When I talk with people about High Alpha, I frequently get asked the same question: How do you repeatedly come up with new business ideas? I decided to go straight to the source.
At High Alpha, our New Ventures team co-creates with founders and partners to turn problems and ideas into investable opportunities and scalable businesses. I sat down with Mike Langellier—serial entrepreneur and Operating Partner in charge of the New Ventures team—to talk about how his team operates and what they’re currently exploring.
What does the New Ventures team do at High Alpha?
New Ventures explores and evaluates new opportunities for software businesses we start, support, and invest in. Opportunities come from one of three sources: prospective founders, High Alpha team, or partners.
We love it when founder candidates come to us with a problem or market opportunity they are compelled to attack, and they want the speed and support that High Alpha Studio supplies. We come alongside them to help them rapidly assess the market and develop conviction about the product and business to build.
We also love to partner with VC investors or business leaders who spot a compelling problem or opportunity and whose expertise and network would give a startup competitive advantage. High Alpha affords these partners the opportunity to benefit as an advisor/investor as we purpose-build a winning business together.
What does your Exploration process look like?
Exploration is the first phase of our New Ventures process, during which time we dive deep into markets, problems, trends, competitors, and new technologies. We also do a burst of customer and expert interviews to validate our assumptions. We’ve curated a special set of tools, techniques and processes to do this thoroughly and quickly. We operate in weekly sprints; each week selecting which opportunities to advance, pause, or discontinue.
Once we develop sufficient conviction through Exploration about an opportunity and founder candidate, we advance them to Design phase–High Alpha’s signature Sprint Week. Sprint Week is an intense, exhilarating week, for which we assemble remarkable, cross-functional teams aligned to the business opportunities at hand and design product, business model, go-to-market strategy, and pitch deck, all of which we validate live with prospective customers. Afterward we decide whether to back and build the businesses.
This process not only helps High Alpha pick best-fit opportunities, it helps the prospective founders we assist build conviction around their idea and speed through this otherwise friction-filled, risky, and meandering phase of startup creation.
What types of opportunities are a good fit for High Alpha?
Our team’s operating experience and success has been in B2B SaaS businesses with an enterprise sales motion so that’s where we focus. Broadly, we look for:
- Feasibility: Can this technology be made?
- Viability: Is there a business and pricing model that will work long-term?
- Desirability: Is there a customer who wants and will pay for it?
Additionally, we ask “Why now?”. Is there a market shift, enabling technology, new law/regulation, etc. that is creating an opening and, ideally, tailwinds for a new business? We’ve distilled a handful of themes that are current interest areas for us right now because they have a “Why now?”.
- Disruption of Consulting: Brains-by-the-pound, billable-hour consulting work of many types can and should be software
- Rise of Sustainability: In order to meet Net Zero commitments and satisfy ESG requirements, businesses need tools to measure their carbon footprint and take action to mitigate or offset their carbon emissions
- Decentralization of Marketing: Web3 and blockchain companies need an entirely new suite of tools to understand and reach their customers’ and prospects’ wallets
- Evolution of Commerce: The long-tail of e-commerce merchants have been “armed” by Shopify, but need more firepower
- Liberation of Talent: Over the long arc of history, employees have progressively made out better and better and we expect software will be built to facilitate the continuation of this historical trend
How should aspiring entrepreneurs get in touch with your team?
Below are some ideas we are currently exploring. We update these regularly, so make sure to sign up for our Idea Alert Subscription to be the first to know about our new company opportunities. We’d love to hear from prospective founders, either for these ideas or your own. You can reach us here.