The week of February 6, Transmission launched its inaugural Innovation Camp in Victoria, BC. The program, which sandwiched the two and a half day Transmission: Global Summit, brought four young ventures working at the intersection of creative content and technology together with a hand-selected group of mentors from Transmission’s international network of creators, academics, and business leaders. The week focused on business modeling sessions, while also having the opportunity to engage face-to-face with decision-making leaders and experts in the content and technology industries in an intimate setting.
The Value Web, which has been working with Transmission extensively since our involvement in the 2011 Global Summit, helped develop the design of the Innovation Camp and partnered with Jonathan Imme, Principal of Until we see new land, to facilitate the four days of programming.
In what proved to be both a strength and a challenge in the design of the program, the four start-ups were at different stages of development and focused on different markets and value propositions. On one end, the earliest stage start up was barely more than an idea, seeking validation of its principal assumptions and affirmation it was indeed solving a “real” problem for its would-be customers. At the other end, an established organization with seed funding in hand, a portfolio of customers that includes several globally recognized brands, and a product attractive enough to attract the attention of companies such as Apple.
The overall goal of the Innovation Camp prototype was to elaborate whether the Transmission: Global Summit environment – including its community, partners and events – can be a nurturing context and catalyst to help start-ups grow, iterate, network and participate in shaping the future of the creative industries. Typical of a robust prototype, not everything we tried went off as we’d imagined, and there are many things we will do differently next time. But it certainly seemed to be a successful proof of concept.
The centerpiece of the day one programming was having the start-ups work with the Business Model Canvas, and it was definitely the favorite and most valuable activity for the participants aside from the one-on-one meetings with mentors that comprised day three. Day two was all about role playing and storytelling, as we had the start-ups develop customer empathy maps, run product demonstrations and, most memorably, each develop and produce a brief video “commercial” of one of the other start-ups.
We then brought the group back to reality with Why It Won’t Work, where we walked from business model to business model and everyone was given a few minutes to write down on Post-Its all the ways and reasons they would fail. This exercise set up the final three hours of the pre-Summit programming, which consisted of several rounds of one-on-one conversations between the start-ups and the mentors.
During the Global Summit, The Value Web facilitation team was completely focused on facilitating the summit programming, leaving the start-ups and mentors to self-organize their touch points and introductions. In hindsight, we recognized that creating some structure here would have been beneficial. Nonetheless, during the camp wrap up session after the summit, it was rewarding to hear what the start-ups identified as ways in which the camp program and the connected attendance at the summit had impacted their ventures. Among the benefits listed:
• Improved analysis, understanding and refinement of their business models
• Better understanding of their business case and customer groups
• Questioned assumptions – they validated their value proposition in some cases and refined it in others
• Got feedback and contacts that would otherwise be difficult to get
• Were able to get valuable introductions by well-positioned mentors, creating leads for potential investors, strategic partners and new customers
• Clear identification of next steps and short term strategies.
Several participants commented that the camp indeed shifted the direction of their venture in some way:
“We realized during the innovation camp that we really need a well-defined value proposition for our complex product. We also got a better notion of the selling cycle in the education industries and how it is important to tackle low-hanging fruit. We will now start to develop a new strategy of giving free packages to teachers to get universities as customers at a later stage, using a bottom-to-top approach.”
“I came in with big ideas on our product and what it could do, but we did not have a realistic approach. We concentrated too much on defining what the user experience would be, but not on the business model itself. So we gained clarity of our business model and also identified a promising new group of customers.”
Photo courtesy Chris Nohr of thenumber:creative.