Beantown Startup Studio: Project overview
How do you actually implement the nuts and bolts of a startup studio?
As you may have seen in our last post, we recently launched Beantown Startup Studio (BSS), a project that will begin with a broad population/problem definition and hopefully end with a new venture. At BSS, we’ll be bringing together concepts from design, business, and entrepreneurship to try and shape a solution. Plus, we’ve got a rockstar team. It all sounds great! But… how do you actually implement the nuts and bolts of a startup studio? Where do you start when you aren’t coming in with a specific idea? We’ve all had those “lightbulb moment” ideas that occur in a vacuum, and we wanted to make BSS a totally different experience — one that is underpinned with rigorous thinking and informed by data. So, we came up with an initial plan.
In the span of 4 months, we hope to move from broad insights to a specific venture plan — and that’s hard! We want to be balanced between iteration and focus, able to move forward with decisions while still maintaining room for creativity and course-corrections. The overall plan is to start by identifying a population that we are excited about serving, rapidly gather data to understand their problems, and finally move to the prototyping/building phase. In short, the next few months will be organized chaos.
As we go, we’ll iterate on the prior phases to narrow in on our final idea. For example, we may come up with a population that is quite broad at the beginning, and then tweak it as we learn more about the problems that the population faces. However, this overall plan will keep us moving from broad insights to a specific venture.
The Day to Day
Tactically, our project will consist of a few key elements.
- Weekly meetings. We think it’s important to meet in person on a regular basis, to brainstorm, synthesize weekly learnings, define the work plan, and ultimately make the big decisions that will push us forward.
- A Steering Committee. Once we narrow down our focus, our plan is to build a steering committee consisting of content experts, talented entrepreneurs, and investors.
- Work during the week. When we are not meeting, we’ll be doing work individually or in pairs to push the team forward. We decided on Slack and Asana to manage the day to day plan.
It’s tough to design a venture in the timeframe of a few months, so we plan to draw on several different ways of thinking to help keep our team sharp and moving forward. There are a ton of different frameworks out there, but there are a few that resonated with us:
We’ll be drawing on these frameworks to make the many difficult decisions that we’ll be faced with. A couple of points about these ways of thinking. They are:
- Interdisciplinary. On our team, we’ve got many different types of thinkers, and we want to make sure we tap into that.
- Macro and micro. We want to make sure that we approach problems through the lens of both broad trends supported by macro-level data, as well as deeply understand user problems that we uncover through hands-on research.
- Focused on doing. The point of BSS is that we don’t want to be sitting in a room thinking up ideas — you don’t need a startup studio to do that. We want to be out in the world talking to people and prototyping.
That’s the starting plan! We’re interested in how this will change over time, and will update you on our blog as we learn what works best.
By the way — below are a few links to the resources we are using in case you want to dive deeper:
- Smart Policy Design by Evidence for Policy Design, Center for International Development at Harvard University
- Doing Growth Diagnostics in Practice: A ‘Mindbook’ by Ricardo Hausmann, Bailey Klinger, and Rodrigo Wagner
- Running Lean by Ash Maurya
- The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Complementary innovation methods
- The Innovator’s Toolkit by David Silverstein, Philip Samuel, and Neil DeCarlo
- Universal Methods of Design by Bella Martin and Bruce Hanington
- Gamestorming by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo
- Inside the Box by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg
Structured problem solving
- The McKinsey Approach to Problem Solving by Ian Davis (former Managing Director of McKinsey), David Keeling, Paul Schreier, and Ashley Williams
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