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Author's profile photo Jochen Guertler

A startup is more than a business model canvas

Last week I had the chance to run together with my colleagues Michael Koegel and Laura Gabrysiak Gomez (who created the wonderful visual recording below) a 2-days workshop with 15 social entrepreneurs. This workshop was the starting point for their 4 months scholarship within the social impact start program, which is supported by SAP as part of its CSR activities.

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As we did this kind of workshops in the past several times in different setups and domains, we decided to iterate this time a little bit – both content-wise and also regarding the location. We therefore invited all entrepreneurs to the SAP office in Mitte and used the brand-new design thinking space there as inspiring and flexible environment for our 2 days journey. This design thinking space is available for customer workshops and if you are interested in booking please contact one of my colleagues of our Berlin team like Moritz Gekeler or Rainer Matthias.

Content-wise we did a small experiment as we worked with the startups and their ideas on the two days without filling out even one single business model canvas. The canvas is a great and important tool and should be definitely be part of every innovation workshop toolset, but as we in the past too often had the impressions that the canvas is too often used too fast or too general we decided to skip it this time completely.

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But instead we invested time in learning as much as possible about the potential users and their needs. This empathy work is key and “going out of the building” is pure fun in case you are located in a space in Berlin Mitte. No problem to find all kind of users: the grandma, the school girl, the musician on the street, the mother with her kids, the foreign student. All are available and therefore this part was really meaningful for all of our entrepreneurs.

As always we combined the concrete project work and exercises with more theoretical inputs and one highlight of the workshop was definitively the presentations of the iterated projects ideas based on the learnings from the empathy work. Using lego, role plays, 3-d paper prototypes or visual story boards we saw a bunch of really cool ideas – and was is even more important in this stage from my point of view: we understand really for whom they would like to solve which pain point or need.

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After a refreshing improvisation dance with Dr. Dance – definitely my all time favorite energizer! – we focused on one very relevant (sometimes the most important?) aspect of a startup – the team!

Who is in team, what are the strengths and week points, which skill sets do we have, what is missing? Which personalities do we bring together in our startup and what do we have to keep in mind based on this? How can we become both a creative and effective team? How can we work together although or due to the fact that we are also good friends?

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We used the Belbin team roles to make all entrepreneurs aware that there are different personalities. We talked about how to setup a collaborative task planning and also we talked about our best practices how to combine hard work with a lot of fun.

In the end everybody agreed that the 2 days were very well invested into a more holistic perspective to a startup. And I promise: the next time we will create again also a business model canvas 😉

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      Author's profile photo Tobias Schimmer
      Tobias Schimmer

      This certainly true as as finding a repeatable business model is more than filling out a BM canvas once 😉 Cheers, Tobias.

      Author's profile photo Deepa Iyer
      Deepa Iyer

      Hi Jochen,

      Thank you for sharing your non-BMC workshop experience for startups. I think there is no one perfect tool that works- we have to try out different techniques to see what works as each challenge is unique :-).

      Could you also share some details on what the next steps are? How do the participants take the outcomes of the 2 day session and translate it to actionable steps for their startups?



      Author's profile photo Jochen Guertler
      Jochen Guertler
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Deepa,

      thanks for your feedback.

      The social impact start program runs in general 8 months in total. After 4 months there is a checkpoint and some kind of review with a steering board to check the progress. During all time the startups have coaching for special topics like finance or law issues. Besides that every startup has a mentor from SAP.

      Besides working on iterations of the startup ideas using persona and concrete prototypes we invested also time to let them discuss the next steps and also how they would like to plan their work.

      Due to time limitations this part was most probably too short to be honest.

      Best regards