Speed to Market: How Rapid Learning Drives Venture Success
Ventures are by nature filled with uncertainty and unknowns. Fast learning is the only principle that works reliably in such an environment. How can we implement this in the creation and inception processes?
Rapid learning is a critical factor for success in the highly competitive world of startups and corporate ventures. In this dynamic environment, the ability to learn quickly and adapt accordingly can be the difference between success and failure. Therefore, product development and strategy should go hand in hand, and learning what works and what doesn’t should be done as fast as possible. In many ways, those who learn and act on that learning the fastest will succeed.
While this is well-known, it is often not implemented in practice or only implemented in parts of the practice, leading to sub-par results. Implementing strong learning loops is vital to progress especially in corporate venturing, with ventures spawned out of organizations not exactly known for learning and pivoting quickly. Ventures in the wild, on the other hand, find it easy to move very fast. What can we learn from them for our approach?
Fast Learning for Ventures in Practice
One of the most important things to keep in mind when building a new venture is the importance of speed. The faster your venture can learn and adapt, the better it can stay ahead of the competition and capture market share. Quick learning and implementation not only saves resources but also keeps your venture agile, enabling it to pivot when necessary. This is crucial for the success of your venture, as it allows you to make adjustments and improvements in real-time rather than waiting until it’s too late. When we build our ventures, proof of concepts and minimum viable products follow each other quickly. We try to get to a product-market fit as soon as possible, validated by real users.
Product development and strategy should be closely linked, as one of our fundamental principles is to make profitable ventures that bring value. We define and redefine what success looks like during every part of building the venture. Therefore, we have daily standups between the product and commercial teams to ensure that learnings are shared as soon as possible. This results in small and big pivots whenever necessary during the journey. It is much easier and cheaper to pivot early on in the venture if learning is documented and verified.
You can adjust your product and strategy accordingly as you learn more about your customers and their wants. This helps to ensure that your product meets the needs of your target market and that your strategy is aligned with your business goals. And, ultimately, that all this aligns with the success criteria you have defined, or you may need to redefine your success criteria based on the new learnings.
Another essential aspect of quick learning is the ability to fail fast. Not every idea or product will be successful, and it’s important to recognize this early on. By failing fast, you can move on to the next idea or iteration more quickly instead of wasting time and resources on something that isn’t going to work.
Tactics for Implementation in Your Process
How can you implement quick learning in product development and strategy?
- Use Data and Analytics: Collect data on customer behaviour, preferences, and feedback as soon as possible. Use this data to inform product development and strategy decisions.
Our approach: We quickly look to have a focus group with potential customers and run a paid pilot as quickly as possible (often within the first 3 months of the venture build). We have also set up websites and questions to do AB testing and other quantitative evaluation of the approaches we wanted to take.
2. Implement Agile Practices: Agile development is a methodology that prioritizes rapid iteration and learning. This approach allows for quick adjustments based on customer feedback and data.
Our approach: Pivoting is part of the DNA of venture building. Hence, we take a value chain approach (vs. a single idea) and assume that pivots will happen. We have switched from downstream to upstream before or completely changed the venture approach all within the scope of the initial engagement. Note that agile is not only for product sprints but for commercials as well. We structure all of our work in 2-week sprints.
3. Conduct Reviews and Retrospectives: Set up regular meetings with customers to review progress and reflect on what’s been learned. Use these meetings to identify areas for improvement and make adjustments accordingly.
Our approach: Understanding the implications of new information that comes to light is paramount to ensure learning and continuous improvement. These retrospectives are important whether they are about successes (what made us successful and how can we replicate for the future) or failures (what has gone wrong and how can we remedy that).
4. Encourage Experimentation: Create a culture of experimentation and encourage team members to test new ideas and approaches. This fosters a mindset of learning and growth.
Our approach: In our agriculture ventures, we farm; in our financing ventures we lend money quickly. We often risk our fees as part of the paid pilots (which is the main way for us to get to the right decisions and the right reactions from our paying customers of the pilots) and assume that some of our work will fail. Our junior teams are empowered to ensure that they observe the reality on the ground or in the venture, and to experiment with whatever they may encounter.
5. Focus on Customer Discovery: Understanding the customer’s problem, needs, and pain points. By doing this, you will be able to develop a product they are looking for.
Our approach: Interviews are key and are much more useful with paying customers as opposed to relying on industry experts who can “opine” about what customers want, but often are not paying customers themselves. We do constant interviews from early on in the venture build process and carry on right through the build phase.
6. Embrace Failure: Recognize that not all ideas will be successful and have a process for quickly identifying and abandoning those that aren’t working.
Our approach: We take risks together with our corporate partners; we run our business like a startup and we invest further in areas within the venture build we think are worthwhile. We understand that failures will happen, but we focus on ensuring that the overall momentum for the venture is maintained.
By implementing these tactics, corporate ventures can accelerate their learning and improve their chances of success in the competitive world of startups. The faster you learn, the quicker you can iterate, and the faster you can grow.
In Conclusion: Move Fast and Break Things (with Intention)
New ventures need to learn fast to succeed. Every market interaction, whether through interviews, surveys, prototypes, customer surveys, etc, is a chance to learn more about the nature of reality as perceived by the customer. These data points need to flow through the organization, and teams need artefacts and rituals that help embody and incorporate that learning at a high pace to make rapid progress.
Corporates looking to build such ventures should learn from ventures in the wild and adopt their best practices. This will allow them better success through their corporate unfair advantage while not losing pace for some of the corporate mindset. By leveraging the above tactics, corporates ventures can also implement the best practices from startups in the wild to help them move faster and iterate sooner.
We are also pleased to be an appointed venture studio of EDB’s Corporate Venture Launchpad 2.0. CVL 2.0 is an expanded S$20m programme by EDB New Ventures, designed to enable companies to incubate and launch a new venture from Singapore, supported by venture studios experienced in corporate venture building. You can also find out more on our website.
Interested to learn more about investable ventures? Drop us a line: email@example.com
Arnold Egg, Founding Partner at Wright Partners
Ziv Ragowsky, Founding Partner at Wright Partners
Sebastian Mueller, Co-founder at MING Labs