Intrapreneurship Inside a Startup – Part 1

July 31, 2013 Yoav Schwartz

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “intrapreneurship”, it is used to describe an individual or group of people within a large organization that act like a startup. This is how big companies are combating the agility and creativity of small startups – by allowing people inside a process-heavy organization to have the freedom to create new products without all the red tape.

There are great examples of this all over the place – a local giant, Canadian Tire, has created ‘CT Innovations’ headed by my good friend and cousin-in-law Craig Haney where they’re improving the retail experience through digital solutions.

That being said, at Uberflip we did very much the same thing recently by developing a brand new product within our already small organization. I’m going to walk you through how we did it and what we learned in the process.

1. Manage your resources creatively

You may want to put all your eggs in this new shiny basket, but that’s dangerous. You have an existing product and customers to support and they’re not going to be happy if you’re not continuing to improve the product they paid for. So, unless you’re rolling in dough and able to just hire a second dev team, you’ll need to very carefully handpick the right people to work on this new product. For us it didn’t start out so smoothly. Me and one other developer took a very early crack at a prototype of Hubs, and although it was a flop, it taught us that we needed a better handle on what we were developing. So we hired a local company to help us with the UX/UI architecture and that gave us the opportunity to only press on the gas once we had polished specs to work off of. From there the focus was on effective project management, and most of all – realistic timelines – since there was always something urgent and unrelated to the new product that needed attention.

2. Figure out your messaging

Your current customers are going to get confused if they log in one morning and there’s this new product they’ve never heard of and doesn’t relate to what they’re paying you for. So, find a way to make it relative to them first before trying to figure out your messaging to the outside world.

Uberflip has always been about creating richer experiences from existing content. To date that content has started as a PDF, but with Hubs we’re allowing marketers to create engagement and drive leads from all their other content too. Since Flipbooks would essentially be one type of content you could incorporate into a Hub, we found a natural way to explain to our current user base what Hubs is – a home for all your Flipbooks, and more.

The truth is, if you can’t find a way to relate your existing product to your new one, you should probably ask yourself why you’re developing it… maybe it should live under its own separate brand.

3. Launch Slowly and Iterate Often

Here’s the best part of launching new products under existing businesses – you already have users!! This is a huge asset that should not be wasted. With Hubs, we launched (and as of this post are still) in Private Beta. This means only our existing, paying customers could partake in the beta. For us that’s around 1,000 engaged customers who are already spending money with us – so of course, they’re going to take a look at what they’re essentially now getting for ‘free’.

There’s no major rush – sure there’s always pressure from existing and future competitors, but with an existing paying user base you have the opportunity to learn and adjust your new product to meet their needs before introducing it to the world. While in private beta, we’ve been getting tons of useful feedback on Hubs and rolling out changes to it almost daily!

4. Dream Bigger

Now that you’ve successfully launched a new product within your startup, you essentially just expanded your offering, making your business less about 1 particular tool and instead offering a toolset for your core customer. Hubs, to me, is the next step in a laundry list of tools related to content marketing that we plan to bring our customers.

Now that we’ve learned how to effectively create a startup within our startup, I plan to repeat its success until we are a big organization where “intrapreneurship” will continue to be our secret weapon.

Good luck with your new initiatives and stay tuned for part 2 of this post, by my biz partner, and “Master of Analogies”, Randy Frisch.

About the Author

Yoav is the founder and CEO at Uberflip and is responsible for driving the mission, vision, and goals of the company. He spends considerable time working with his team to continuously delight and surprise Uberflip's customers.

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