How we do Venture Building at oneUp

Corporate Venture Building is an efficient method to stay ahead of trends and make the most of your innovation efforts.
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As the world continues to move faster and faster, companies need to be able to innovate at even greater speeds to stay ahead of market changes. Ideas have to be tested out and implemented faster, and the old model of trying to innovate in-house just can’t keep up with the pace anymore.

Corporate Venture Building is becoming an increasingly important strategy for companies to stay ahead of trends and make the most of their innovation efforts. This is exactly what we want to accomplish at oneUp; we help big companies stay ahead of trends and achieve a larger return on innovation.

But I am getting ahead of myself. First, let me introduce myself. My name is Ezgi Karabat and I am a Venture Builder at oneUp. I joined a year ago and, with this article, I want to share with you what I have learned about Venture Building so far. See it as an introduction to the way we work at oneUp.

Let’s start with the basics first: What is Venture Building?

Venture Builders are a new breed but have been around for several years now. If you are unfamiliar with the concept: Venture Building means taking an idea and transforming it into a disruptive and profitable business, product or service. The first Venture Builders were organisations known as venture studios, startup studios or tech studios.

Since then, Venture Building has evolved. Entrepreneurs and companies willing to invest in innovation also realised the value of Venture Building services, going beyond the realm of startups. At oneUp, we have created our own Venture Building process, which includes elements from Design Thinking, Lean startup, Agile, Service Design, Growth Marketing and more. We have been developing and adapting our methodology for the past 8 years and this process helps us identify the risks and uncertainty of new ventures systematically and quickly, enabling us to bring new ventures to life successfully.

Every Venture Building project starts with a research question and idea. Setting assumptions, analysing, testing and comparing them with real-life results is a crucial part of the process. You do some research and you start building and collecting assumptions. The next step is to test your assumptions by running experiments and analysing the results until you are confident that your assumptions are validated (i.e. your solution and product provide value). This is a very systematic process: you run experiments, analyse the results and make decisions based on these results on the further development of your product or service.

What does it take to be a Venture Builder?

Before becoming a Venture Builder, I had experience in product management, product strategy, innovation management, sales, project management and marketing. And even before these roles, I studied Economics. Combining this knowledge and my experiences helped me build the analytical and organisational skills essential to succeed as a Venture Builder.I am a curious and ambitious person. I love understanding and analysing what is happening in the world and creating solutions to help our natural environment and society to progress. At oneUp, I have the chance to work on these topics in the projects I am part of.

It’s been almost a year since I joined oneUp and I have been able to observe the characteristics and mindsets of Venture Builders. In this role we need to have a broad set of innovation knowledge and skills. Our projects start with the birth of an innovative idea and progress all way to developing and scaling a product that will be transferred as a spin-in or spin-off to our client. If your venture is successfully moving from one innovation phase to the next, reducing risk and proving your business model, the whole process can easily take up to 2 years (and sometimes even more). Throughout this time, your focus areas and priorities change, you run different experiments, you expand your team, and you meet and manage a more complex web of stakeholders.

To succeed in such a role, you need to have an antifragile mindset and be comfortable with ambiguity. As every project is different, you should be ready to change quickly to empathize better with the different products, customer segments, team cultures, companies, and industries you will work with. When you’re in a Venture Building project, you also need to be ready to learn a lot and learn it fast. In each project, you need to research the context of the client: their organisation and strategy, products, competitors, industries, new technologies and changing consumer needs. In Venture Building the world is constantly evolving; we work in a state of flux and develop and apply new tools, frameworks, and research methods that fit the needs of the project. That is why at oneUp we have regular knowledge-sharing sessions among all Venture Builders, something I value a lot.

Lastly, one of the most important skills you need as a Venture Builder is to be able to collaborate well. You need to know how to collaborate with your colleagues at oneUp, with partners and with the client. The value that they all bring to the team and project is essential for its success.

Why Venture Building is so relevant today

One of the things we have observed is that the lifetime of companies has decreased throughout the decades since the birth of the internet. 89% of the Fortune 500 companies in 1955 are not on the 2021 list. This is mostly because their products and services have become obsolete, they were not able to adjust to change. When the companies don’t invest and pay enough attention to innovation, they risk their relevance and position in the market. And when companies don’t have the right people, processes, knowledge, governance and culture, succeeding in innovation becomes harder. That’s why you see a lot of corporations transforming their innovation culture towards a culture that can deal with and react to change better and faster. Some of them create a separate innovation department. Others turn the entire company into an innovation machine by cultivating the right mindset with a supportive incentive system.

Companies need to innovate to survive, stay relevant and continue to serve the needs of their customers, today and tomorrow. However, transformation in big companies requires a lot of time and expertise. That's why, as I had mentioned at the beginning of this article, Venture Builders emerged to provide these services for companies and why agencies like oneUp exist.

This is another reason why I joined oneUp. The work we do with our clients is vital for their success and continuation because we bring tangible results to their innovation projects: we make things happen and create the products and services that their current and future customers love and want.

But this goes further than creating innovative things. We fill in the gaps that stand between our client’s innovation ambitions and their practice, whatever they might be. For example, the employees of one of our clients lacked the skills and knowledge to develop and execute their own innovation projects, so we trained them in our method and created an innovation playbook so this knowledge would spread throughout the organisation. Other (and most) clients have an idea for a product but lack the talent and capacity to test it by themselves so we create a team of oneUp Venture Builders and employees of the client and run through the process with them.

Thinking of becoming a Venture Builder?

For anyone wanting to become a Venture Builder, it is key that you learn about the most commonly used processes and methodologies. I recommend you to start with books about innovation like “The Invincible Company”, “Reinventing Business Models”, “Value Proposition Design” and “Testing Business Ideas”. These four books cover most of the methodologies, and it is up to you to take the time and study them.

The second piece of advice I have for you is: “Just try it out, and go for it.” Most companies have a portfolio of innovation projects. Take the initiative and ask if you can join one of these projects to observe and learn because reading about building value propositions and testing ideas is a whole different beast than doing the actual work. Another approach can be to identify the need to innovate your own product or discover opportunities within your own business unit. Observe carefully what’s happening, define the right approach and then get your hands dirty! There’s no better way to learn about innovation than practicing it yourself.

This is actually what I did during my career. I started as a product manager and realized that the products I was responsible for had critical issues in their business models. This encouraged me to take the necessary initiative to reinvent the business models and transform my role into that of an innovation manager.

That's Venture Building in a nutshell, and how we do it at oneUp. If you want to learn more about us, check our approach page go learn more about the work we do and how we do it.

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oneUp is an Amsterdam-based business builder with experience setting up high-performing corporate innovation vehicles.

oneUp is a business model innovation agency specialising in helping corporates turn the world's significant disruptions into opportunities.