As an innovation consultant helping big companies invent new things (one half of my life), occupational risk is the first small talk question – “What is your favorite innovation?”
I always turn it around to the questioner. About 50% of the time, the answer is the iPhone, and another 45% of the time it is another consumer product. The innovations that we touch, see and use in our everyday lives. Often characterized by design innovation.
But these are not the ones that turn me on. Instead of the iPhone (beautifully designed and functional, yes, but still just an evolution of the cellphones), for me the App Store is the real genius of Steve Jobs, unlocking endless features, recurring income for Apple and the real reason for it for a lot of people it would be a tough decision to give up on her phone or right arm.
If you are wondering, my most admired innovation starts with the ‘Starvationer’ (a boat from the 18th modern shipping container and the boats, trains, trucks and cranes that transport them.
Modern intermodal containers and the global trade that they enable and make efficient (i.e. cheaper) have changed our world – prosperity in developing countries, access to an unimaginable variety of products around the world, entire industries, workers and regions have changed. In 2019 there were 800 million TEU shipments (TEU is the “twenty-foot equivalent unit” that the industry uses to describe a standard container size). Take a moment to imagine this (I am surprised to think this is only one for 9 ½ people in the world). If you have to use the overused word “disruptive”, the shipping container is truly a disruptive technology.
Incidentally, this is also a matter of course at your own risk. As the Economist reported a few weeks ago, the average cost of shipping a standard large container (a 40-foot equivalent unit, or FEU) exceeded $ 10,000, four times more than a year ago. Another new friction in the supply chain that will take a while to work through.
The app store and the shipping container are both innovations in the operating model. Creating access, efficiency and / or value behind the scenes.
The other half of my life is an investor helping startups gain a foothold and grow. My advice to founders is to think as much about innovating your business model and business model as you do about innovating the things the consumer sees.
For example one of our portfolio companies – Bedfolk. A lovely proposition with a strong brand history and a stunning product (sleep in your linen sheets and realize it is everyday luxury that you didn’t know you needed). Two super-intelligent, curious founders who act persistently and are impatient to find the next improvement for their business. Hence, I love to see their 5 star reviews, see the sales numbers, see the constant stream of incremental improvements in their copy, voice, marketing and website, and see them gain trust to make bolder hiring decisions and To make bolder investments. But the thing that gave me goosebumps was when they spent a weekend with a hammer and saw.
Images are an important part of their marketing playbook – they drive heavy conversions and earnings from Facebook and Instagram. But photography is expensive, and it’s stressful and inflexible to pack it into a one- or two-day shoot. When Jo & Nick recently moved into their new fulfillment center in Cheltenham, they built a photo studio on the mezzanine – complete with a mobile second wall to create different room styles. This gives them stronger, more frequent content at a much lower cost.
Like the App Store and the shipping packaging, a backstage innovation that offers competitive advantages. What could be yours
Are you interested in equity investments?
The start-up series, hosted by smallbusiness.co.uk and Worth Capital, offers young companies the opportunity to raise equity of up to £ 250,000 each month. To learn more, go here.