How Colgate-Palmolive worked with Highline Beta to discover and validate six new venture opportunities
At a Glance
Opportunity: Identify and validate multiple new ventures
Solution: Validated 6 new venture opportunities
- Find users with problems related to their overarching oral care
- Test concepts and prioritize based on Desirability, Viability, and Feasibility (DVF), validating each opportunity as a venture on its own
- Outline the umbrella business that was going to be formed by a collection of the venture opportunities
- 5 new ventures that introduce new business models within the company, and that come together to form a larger opportunity which supports the 2025 corporate strategy.
- 1 new venture that both supports the core business and acts as a test bed for future products
Colgate-Palmolive is a caring, innovative growth company that is reimagining a healthier future for all people, their pets and our planet. Founded in 1806 in New York City, the company specializes in the production, distribution, and provision of household, health care, personal care, skin care, and veterinary products.
They’re number one in market share in toothpaste worldwide, and had $17.4B in worldwide net sales in 2021.
Colgate-Palmolive (Colgate) was balancing fitting transformative innovation efforts with the everyday delivery of the business. This is a common challenge for big companies as, in addition to time resources, it requires a notable shift in mindset and processes to make those efforts effective and repeatable.
Accordingly, Colgate hired Highline Beta to help support growth-driving innovation in the H2/H3 space. The objective was to have 4 to 5 new validated ventures, that supported a portfolio-based approach to innovation.
They also wanted Highline Beta to educate the Colgate team on the process. A chance that we jumped at, because not only is team and exec training a formal offering of ours, the more informal side of it is baked into the way we work with our clients – which is to truly envelop them onto our team, so they get the realtime, hands-on experience of our entire process.
Colgate was looking to increase our focus on what we call H2, or H3 type of innovation. These are new opportunities for us, like a new business model or a new adjacency or even new-to-the-world innovations – things that have never been done before. We found it challenging to shift our mindset to devote enough attention to these innovations while also maintaining a crucial focus on delivering business results today. That’s why we looked for a partner who could help us think about big opportunities and build the business case to help us prioritize.Pat Verduin, CTO, Colgate-Palmolive
Why Highline Beta?
Colgate believes that innovation can happen anywhere, and with anyone, within the company, and they’re very good at it.
However, they also recognize the value of working with outside experts when it comes to innovation and wanted to find the right partner to help them explore new business models and drive growth. They were seeking a partner who, in addition to researching, ideating, and validating new ventures, could execute and help make them a reality in the end.
Highline Beta has strong expertise across a variety of industries. We wanted to learn from a team that had worked to identify growth-driving innovation across a wide variety of business models and categories and we knew how important it was to get insights from external sources. We also felt it was important to work with a team whose real core business was innovation and when we met with Highline Beta, we knew immediately that they fit the bill.Pat Verduin, CTO, Colgate-Palmolive
Colgate naturally works with a number of external partners and consultants, but they were looking for something a little different. They wanted a team who was going to be embedded with them and push them a bit further than they were used to.
Between their multiple categories and departments, Colgate is a very dynamic company. They also have a strong culture that they, rightfully, hold very dear. It was important to them to have a partner who could come in, get an effective read on that and truly become part of the team.
The Highline Beta team worked hand-in-hand with the team and were very approachable. They were generous with their intelligence and capabilities, and very true to themselves. They were trying to solve problems and move things along rather than just tell us what to do.Pat Verduin, CTO, Colgate-Palmolive
The Discovery & Venture Validation Process
Our initial engagement was 12-months long. We led Discovery on new opportunity areas and identified more than 20 potential new venture ideas, 14 of which were prioritized to explore more deeply.
The goal during the Discovery phase is to identify real-world problems that we believe are painful enough to an identifiable customer segment, are big enough to matter, and live in a space where our client has a right to win.
During this process, we aim to address and answer seven key questions on each opportunity we identify:
- Are there real, painful problems worth solving in this space?
- Who has these problems? Who is the early adopter customer segment? What do we know about them?
- How are these people solving the problem(s) today and how is that insufficient?
- How big is the market? And what is the initial hypothesis for a viable business model?
- Does Colgate have a right to win (or an unfair advantage)?
- Are there startups already solving the problem in the right way?
- What are potential solution ideas to the identified problems?
Following Discovery, we prioritize venture ideas to take into the Venture Validation phase where our goal is to further refine the problem validation work done during Discovery and validate the solution and business model.
We develop a list of assumptions (across desirability, feasibility and viability) that need to be tested and validated in order to build and execute the work.
Specifically, at the end of Venture Validation, we aim to have the following for each venture idea:
- A clearly defined solution that we have validated through in-market testing and internal assessment
- An early adopter market
- A go-to-market strategy
- A validated business model
- Clarity around [client’s] role and unfair advantage (strategic fit)
- Recommended next steps, with a focus on what to build for the MVP and how to execute a successful pilot
We were very encouraged by the number of spaces Highline Beta identified. At the time, we were very focused on Connected Health and therefore expected adjuncts of that space. Highline Beta presented some very interesting spaces that took us by surprise. So, we felt they ventured wide enough to really encompass some interesting options without going out of the zone where Colgate brands could play.Pat Verduin, CTO, Colgate-Palmolive
A key focus for us as we move through our work is to involve the right people, in the right way, at the right time(s). We ensure that the voices and perspectives of those our work will affect are heard and accounted for, and that they feel confident in the work and want to support the work.
In the end, Highline Beta delivered 6 validated new venture opportunities to Colgate.
5 of those opportunities introduce new business models within the company and come together to form a larger opportunity which supports the 2025 corporate strategy; and the 6th opportunity both supports the core business and acts as a test bed for future products.
We validated the customer problems, early adopter customer segments, solutions, go-to-market strategies, and business models, and also presented pilot plans for each of the opportunities.
We achieved our project’s goal. Highline Beta’s work identified six intriguing discrete spaces. First, Colgate oral care brands had the ability to expand into the new spaces. Second, there was a consumer need or gap. Lastly, these were scalable opportunities with staying power.
We were impressed with the scope and depth of the results. Three of the six opportunities are being further developed and making their way to market which is quite impressive, actually.Pat Verduin, CTO, Colgate-Palmolive
As well as the tangible outputs of new venture opportunities, we wanted to ensure that the Colgate team came out of the project with the tools and experience that would allow them to repeat the process for themselves. Accordingly, in addition to meaningfully involving the team in the day-to-day work for hands-on learning, we held a series of Learning Sessions throughout the project.
We aligned the subject matter of the sessions to the point in the overall process we were at in order to pair the theoretical with the real-life application:
- How to find problems worth solving
- How to find signal in the noise of user research
- How to generate and shape potential solutions
- How to learn if your solution has traction
- How to pitch a new venture
Probably the most impressive thing about our engagement with Highline Beta was their deep engagement with the team. They taught us their process of innovation development, quantified assessment, and validation. We learned a great deal from them and they were generous with their expertise.
Highline Beta also put significant effort into more formal workshops and training experiences for our team. These were highly impactful, helping the team to think out of the box and develop new business models. At the end of the project, we were smarter and much more capable than when we started.Pat Verduin, CTO, Colgate-Palmolive