Ideation Secret Sauce for Startup Studios

A LOT of studio founders have told me they struggle with ideation more than anything else. This leads them, over time, to partner with more and more external founders with an idea, rather than build from internally generated ideas. In my - perhaps controversial - opinion this can lead to mission creep, turning a studio into a glorified incubator.

So, nailing ideation is CORE to a studio's success.

Ben Peterson
Founder & CEO at Purple Elephant Ventures
This article was written by Ben Peterson. Prepared for publishing by Max Pog.
In our limited history, we’re lucky to have internally generated more than enough great start-up ideas (or so we hope!).

Here’s how:
Lack of focus in portfolio construction
Start with a VERY narrow focus. Some say our laser focus on building start-ups at the intersection of African tourism, tech, and climate is ‘niche’. I hate this word. It makes what we do seem small.
Yes, it’s WAY more focused than 99% of studios - not only do we focus on one industry, but we focus on a very specific subset of problems within that industry. BUT instead of limiting us, it frees us up to zone in and build true expertise. We can take time to talk to all the players in the industry, understanding the nuances of their problems and how we can solve them. And considering tourism is the 3rd largest sector in Africa, it’s hardly a ‘niche’. Dozens upon dozens of problems exist to be solved in our zone of expertise.
Interview, interview, interview. We compartmentalized the potential clients of our start-ups: tourists, safari lodges, city hotels, airports, airlines, conservancies, national parks, etc. We then built STRONG relationships with all the major players in each, befriending them, learning from them, understanding their pain, and gaining their trust. Not only are they a wealth of knowledge, they are our first clients.
Prioritize problems
We get LOTS of feedback from our potential clients - we have to sort through the noise and triangulate to find the actual biggest problems they face.
Endless ideas
Throw a million ideas at the wall. We always start with a problem, and then use our honed-in industry knowledge to generate ideas about how to solve them. Most ideas are terrible, but that’s a good thing.
Find the needle in the haystack
We score each idea across over 20 different categories that could make-or-break the start-up idea, from market size, to time to market, to competitive moats, to timing (don’t forget timing - it might be the most important of all!). Our zoned-in expertise gives us confidence in our ability to (at least semi) accurately score each idea.
Constantly re-score
Our shortlist of ideas that pops out of the above process is constantly re-scored and re-ranked. Over time, our understanding of problems evolves. We fall in and out of love with ideas, we get to know each intimately. And when the time comes to bring another start-up idea to life, we’re confident that the one we’re calling up the major leagues is one that is baked and ready for primetime.

Author: Ben Peterson, Founder & CEO at Purple Elephant Ventures

Hi, this is Max Pog, check our podcast episode with Ben Peterson about Purple Elephant Ventures

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