During the first week, we experienced and experimented a draft experience of the design thinking process. During the two days dedicated to develop an innovative opportunity for the university, we gathered in groups. The experience was magnificent, and we got to know our classmates during the event.
Along the following classes, we learnt the theories involved in design thinking. The general concept is to differentiate between analytical thinking and design thinking. According to Dorst (2010), there is a simple equation “What + How = Result”. The author describes when the how or the result is missing, it is analytical thinking, and when the missing concept is the “what” we utilize design thinking.
The professor Keers Dorst also states many companies do not integrate design thinking properly and deeply into their processes, and I found there is a possible competitive advantage in the future to learn about it.
Applying these concepts into practice, we did a practical exercise involving shoe buying patterns in students. After several interviews, we found a pattern; women struggle more with them. The core difficulty is related to heels, and therefore we brainstormed around this problem and prototyped a solution.
On a personal level, interiorizing design thinking and analytical thinking has helped me through the different stages of our startup. Being a non-organized person having such a simple structure to follow is essential to create a process to achieve a desired goal in any field.
During later classes, we have applied other theories such the graphical representation from Engeström (1987).
Once the startup module took off, we had several meeting brainstorming for the company purpose. This was an amazing experience, where we learnt how important is to welcome every idea and add value to those of other members. Being a group with no specific knowledge in any industry, our best approach was to listen to experts into different areas. During different stages of the company, this same process was needed to come with new ideas.
Following the brainstorming activities, we also had a class delivered about bodystorming, and its importance to understand better our customers. Though this activity, there is a chance to feel the problem of the customer, and therefore understand the problems they may face. During class, we used a chair to understand the problems faced by a disabled person around university.
I can personally state how these two tools for the generation of ideas are magnificent, and a team member may polish the most stupid ones you may have. For this reason, brain and body storming is a powerful mechanism to understand better your team members and obtain synergies working as a team.
To understand how our company is going to work, we have utilized two different business model canvases. Firstly, we used the traditional business model canvas to understand the structure of the company. Through using this model, we understood who is our market segment, and how are we going to deliver value to them. Also, it helped us to understand the revenue and cost streams to face, helping to understand the future cashflows of the company.
On the other hand, we have used the lean canvas model. This model is more focused on startups, and hence has been more helpful to start a company. By using this canvas, we have understood better our unique value proposition and our unfair advantage, also known as competitive advantage. To be aware of this advantage, the competition must be studied too.
We have used the business model canvas during the whole year in many situations, and it has resulted an amazing manner to understand the structure of a company in a single piece of paper. However, the lean canvas model has been an essential tool for My PA and Tyton (the two ideas our company One Minute went to Dragons Den with) to know the strategy to enter the market for our startup. Although it is true we do not carry this paper with us at every moment, having a mental image of it is a genuine way to know your market, how are you delivering value to them, your competition and why areyou better than them between other factors.
Focusing on the previous value proposition discovered in the previous section, we studied how were we going to deliver this value to customers.
For this purpose, the customer wants, needs and fears must be studied. With these three variables, we understand what are the internal mind processes that drive customers to the action of purchasing or not. According to these three, our company must adapt to deliver benefits, experience and features that help the customer.
Together with many other tools described later, these canvases are a mechanism to create a company´s strategy from scratch.
At this point, we had a structure and a strategy organized for My PA, the app we were decided bring to the market. However, we did not go to the market to test our idea with the public. We delivered the research in Kingston centre, Penrhyn road campus and Kingston Hill campus. After a market research, we discovered there were many people (mainly students) interested in being the labor force, but not so many customers willing to use the app. Apart from the willingness to use the app, it was really hard for them to overtake the fears presented previously.
In December, we attended our first Dragons Den, and we had our first chance to discuss our startup. It was a great experience to get feedback even before investing money into it. Together with our market research, the judges suggested us to pivot the idea, and for this reason we used Christmas to consider new ideas.
Thanks to this quick failure, we were able to pivot our idea and change the whole structure of the company without investing money. The pivot was towards a gym case, after finding a market gap where customers were facing a need.
At an initial point we focused on the features and design of our product, and prototyping as soon as possible to be able to show to the public.
For the first trade fair we printed a 3D model to show to the public. For technical reasons in the printer, the material got stacked and we only had one copy to show. This simple fact changed the whole sales strategy of our company and decreased efficiency. However, we could manage to implement our market research about the willingness to pay of customers. For our company, this was an invaluable market research delivered for free. As we implemented this research on a qualitative basis interviewing people interested, we found there were many other fields our product could be used into.
The second trade fair was unfortunately in one of the coldest days of the year, and it was performed outdoors. For this reason, it was quite hard to interact with customers. Our strategy with this trade fair was to handle as many business cards as possible. During this event, the most satisfying part was seeing our classmates finally selling their products to walkers on the street.
Finally, the last trade fair was performed in Penrhyn road campus. During this trade fair it was complicated to attract students to engage with us due to celebrations and our position. However, we managed to move around and introduce ourselves to students. The most important part of the trade fair was having a last chance to gather with the whole class for a last time.
Throughout the module, we have used plenty canvases to take strategic decisions of the company. The most highlighting case was on February the 2nd, when we used four different templates based on decision-making strategies and risk calculation.
On the top left corner, a ”radar” identifying the most likely and most dangerous risks our company has to dodge.
Our main risk was related with the marketing strategy, as focusing on a niche market (weight lifters) inside an already existing market segment (gym goers) was quite risky.
On the left bottom corner we have the journey for the following months, with the milestones to be achieved. The most important milestones to achieve are having the product manufactured soon and executing properly business-related activities.
On the right top corner we have a major risk analysis situation. We decided to focus on the lean startup approach we are focusing on, and the costs already incurred. Analyzing this situation, we understood we could have minimized some of the existing costs.
Finally, the bottom right picture is a decision-based chart analyzing the pros and cons of a given decision. By targeting a small niche market, we can capture more value added in customers and attract them for future products. However, a coming company competing on price imitating our product could easily take away our market. On the other hand, focusing on a broader market makes easier to achieve a higher volume of sales (more income), but having to compete in price and value to customers for different niche markets.
I have not only enjoyed using these tools during the year, but also found them really useful for the modeling of the startup strategy.
After many rehearse in pitching, we could finally face the judged in both competitions. Although we were quite confident after a long time of hard effort, we knew there is always floor for improvement. For this reason, we have always been looking forward for the feedback from judges.
In the case of Bright Ideas, we came the second in the product category. This was a huge success, as there were many ideas introduced to the judges.
The second competition was Dragons Den, where judges made questions to us after our pitch in private. From a team perspective, achieving successfully these events is arecognition of the hard work, and strengths the connection as a group and motivates us to keep going and achieve our best.
From a personal point of view, I consider both competitions essential for the module, as preparing for them are both a great opportunity and a path to learn through own experience.
During the YE event held after the last trade fair, we had the pleasure to be selected for the national competition in Loughborough on May the 9th. We are currently working with Fazl and Gerry for the competition, and enjoying the process.
Related to the learning structure of the module, we have had the pleasure to get to know professionals in different business areas. From the different ones I have attended, I highlight the talk from Shed Simove, whose entrepreneurial approach was really interesting. Also, I enjoyed the talk from Tony and his company fifty3. He talked to us through his career in the field, and gave us many practical examples about what to do (and avoid).
There is no manner to end this post without thanking their effort to our university professors and members of the staff, who made this journey possible. Also, to the YE members and judges for their help through the process of the startup. Finally, to the different speakers who were willing to give us some of their time, and every other person who has supported us through the journey.
First of all, I have learnt many theories. During the module, we have studied many different fields of the business, from design thinking to branding, strategy or risk dealing. Apart from learning the theory, we have used tools such as the canvases to put them into practice in our startup. As a future note to myself, the usage of them has been really useful for One Minute. Therefore, using them in the future has been essential.
Also, I have found really useful the experience of working as a team, and it will be essential for the future to lead other people if I have the chance. It has been great to learn how to encourage the flow of ideas, have an open mind to hear the rest and add value to the ideas from the rest.