Bringing design thinking to early stage investment

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 09.33.05This graphic comes from a post on Venture Village about design thinking for startups but it should apply equally to investment companies.

Here at Forward Labs we are continuing to iterate and develop our investment product to make it more attractive to entrepreneurs. We offer a bundle of strategic advice, development services, marketing support, design advice, product management, office space and cash that are designed to dramatically increase the chances of an entrepreneur succeeding and we ask for an equity stake in his or her company in return.

I think we are doing well on a number of these design principles already, but there are a couple we could do much better on, mot notably making the product easy to understand. Exactly what is in the bundle?

Beyond highlighting areas that need fixing this framework is useful tool to make sure we are doing as well as we can across all aspects of our product design.


  • Richard Kelly

    Most VC firms sell themselves via bragging about their portfolio and what companies they’ve funded and it’s rare to hear of a VC firm that does more than provide the finance. The line from the Forward Labs website: “We’re not a VC. We’re not an incubator or accelerator. We invest in people, not ideas.” really creates a distinctive quality. I may sound like I’m sucking up but I love innovation too much, so I feel obliged to offer a compliment because other VC’s should be heading down this path. Funding is more available and accessible these days and VC’s need to realize they’re a second choice when compared to a group of Angel investors. It’s nice to see a firm tapping into this advantage. Entrepreneurs are full of ideas but it’s rare to see these ideas become a reality. Making an idea come to life requires so much more than funding. Angel’s know this and apparently so does Forward. Investment means much more than money πŸ™‚

  • Spot on in my opinion Nic – Congratulations and best of luck with all.

  • Thanks Richard. Can you say more about why “We’re not a VC. We’re not an incubator or accelerator. We invest in people not ideas.” resonates with you?

  • Richard Kelly

    Yes no problem.

    In my view, feeling like I am being invested in makes me more welcome and open to share ideas. It’s not rare for entrepreneurs to feel uncomfortable when asked to share any details or ideas with any VC’s or even certain Angel investors. This is because VC’s and Angels have the power to convert those ideas into reality. They have access to execution. Entrepreneur’s have very limited access to execution, making us very careful and wary of what we share and who we share with.

    No one is your friend in business and that rule should always be made clear. But feeling welcome and respecting others is more than important. There’s always going to be someone looking to create a carbon copy of your idea and this is why it’s important to expand and develop ideas. This requires tapping into the source of the idea – the entrepreneur. Having access to a safe environment/network could help make those developments outstanding.

    We only share what we want to share, because our ideas are all we have. Thus making them the most valuable asset we have. We are essentially Vaults. Investing in the person means you get access to the Vault.

    Money is very accessible. Entrepreneurs aren’t.

  • Thanks Jeff

  • That’s helpful, thank you. I ask because I’m not sure the message is accurate. In Labs we invest first and foremost in people, but it’s important that they have some ideas, mostly so we can see how they think. In Forward Investment Partners we are investing in companies where both the person and the idea are important.

    Trust and reputation are critical to what we do and we would never steal anybody’s idea. I would like to build a brand and find a form or words on our website which conveys that message whilst also getting across the fact that whilst the person is paramount their ideas are also important.

  • Richard Kelly

    Knowing how a person thinks is insight to their potential. The idea is always important, it’s the starting point of a business.

    The line “We invest in people not ideas” throws off the reader. Is it ok to be interested if you have no ideas? I think the best way to go about this is to exclude the “…not ideas” section altogether. My version would be:

    “We’re not a VC. We’re not an incubator or accelerator. We invest in the entrepreneur.”

    You could even make a short video which explains this line. (And yes, of course I have an idea for this, too).


    Multiple people pitching to a group of investors. In this group of investors is someone from Forward (let’s make it fun and say it’s you, Nic).

    The first entrepreneur enters the room, dressed in a suit. There’s a camera shot of the investors – all but one is smiling (that’ll be you not smiling, Nic).

    Another entrepreneur enters and they aren’t wearing a suit and tie, they’re dressed up as the Dr Who-type (jacket with elbow pads, fluffy hair – basically a mix of Matt Smith and the new ‘Q’ from Skyfall) the investors look him up and down and are unimpressed. You however, smile.

    The next shot is the line: “We invest in you. Not your fashion sense.”

    I may have had way too much fun thinking of this πŸ™‚

  • Thanks Richard. I had fun reading it. Maybe we will get to some fun videos one day πŸ™‚