from Highline BETA Partner Ben Yoskovitz
As Steve Blank said, “A [big] company is a permanent organization designed to execute a repeatable and scalable business model.” Simply put, this usually boils down to, “Do more and sell more of the same.”
Big companies have cash cows and milk them as much as possible. This makes complete sense. It’s hard to argue against doing what’s worked for as long as you possibly can.
But the problem emerges when cash cows start to dry up.
Nothing lasts forever…and when performance in a core business starts to drop (reflected in revenues, profits and other key benchmarks), big companies struggle immensely. That’s where new ventures become mission critical. Even the most successful tech companies, like Google — huge disruptors themselves — work to reinvent themselves and create new lines of business beyond their core.
What is a new venture? I don’t think of a new venture as adding features to a core product. I don’t think of a new venture as modifying a core product into something “new”, or even working on something adjacent (e.g. a computer manufacturer selling peripherals.)
A new venture is about finding new business models to service customers (existing ones or new ones.) Steve Blank defined a startup as, “a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” A startup (or new venture) is temporary because it’s mission is to find precisely what big companies have: a repeatable and scalable business model.
Once that’s discovered, a startup ceases to be a new venture and becomes an established organization. The other critical part of the definition is around business models — if your goal in creating new ventures is to sell additional products to the same customer in the same way, it’s not really a new venture that can transform your organization to survive beyond its core value proposition today.
Startups fail a lot.
The same holds true for new ventures instigated by big companies. For startup founders this is incredibly tough — all their eggs are in one basket. When a startup fails, the founders have to start from scratch, and they’ve usually sacrificed a great deal personally.
That’s not the case for big companies. Big companies can launch many new ventures simultaneously and over time, and when some of them fail it’s still valuable, and the risk to the organization and its employees is minimal. For one, the learnings and insights gained in a failed new venture can be brought back into the core and into future new ventures. Secondly, the employees that participated in creating new ventures will gain valuable experience and training, which they’ll share throughout the organization.
The key to leveraging failure in a large organization is to “fail fast” and not overly invest in something that doesn’t work. Historically, big companies over-invest in things without validating them enough beforehand. This is why we’re seeing such a huge push for Lean Startup (and other methodologies such as Design Thinking) in the enterprise; we want to right-size the investments made in new ventures so the risk is minimized, and the upside (even in a failed new venture) is huge.
Increasing the frequency and pace of learning and insight is a key benefit to launching new ventures on a regular basis.
What other advantages are there?
You can’t win if you don’t try. And although big companies at some point in their past were startups and won (in turn becoming big companies), they’re being actively disrupted faster than ever.
The countermeasure to that is new ventures.