowe’en 2014, at reed.co.uk’s biannual Hack Day. The company wanted to diversify its portfolio and challenged employees to come up with ideas we could spin off into startups. While brainstorming in small groups, we discussed the growing popularity of startups. We knew loads of people in the tech community who were interested in joining a startup and we’d met plenty of founders who were struggling to find the right people to expand their teams. Based on these needs, we dreamt up a platform connecting people with great ideas (or early stage startups) and talented people interested in joining a startup. We created a working prototype and an elevator pitch and at the end of the 36 hour Hack Day, the judges picked Startup Startup as the overall winner.

The founding team, from left to right: Darryl October, David Bishop, Timo Hilhorst and Iñigo Gomez

From concept to traction

Before we wrote a line of code, we focused on immersive persona research. Being in London, it was easy enough to meet the people we hoped would be using our platform. We spent time in co-working spaces and Google Campus and attended countless startup events. We ended up with a very clear picture of our user personas which helped us prioritise (and discard) features. As an added benefit, we met some amazing and inspiring people, who were more than willing to donate some time to give us feedback or help us with user testing once we’d created some interactive wireframes.

Gathering user feedback during one of our persona workshops. We invited people who met the profile over to our office to help us validate our assumptions in exchange for beer and pizza

But what does success look like?

In many ways, Startup Startup was a bit of a guinea pig. Not only for us but also for reed.co.uk. As the first startup to come out of Monday Labs, we were all still working out what worked and what didn’t.

Part of Startup Startup’s original homepage

“Failure”

Our biggest challenge from the start was proving the value we could bring back to reed.co.uk. Monetising a solution catering for early stage, cash poor startups and entrepreneurs was always going to be a big ask. We didn’t go in without any ideas on how to monetise Startup Startup (in fact we maybe had too many options), but the approach was very much along the lines of “if we can build a large, engaged community, monetisation won’t be a problem.”

The return journey

As reed.co.uk’s first internal startup we definitely helped identify our strengths as a business and played a big part in discovering the type of innovation the company wants to invest in. Unfortunately, we ultimately came to the realisation that the Startup Startup model wasn’t the right fit. To stay true to the Lean Principles, we avoided investing any more time, effort and money in further developing what turned out to be the final iteration.

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I am a Product Owner at reed.co.uk and was one of the founders of Startup Startup, reed.co.uk’s first corporate startup.

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Timo Hilhorst

Timo Hilhorst

I am a Product Owner at reed.co.uk and was one of the founders of Startup Startup, reed.co.uk’s first corporate startup.