At High Alpha, we’re in the business of creating businesses. So, how does our team repeatedly build conviction around the ideas we turn into startups? Concept Lab.
Concept Lab is a cross-functional team that systematically researches, vets, and validates ideas. For High Alpha, the ideas (or “concepts”) workshopped are B2B software companies that address an acute pain and fill a market need.
We explore a wide variety of industries to source ideas, and the Concept Lab team builds conviction around ideas through research, interviews with industry experts, and beta testing. When ideas come out of Concept Lab, they are either validated and ready to start, require further vetting through our Sprint Week process, or sunsetted due to lack of conviction.
This new and unique team is vital to our model’s success and has given rise to a whole host of exciting opportunities for High Alpha to explore.
The Principles of Concept Lab
We officially launched Concept Lab in July 2021, and we’ve vetted 300+ ideas since then. Below, I breakdown the principles that underpin how we operate.
1 . The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.
Each week, we introduce at least ten new, never-before-discussed ideas and advance the best ones. Next, we build conviction around a good idea by creating a well-researched, two-page brief. The team then chooses whether or not to move forward with the idea, and if chosen, we develop a “prototype” as a pitch deck. Pitch decks are the language of venture capital and contain each of the key elements of a well-conceived business.
Our weekly Pipeline Review meetings provide us the opportunity to discuss all ten new ideas and any new briefs and pitches which we selected to advance the week before. This pace allows us to move quickly, exploring new ideas while gathering conviction.
2. Every idea needs a champion.
Great founders have passion and conviction for the company they’re starting, even when those around them don’t agree. As co-founders, we need to have conviction and personal passions for the startups we develop out of our studio. That’s why we only advance ideas with internal “champions” who advocate for their future.
These champions are members of the High Alpha team who passionately believe in the idea and raise their hand to take on the extra work required to convince the rest of the team that it is worth turning into a business.
3. Focus on a thesis for the future, not the problem.
Great companies are built on the promise for the future. Yes, they solve a problem, but they don’t focus on it. Instead, they focus on the solution. That’s why, for all our briefs, we make sure we clearly articulate a vision for the future that extends beyond product features and problem statements. Any product features we propose support and strengthen our thesis for the future.
4. Conviction rather than consensus.
Think back to any unicorn company, and you’ll notice a common thread: not everyone thought it was a good idea, but they were proven wrong. You don’t create breakout SaaS companies by playing it safe, and that’s why we don’t believe in consensus or making decisions by committee.
While committees help you avoid risks, they also prevent true innovation. Peer pressure almost always comes into play, and at least some committee members are likely to go along with the group to avoid standing out. That’s why we index on conviction and evidence rather than consensus. Not everyone on the team will think every company we start is a good one, and that’s okay if there is one passionate and convicted champion armed with market validation and supporting evidence.
5. Provide a real example.
If we think something is a good idea, we validate it early and often. You might’ve read other posts on the High Alpha library about selling before you have a product. We apply that same principle to the ideas in Concept Lab by queuing up calls with industry professionals to ask, “if we build it, would you buy it?”
Ideas won’t progress if we can’t get a “yes” from someone who raises their hand and tells us exactly what they’d use our product for.
As we kick off the new year, the Concept Lab team would love to hear your big ideas and problems you wish software could solve. We will bring any new ideas through our Concept Lab process and reach out to collaborate more if the idea is a good fit for High Alpha. If you’re interested, just shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also subscribe to our High Alpha Beta’s newsletter to receive notifications every time we launch a new business.