Build a Better Idea Management Program for Your Startup Studio

September 15, 2022

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Building on his recent article on team building for startup studios, in this article Adam Valerio explores why the startup studio community needs to talk more about idea management. So you don’t miss out on future articles, follow StudioHub on LinkedIn and join StudioHub’s Startup Studios LinkedIn group.

Startup studios [1] commonly require between 30 and 107 ideas to launch a single company. [2] For a studio with a high “spin out rate,” that could mean sorting through 1,000 ideas in a single year. Couple this fact with the effort and expense necessary to launch a company and it’s imperative that studios generate (or have access to) an abundance of promising ideas and evaluate them quickly, cheaply, and accurately.

“Idea management” encompasses far more than just generating ideas. It’s about building the right practices, processes, and teams to identify the right problems, generate the right solutions, communicate your solutions effectively, and rigorously evaluate them to ensure that you pursue only the most worthwhile ones.

Is Idea Management even a Problem at Startup Studios?

I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else. — Pablo Picasso

In March 2019, the Global Startup Studio Network (GSSN) solidified the concept of “stage-gates” in the studio lexicon when they published the first known white paper specific to startup studios. Believed to “de-risk” the startup studio model, a stage-gate is a litmus test that a startup idea must pass at the end of a stage of development before it can continue to the next stage.

Approaching a Stage-Gate Can Mean Death for a Startup Idea

Credit: Monty Python and the Holy Grail via Yarn

It’s an excellent idea to evaluate how a startup idea has performed during a stage of development before moving to the next stage. However, here are some reasons we still need to talk about how studios do idea management:

  1. Many studios (especially young ones) have yet to determine the exact stages and stage-gates for their startup development process
  2. As a community, we are far away from knowing what idea management process would produce optimal results (and even what success metrics to use to best measure the performance of studio-born startups)
  3. Because there’s no community consensus on the matter, processes and stage-gates differ considerably from studio to studio
  4. Highly effective design and execution of each stage and stage-gate test requires deep reflection, knowledge, skills, and resources (beyond what many studios currently have)
  5. The characteristics of a particular studio—from team resources to the nature and breadth of industry focus—may influence what process is best for a given studio

Looking at GSSN’s example, we can see ambiguity regarding whether solutions should be tested before or after the MVP is built (definitely before!) and what the solution testing process should look like. We also don’t see problem validation recognized as a stage.

GSSN on Stage-Gates

Credit: Global Startup Studio Network

GSSN helpfully includes examples of deliverables needed to spin out a company, but studios have understandably filled in missing details for themselves and so we unsurprisingly have great variety in the studio ecosystem regarding how to generate and evaluate ideas and ultimately build successful companies.

Where Should We Go From Here?

To build a highly effective idea management program, your studio will need to:

  1. Identify better problems
  2. Identify better solutions
  3. Better communicate your vision for a portfolio company (“PortCo”)
  4. More accurately evaluate whether a company is worth building
  5. Build the optimal team to generate and evaluate startup ideas

My next few articles will explore these critical areas of idea management. Informed by my interviews with studio insiders and my expertise as a PhD-trained UX researcher and former startup CPO, for each area of idea management I will lay out:

  1. The challenges studios face
  2. Common ways studios approach these challenges
  3. Detailed recommendations for improvement
  4. The kinds of people who can help studios implement these recommendations

Whether you’re a studio that creates startups from scratch or a studio that focuses on partnering with founders of early startups, I believe these articles—packed with resources and techniques—have something for everyone: studio veterans, founders of young studios, studio influencers, startup teams, and people considering entering the startup studio ecosystem. Together, we’ll get on the path to making your idea management program more scientific, more efficient, and more successful.

Are you ready?

Have questions or comments?

I want to hear from you!

Feel free to reach out to me anytime!

The next article: Find Better Problems For Your Startup Studio To Solve: The Science Of Genius


[1] Terms often synonymous with “startup studio” include venture studio, venture builder, startup lab, startup factory, startup foundry, company builder, venture factory, venture lab, and less common terms like company creator, venture building company, tech studio, venture production studio, and startup creation venture. Startup studios operating as an arm of a large corporation with the aim of building startups that complement that large corporation are often called “corporate venture builders” (CVB). For a fun exploration of the variety of names used in this ecosystem, see Ferdinando de Blasio di Palizzi’s article, “Startup Studios Fever,” on StudioHub.

[2] Shilpa Kannan and Mitchel Peterman. Venture Studios Demystified: How Venture Studios Turn the Elusive Art of Entrepreneurship into Repeatable Success. 2022.

About the Author

Adam Valerio

Adam Valerio is a Senior UX Researcher at the PropTech startup, RentSpree. Former Chief Product Officer for Niceable, Adam received his PhD training from Temple University, where he taught the science of problem and product validation for startups. A life-long Knicks fan and former startup co-founder, Adam knows perseverance. Connect with Adam.

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