startups

The Challenged Role of Ethnographic Consulting in Startup Centric Innovation

HEINRICH SCHWARZ Schwarz Innovation PechaKucha Presentation From a position of external consultant on user insights for a German innovation lab, I reflect on a shift in the way corporate innovation is done – from a user centric innovation process towards what could be called startup centric innovation. I have found the outcomes of this turn to be ambivalent – both for the innovation lab and myself. For the lab partnering with existing startups promised greater speed and access to fresh ideas, but has turned out to be rather difficult. For me, the shift has challenged my role and perspective as ethnographic consultant in more than one way. I have worried that a much needed user perspective may drift out of focus when getting prematurely outsourced to startups. But this new process has also been eye-opening; it has forced me to rethink my still linear view of the innovation process towards a more messy and simultaneous one where thinking about users needs to be integrated from day one with thinking about solutions,...

Meaningful Innovation: Ethnographic Potential in the Startup and Venture Capital Spheres

JULIA KATHERINE HAINES University of California, Irvine The aim of this paper is to explore the potential for ethnographic approaches in technology startups and the venture capital firms that support and control them. The current practices and model of innovation aim for “disruptive innovation,” but most efforts fall short, prioritizing mass diffusion and not focusing on where true disruptive innovation lies—creating a change in meaning. I argue that an ethnographic approach can lead to innovation of meanings, bridging the gap between radical innovation and diffusion, and creating disruptive innovation. I discuss some ways ethnography can help product innovation in the startup sphere. But, more importantly, I discuss how ethnography holds great potential for reshaping the VC field, by driving meaning into the VC I then highlight alternative viewpoints that move beyond the “realist” perspective. Keywords: Innovation, Technology, New Product Development, Finance...

Why Venture Capital Needs Ethnographers: Making Meaningful Innovation in the Startup Sphere

The DEMO Conference
by JULIA KATHERINE HAINES, Google Innovation in the startup world is broken. Startups say their aim is “disruption”—a riff on Christensen’s definition, but much less precise. “Disruption” has been appropriated by startups to mean doing something that has widespread, radical impact. They are about “changing the world.” They’re obsessed with the concept…but are failing on their own terms. Unless you believe “changing the world” means doing “the things your mom no longer goes for you” (Arieff 2016). There are services that deliver beer to your door. Services that deliver X to your mailbox every Y months (razors, underwear, dinner kits). Apps to locate a rentable...anything. Not exactly revolutionary stuff. Are we running out of good ideas for innovation? No, not really. There are plenty of startups with good ideas, but they face a huge number of barriers, and we seldom hear about them. The ones we do end up hearing about—well, those are the ones that got funding from venture capital firms (VCs)....

Goodbye Empathy, Hello Ownership: How Ethnography Really Functions in the Making of Entrepreneurs

HIROSHI TAMURA Re:public Inc. FUMIKO ICHIKAWA Re:public Inc. YUKI UCHIDA Re:public Inc. Human-Centered Innovation has come to be known as the central discipline in the entrepreneurial arena. Through three-years of directorship at Innovation Studio Fukuoka, a “citizen-led” innovation incubation platform in Japan, multiple approaches have been investigated and thus learned a successful to-be-entrepreneur him/herself has to co-own a concern with potential customers that evokes him/her a mission to pursue, that is beyond simply understanding customers with empathy. We witnessed ethnographic approach well facilitates the to-be-entrepreneur to meet an unaware yet intrinsic personal concern and nourish to co-own it with the customers. We also discuss what and how ethnographic praxis in industry can contribute to the entrepreneurial arena and propose a new role that we experienced ethnographers to take....

What Anthropology Brings to Innovation: John Sherry / A Profile

John Sherry
EPIC Profiles Series by HEATHER S. ROTH-LOBO, University of North Texas John W. Sherry, Director the Experience Innovation Lab at Intel Corporation, is a Keynote Speaker at EPIC2016—join us! “Anthropology is really undersold.” Dr. John Sherry’s words carry weight—he is Director of the Experience Innovation Lab at Intel Corporation. In addition to discovering ways to power innovation in this major multinational technology company, he works in Portland leading Oregon Smart Labs, an external business accelerator. I recently talked with John about innovation, big data, and lean startup. He has made it part of his life´s work to interpret the way markets move and ideas shift around, and his intimate understanding of these dynamics has been driven by his passion for solving social problems with a creative imagination. The mixture of these elements paved John’s successful career as an established anthropologist in a company known for and reinventing computing around the world. Anthropology is not only undersold,...

The Ritual of Lean

Three forms of cultural capital from Bordieu 1986
by JULIA KATHERINE HAINES There are many ways to view Lean. Lean is a business science. It is a product development method. And in many ways, it is a communication medium. In my research with startups, I’ve also heard Lean referred to as a religion. If Lean is a “religion” in the new startup era, I’d like to propose another way to view Lean in practice. In this piece, I will show how Lean as a practice within startups fits the mold of a ritual—and how impactful such rituals can be. But I also want to suggest how Lean as a ritualized, or routine, practice can be problematic. But first, a little background on Lean. On Lean I have been studying startups that are participating in accelerator programs globally. Through my experience and close examination of startups and innovation, I found an underlying thread that connects them—it is, invariably, Lean. Lean Startup helped spur a startup mania around the globe. It was the first model to really describe startup creation as a science. The concept of Lean traces its roots...

Iterating an Innovation Model: Challenges and Opportunities in Adapting Accelerator Practices in Evolving Ecosystems

JULIA KATHERINE HAINES Startup accelerators have expanded worldwide in recent years, fostering the development of technology startups and spreading Lean practices and Silicon Valley values to all corners of the globe. These accelerators clearly create value—for the teams whose development they foster, the products they create, and the larger ecosystems they build. But there are also a number of challenges arising from the model and how it is implemented in different contexts globally. Through fieldwork at accelerators in Singapore and Buenos Aires, I investigate the global expansion of this innovation model. In this paper, I discuss the most salient challenges and discuss potential opportunities emerging from these challenges, and how other methods and practices such as design thinking, intensive user research and flexible, bottom up-approaches can add value to the accelerator process. I also highlight mutually beneficial ways the EPIC community can become more involved in startups ecosystems....