Lessons From The Lab

Lessons From The Lab
June 9, 2022 Nobody Studios
lab

Written by Chiara Burns, Idea Sorceress & Head Storyteller at Nobody Studios

 

If you’ve been around these parts before, you already know what Nobody Studios is about. We’re a bunch of mad hatters building 100 companies in 5 years. 

What you may not know is how we’re doing it. 

The TLDR version: Through our proprietary Frugressive model, Crowd Infused™ collaboration, a healthy dose of irrationality, and a sprinkling of synchronicity, we are venturing where no venture studio has ventured before. Huzzah! 

Today, I’d like to dive a little deeper into the lessons coming out of our Frugressive process. 

 

The Frugressive Model

Our not-so-secret sauce is our proprietary Frugressive model. Frugal + Aggressive. 

We aim to launch and scale each NewCo for less than $250,000. That means we have to be very discerning about which business ideas are valid. A mix of metrics, intuition, and action is always necessary. 

We’re also not afraid to kill a business that isn’t working; split it into two businesses if it’s too big and hairy; merge it with another business if there’s overlap, or even swap talent between NewCos. We think of these as the superpowers of a venture studio because no other entity can move with this level of speed and agility. 

So, what exactly is the Frugressive model? 

Frugressive is the process by which we take ideas – whether they’re good, bad, half-baked, quarter-baked, or raw as cookie dough – validate them, and create compelling companies out of them.

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Frugressive is divided into fives stages: 

  1. Ideate (define the business)
  2. Concept (test the market)
  3. Launch (go to market)
  4. Optimize (tweak the dials)
  5. Scale (leave the nest)

Each phase is allotted a specific budget and list of assets that need to be created. 

For example, in the Concept phase, our checklist might look something like this: 

  1. Business canvas
  2. Financial model
  3. Dashboard & analytics
  4. Product dossier
  5. Hatch deck
  6. Weekly updates
  7. Wedge doc
  8. Brand assets
  9. Marketing assets
  10. Tech stack
  11. Product roadmap
  12. Market research and validation

All of these assets must fall within the $9,000 budget for this phase. Additionally, it must be reviewed and approved by our board of incubation specialists in order to pass to the next phase.

 

Finding the Perfect Hand-Off 

One of our most exciting challenges at the moment is figuring out exactly what deliverables need to be completed at each stage in order to create a seamless hand-off. For example, I work predominantly in the Idea Lab (the Ideate phase). Questions we’ve been grappling with in the Lab include:

  • When is an idea developed enough for the concept team to run with it? 
  • Should a comprehensive competition analysis begin in the idea phase or concept? 
  • Which assets conceived of in the Ideate phase can become “living documents” that evolve as they pass from phase to phase? 

The answers have varied with each NewCo we’ve played with so far. For example, some business ideas simply won’t make sense without a mockup of the product. Others can be communicated in a handful of slides with copywriting and stock images. 

What we’re finding is that the lines between Frugressive phases are more fluid than distinct. However, we are using each NewCo as a learning opportunity to hone in on the standard assets that prove most useful for hand-off. 

It’s a gentle tug-of-war between “this is the shit we have to have” and tailoring the process to each unique NewCo. It’s a communication game that involves respecting the standards, systems, and processes…while also being flexible about what’s truly needed for a hand-off. 

It reminds me of a good piece of choreography, where the dance is standardized but leaves room for creative expression and improvisation. 

Behold, the Frugressive Boogie.🕺

With each NewCo, we’re deepening our understanding of what makes an idea hand-offable. We’re honing in on how best to align and communicate on the ideas coming down through the pipeline so that there are never any surprises. And as we make more of the right hires, this process has further crystallized.  

 

Defining a Nobody

Figuring out how to standardize the building of businesses is not just a question of “what assets do we need?” It’s also a question of “who will create those assets?” One challenge we’ve run into is finding people who are both strategists and executors. Many people tend to do one or the other well. It’s a rare breed that can tackle both. 

Finding people like this is not a hurdle unique to Nobody Studios. That ability to think strategically and execute efficiently was something that the CEO of my last company strongly emphasized in her hiring process. I spoke with another startup CEO/CPO just the other day, who bemoaned this same issue. 

This challenge of finding people who are both capable of strategy and willing to execute is endemic to the world of startups. In enterprises, you can get away with being either a strategist or an executor, because those roles are what the classical corporate structure is predicated upon: the people up top shout orders, and the people down bottom scurry to carry them out.

Anyone who’s worked at a startup knows that things work a little differently here. The CEO is still the vision keeper, but beyond that, employees tend to have a lot more freedom and responsibility than in a traditional corporate setting. 

This is especially the case in a place like Nobody Studios, where the rebellious streak is about a mile-wide and we recognize that good ideas can come from anywhere – the CEO, the intern, or anyone in between. 

The more we build, the more we learn which kinds of personalities/roles thrive in our maverick ecosystem. We are initiators, people who seek responsibilities and ownership of deliverables. There is no room for non-contribution here. 

And that’s what I’d love to talk to you about next time: the Nobody ecosystem. Core to our philosophy is being Crowd Infused™. As we gear up for crowdfunding in late spring/early summer, we plan to make room for thousands of equity crowdfunders who will be integrated into our ecosystem in a spectacular way. 

And just like Frugressive, Crowd Infused is yet another process riddled with challenges and their subsequent lessons. 

All of this is coming together in a way that makes me thrilled to get out of bed every day. As we like to say, Nobody Studios is the kind of adventure you’ll want to tell your grandkids about. 

And next time, I’ll tell you all about how to be a part of it!

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