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Lone Founder Tunnel Vision

Some of you know that I was recently hired to build a startup for a large corporate.

We are using the lean startup playbook, ie look for a customer problem that’s big and relevant for the corporate to solve, generate product ideas in that space, ship a minimum viable product to the market, and growth/pivot progressively to scale.

So far so good. But there are a few things that are quite different in an intrapreneurship setup.

Here’s what I learnt from the first 6 months. Caveat that with the current design of our new venture building program, which we are continuously improving

The gold:

  • 1st class access to industry knowledge. Super accessible internal staff with decades of deep expertise and industry experience from most regions of the globe. Access to customers is as well much easier when you can wear the hat of a reputable global brand, than when you’re ranking at the bottom of crunchbase

  • Some chances to access an unfair advantage. Reality is (from my experience, and convergent feedback from peers) that’s is tricky to leverage, but in theory you could get, from your corporate host, things like cross selling to existing customer base, data or technology assets, ..

The green:

  • Lone founder tunnel vision. No co-founder, no external advisory board. Your corporate host may be a little secretive about it’s innovation portfolio and not let you leverage this classic and impactful trick from the startup world

  • Early support staff being allocated to you vs you hiring full time/hungry buddies. Don’t get me wrong, the guys I work with (UX, Dev, digital marketing or B2B sales) do have superb skills. But they are not as dedicated as folks hired specifically for a given startup, with shared passion for the mission, and equity compensation. Hey, rhyming words :D

  • Being on the payroll probably hurts speed. Despite working as hard and smart as I think I’m used to, I’m pretty sure I’m unconsciously more complacent than when paying the family bills was on the line

  • Politics is still a necessary evil. Unlike with a straight fund raise, in an intrapreneurial setting, your budget is never really your budget, and can be re-abitrated across the new venture portfolio. Based on your performance obviously, but as well on things like your corporate host ongoing financial health, or internal politics lobbying for increased funding on other projects.

I came up with ideas to improve these 4 green areas, but will wait for a week before putting this proposal to the head of our new venture building program's table, in case this inspires you clever design fixes – if so please do ping me an email.

K̶e̶e̶p̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶n̶k̶i̶n̶g̶, Start doing.

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