At RADIUS Ventures, we like to say that this is a place for ‘Radical Doers.’ But what does that mean when we talk about launching, building, and growing social impact businesses? Over the last few months, I have given a lot of thought to how we design a curriculum for radical ventures. I wanted to share some of the values and philosophies that informed the RADIUS Ventures curriculum. Here’s how we have expressed the concept of a radical action orientation when it comes to our entrepreneurship curriculum.
RADIUS Ventures borrows from and combines three significant and current trends in business.
- Lean Startup (or Lean LaunchPad)
- Human Centered Design (or User Centered Design)
- Impact Enterprise (or social enterprise)
From Lean Startup, we adopt the principals of ‘startup activity as primarily search,’ ‘business model innovation,’ ‘small batch sizes,’ and ‘constant testing of our assumptions’ using ‘get out of the building user / customer research.’
From Human Centered Design, we get an emphasis on empathy-driven research—looking for the human emotions, needs, and desires—an overarching commitment to deep, radical collaboration on cross functional teams, and a time tested design process (of divergent and convergent problem and solution spaces).
IDEO, Google Ventures and others have opened their doors and shared their processes, learnings and methods for others to adopt and adapt. These methods have been proven not only effective as a set of practices over the history of design, but have been continuously refined as they are applied to many more areas beyond industrial design and urban planning.
From the emerging movement around creating impact enterprises, we commit to work with socially and environmentally impactful businesses with social and environmental sustainability at their core. We guide these businesses and organizations to meticulously measure their impact and demonstrate social as well as financial return.
Behind each of these themes and sets of related values, we have some key organizations that have helped to shape the direction of our thinking. This is by no means a complete list, but I thought that I might share some of the most significant organizations or techniques.
Steven Blank and many others within the technology industry have famously and generously shared their approach to making new businesses and we believe that Lean Startup is a powerful way to build a new organization, whether or not it is technology focused. One technique that has emerged as central to this approach is the Business Model Canvas—a flexible collaborative tool to enable a team to consider many variations on their basic business model.
Related to Lean Startup, the work of IDEO, the innovation and design consultancy out of the Bay Area that is famous for coining the term ‘Design Thinking’ when referring to their process and approach, has been very influential for RADIUS. Their social innovation related work is shared at OPEN IDEO and IDEO.org.
One organization that is doing a great job in paving the road towards accountability and measurability in the enterprise space is Mulago Foundation. Their CEO, Kevin Starr, has been outspoken about the need to cut through the jargon and just say simply what you do and how you measure it. His eight word mission statement has been blogged about by Harvard Business School.
Finally, a word about how we work that is aside from our philosophy, influences, or values. When we sign up a venture to join the RADIUS Ventures cohort, we develop a custom set of shared goals that we are driven to partner with each venture to achieve during the six month program. We believe that such a structured and focused approach improves both a firm’s strategy and its subsequent operational execution to have a lasting impact on our community and beyond.