Commercialize Your IP With A Lean Startup Mindset: 6 Keys to Accelerate Time to Market

 

GenUI

GenUI is a digital product and tech commercialization firm. We build innovative solutions that accelerate technology roadmaps and deliver real impact for clients and their customers.

Updated Jan 22, 2021

Turning IP Into Software Products Is About More Than Technology

If your business builds digital tools or extracts data insights, you probably have intellectual property (IP) that you can commercialize as software--with the potential for major new revenue streams. But commercialization can be tricky for incumbent organizations. That’s because the startup mindset is fundamentally different. 

In our experience, successful commercialization starts with validating an idea against a market need using the simplest version of the value proposition (often referred to as the minimum viable product, or MVP). Then, you iteratively build and validate the product with real-world users. This is the methodology detailed by Eric Ries in his book, “The Lean Startup.”

Embracing Experimentation

We’re not talking about forming a brand-new company here. Approaching a challenge as a lean startup is a mindset and methodology. Established companies can do it, too. However, they have to make a shift from traditional product development practices, which typically involve a long period of research and development before product meets audience. Taking IP from concept to commercial success quickly requires learning as you go rather than trying to finish before you launch.

Dropbox is a famous example. Founder Drew Houston faced an uphill battle convincing investors to back his file-sync product because they fundamentally didn’t understand it. The actual product was in prototype stage, so he made a video showing how the user experience would eventually work. This drove a huge increase in beta signups and helped get the product to market.

Six Keys To Rapid Commercialization

This is an extreme case where the MVP wasn’t even a usable product--it was just a simple video. The key insight, as Ries puts it, is that “unlike a prototype or concept test, an MVP is designed not just to answer product design or technical questions. Its goal is to test fundamental business hypotheses.” That only happens when you can engage with the end user.

Many organizations see commercialization opportunities but find it challenging to adopt a startup mindset in the face of existing commitments, processes, and financial targets. At GenUI, we specialize in helping organizations overcome these challenges. We do it by bringing in our own team of product, design, and software specialists who work in a lean startup mode every day. We also help our customers develop these capabilities internally. Through these practices, we’ve identified six characteristics common to companies who succeed at commercialization. Let’s take a look.

  • Safety culture: Successful businesses tend to want to keep doing things the same way. Creating a new product, on the other hand, requires a greater appetite for risk and learning. This is enabled by a culture of safety where people can take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed. Building this from scratch inside an organization where people are measured on revenue targets can be difficult, which is one reason for bringing in an outside vendor who can be evaluated on the progress of innovation.

  • Iterative validation: This is the practice of creating an MVP as the starting point for learning and then testing it with real customers to refine it over time. Essentially, it’s applying the scientific method to the practice of product development, testing and refining hypotheses through experimentation. How challenging this is depends on your current approach to products.

  • Product story: An iterative approach must be driven by some idea of how your product will deliver value to end users. If your IP will have the same users externally as it does internally, you can build on what you already know. If you’re targeting a new audience, you may have to build a new understanding of the audience. Research is important here. The neutral perspective of an outside consultant can help.

  • Clear business case: As with a startup, having a clear roadmap to profit is critical to success. How will you monetize the product? How will you market it? How much will you charge? Who are your target buyers? Approach it with an open mind rather than the constraints of your existing market.

  • Dedicated resources: Commercialization projects that are simply added to existing responsibilities typically fail because people are just too busy. Dedicated resources are essential, gained either by hiring, dropping other projects, or bringing in a partner.

  • Willingness to transform: If the market comes back and says your product-idea doesn't work, you can either give up or learn and try a new approach. A willingness to let go of outdated preconceptions is essential to converting minor setbacks into long-term wins. 

Get Your Lean Startup Started Up

You might be sitting on millions of dollars in potential revenue locked up in your IP. The fact is, most commercialization projects stall not because the IP is poor, but because the company has trouble shifting from incumbent to startup mindset. And time is of the essence: the first to market has a big advantage. 

That’s why it can be a good investment to connect with a commercialization specialist like GenUI. We bring a lean startup methodology from the beginning, helping you get your innovation to market faster. This also reduces risk to your core business, because it makes commercialization a discrete effort that can be managed separately.

Don't let your IP become a languishing asset. Get in touch with our team and let's build the future together.