Dave Blakely is a Senior Ideate and Client Capability Executive at Mach49, where he leverages his extensive Silicon Valley startup experience in emerging technology to help clients build disruptive new ventures. We spoke with Dave to get his insights into the demands of startup acceleration and how to build teams that thrive in the face of new challenges.
Mach49: What are some of the key trends in new venture creation?
Dave: There are two trends I run into every day. First of all, the biggest trend that I see in new venture creation is just pure speed from ideation to scale. The extraordinary pace of development of new products and services is coupled with the need to pivot very quickly in response to unexpected market circumstances. Crazily aggressive development cycles force the reuse of existing platforms.
When I started my career, most engineers lived by the expression “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” My first startup, a spinoff from HP, routinely wrote all applications from scratch in languages like “C.” New venture development has changed completely. No one has time for that anymore and we all need to find open-source resources we trust. In many cases new ventures need to make fast decisions to partner with external firms or make acquisitions to deliver new products at a pace the market demands.
Here’s the second big trend that changed my workstyle: All of a sudden, we’re in a world where the last word on new product introduction is no longer in the hands of the manufacturer, it’s in the hands of the customers who can customize their products with a choice of app downloads and even with 3D printers. And that’s inverted everything – supply chain, marketing, market research. The authority for defining new products and services has been inverted in the last 10 years because of these trends. Customers have the last word on new product introduction, not the manufacturer.
You started with the speed and agility of an organization and suddenly the customer comes in. How is the role of the customer changing?
Dedicated products with fixed features are no longer interesting to customers. Think of the most exciting products around you. Many of them are general-purpose platforms whose behavior can be completely customized with software downloads. Smartphones are the obvious example, but in a few years we’ll have fleets of electric vehicles whose performance and features can be completely modified with over-the-air software downloads. Now, add in the extraordinary influence of social media allowing customers to share preferences on how to customize malleable new products, and to flame poor products. We’re looking at a new class of consumers with outsize influence on the development and release of new products.
You also mentioned truly interdisciplinary teams. What’s required in terms of speed and agility from the organization?
We need new ventures with product-market fit, fast, and you can’t get there without truly interdisciplinary teams. A winning venture involves many different people from multiple disciplines who are all committed to unifying their points of view around a specific area of opportunity. One person looks at a venture opportunity from a marketing lens, someone else from a technical feasibility lens, and another from the perspective from the mothership. You’ll never find product-market fit if you have a team led by single discipline, like finance or engineering, trying to build a disruptive new venture.
So we’ve identified different roles – the engineer, the marketer, and more. What are the different personas that now comprise the new venture ecosystem?
There are three key personas in venture teams. The first is the team lead, the keeper of the vision. They function like CEOs and are responsible for driving the vision forward, they bring in funding and make the right hires. Team leads are key is advancing an incredibly thrilling five-year product vision and convincing everyone else of its potential.
Next, I look for two additional personas to build a venture: a product person and a marketing person. The product person asks:
While the marketing person asks:
With the increasing speed of venture creation, the energy of youth and expertise of a seasoned professional is becoming more and more necessary to navigate all the uncertainties in the processes of ideation and incubation. You’ll need a diverse cast of characters that demonstrate adaptability to constant uncertainty.
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