Why we sprint
April 2021 Update: Sprint Week is now Launch Week, a part of High Alpha Innovation's Orbit engagement. To read more about the change, visit our blog post here.
In October 2018, I was invited to participate in my first High Alpha Sprint Week. As an external guest, I entered into the week with few expectations aside from the promise that we’d launch a company in less than a week. The thought seemed thrilling and impossible all at once.
Having spent years working at a B2C SaaS startup, I knew first-hand the challenges that exist for an early stage startup. How could we bring a new company to market in a week? That week changed the trajectory of my career. Months later, I experienced my second Sprint Week, this time as a member of the High Alpha team. From the inside, I saw a different side of our proven forcing function that we’ve used to launch more than 20 companies.
You might be familiar with the design sprint made popular by Google Ventures’ Jake Knapp. In this method, each day is broken into a specific set of activities to guide the participants through necessary steps of product validation.
High Alpha Innovation’s Sprint is also broken in phases that enable us to rapidly and systematically develop a pipeline of hundreds of ideas over the 6-10 weeks leading up to Sprint Week. From there, we select 2-4 ideas to run against each other in our intense, competitive, and often magical forcing function — Sprint Week.
Sprint Week kicks off on a Monday and ends with a full-day of pitches on Thursday. In 72 working hours a team designs a product, develops a pricing model, builds a go-to-market plan, and signs up beta customers. Come Thursday, teams present their findings to the entire team and each participant “invests” in a concept with a virtual vote. The next week, we launch a new company.
We come together at the start of the week to learn about each of the business concepts. We encourage people to fall in love with the problem, not the solution. We focus on the job to be done for one customer and one market. With a narrow, targeted focus we can develop a business around solving the problem at hand.
To create true focus, we shut down all other business operations for the week and put all hands on deck to fully engage with the Sprint. We turn on our email autoresponders, we prepare our families for late nights, and we work tirelessly on building the business. It’s a lot of work, but this focused energy yields incredible results.
A winning team
It takes a skilled team of experts to successfully launch a business, and this influences the way that we build out each Sprint Week team. We bring designers, marketers, entrepreneurs, finance and HR professionals, and business designers together to work alongside our corporate partners for the week. Teams are intentionally designed to include subject matter experts and entrepreneurs who are passionate about the space —and who could become co-founders upon company formation. This brings energy and a fresh perspective to the working team.
Every company leader knows that it’s important to talk to customers. However, we’re often hesitant to talk to customers before we have a product to put in front of them. In doing so, we miss out on the opportunity to validate their needs and to gauge their interest in buying.
We talk to an average of 50 prospective customers during a Sprint Week, and the data gathered from these conversations is a significant component as to why we are able to launch businesses so quickly. Customer validation of need, pricing, and usability gives us the conviction to move forward with a startup.
Conviction and a plan
On Monday of Sprint Week, we have nothing more than some preliminary research and a concept to explore. By the end of the week, we have expert conviction in the concepts that we decide to launch.
Once decisions have been made on which companies get the green light, our studio team goes to work recruiting the co-founding team, forming the business, and investing in the seed round — but we don’t stop there. Our platform is built upon the network and services that we provide to our companies. We lead the development of the new company’s brand and product. We provide operational support through financial planning, introductions to potential investors, recruiting, comp planning, HRIS setup and maintenance, and everything in between.
If you're interested in partnering with High Alpha Innovation to drive tangible innovation at your company, get in touch.