Owl

A community powered validation platform for B2C startups inside incubators. It connects communities with startups based on interests. Founders test their startups’ viability via community-sourced insights. The community discovers new startups and gets paid while interacting with them. Incubators observe the early traction and de-risk their portfolio of startups.

Innovative
STUDENTS INVOLVED
Berkin Gurakan
Deepu James
ABOUT
Self-Directed with Multiple Collaborators
CHALLENGE
Months of efforts behind building new solutions fail because they can’t generate the few insights they need from people whom they actually build for. In the UK alone, 42% of startup businesses fail because there’s no market need for their solution. What if we enable interested communities to help startups validate and reduce risk, so startups can adapt and deliver better solutions?
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PROCESS

EXPLORING OPPORTUNITIES

The project started with trend analysis and an exploration of emerging examples in the market around personal data sharing and digital privacy. To assess potential directions, 11 probable future scenarios and provocative concepts were refined. Having contextual interviews around those materials helped reveal pain points, aspirations and behaviours of consumers. Reflecting on the outcome with various experts from a telco, an open source cryptocurrency platform and a consultancy, we realised there is potential to build communities and crowdsource data for startups, incentivising individuals to share personal information and co-produce new business based on their sense of privacy and values, thus, supporting startups with responsibly sourced data so they can develop ideas and find winning directions faster, ultimately determining their success.

ITERATING TO REFINE A PLATFORM

First I prototyped a platform that helps startups crowdsource quantitative data in exchange of equity or long term discounts to their target demographic consumers. Consumers were highly interested to share their data based on transparent consents from startups. They were willing to share even more, including their opinions to help startups they care about, as there is a communal goal. However, the platform failed from the startups side. For startups, the challenge of finding early people interested in their business and generating deep insights from them is a more fundamental problem. They seek to validate their businesses and adapt fast to survive. This need is underserved today with enterprise-centric offerings, consisting of a bundle of conventional features used around existing consumers. What startups need are early people interested in their business and gaining continuous insights from them. So, the platform pivoted to help startups crowdsource easily digestible insights from early people interested to validate their business.

TESTING FOR FURTHER DEVELOPMENT

Owl offers three core elements as a platform. A community hub with startups’ propositions, matching people based on interests and starting collective discussions. Customisable question templates to crowdsource insights. Private chats between founders and the community for deeper insights on the go. Receiving positive feedback from 16 startups, I created a concierge MVP. 4 startups from different cities generated community hubs and asked questions to a community of 20 people. 156 responses were generated for 4 startups in minutes. Main feedback from founders was the ease and quality of such amounts of data in one platform. Zooming out, we realised VC’s and incubators are interested in per-startup payments to de-risk their portfolio and observe early traction. Continuously vetting emerging startups for validation generates circulation for the community to discover and support fresh startups. Existing dedicated people and experts around startups become members of Owl.

REFLECTIONS AND NEXT STEPS

Owl is presented with its minimal viable scenario, 4 initial case studies, and an implementation roadmap based on further validations and metrics. Exploring a platform with such magnitude I enjoyed developing various research and investigation processes for the different co-producers of the platform rather than focusing on a specific consumer. Strategically framing a new platform and testing it with various prototypes was what I enjoyed the most with this project. Lastly, any project is an opportunity for continuous outcomes; we are planning to run refined sessions of Owl as validation sprints with startups backed by an early stage VC and incubator in the following days.

special thanks

students involved on the project

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