In an earlier post, I wrote about why ReadyTalk created UbiMeet, a personal productivity tool that helps people save time and be more productive. Ubimeet simplifies pre-meeting preparation and automates post-meeting deliverables.
A few days after I wrote that post, Lead Engineer Luke Evans and I presented at Denver Startup Week. Our talk was entitled “The Hand that Feeds You: Starting an Intrapreneurial Venture”. Prior to starting at ReadyTalk, Luke was the technical co-founder of a tech startup in Boulder, and I was a product designer in the Innovation department at a 15,000-person global organization.
The following outlines the factors that lead to our success in working on this pilot project.
1. Funding: Being financially supported by a parent organization meant we could focus on building the product itself, not spend time trying to convince funders we were capable of building it. We decided upon a model where the team was given a steady monthly allowance to cover expenses so we could operate somewhat autonomously and quickly.
2. Return on Investment: ReadyTalk was interested in the UbiMeet product concept for more than just direct revenue generation. As the product is complementary to ReadyTalk’s core audio and web conferencing business, UbiMeet can also with lead generation and lower the cost of acquisition for ReadyTalk’s main business. We also figured out how to design and launch a new product with a small internal team. These non-financial returns were also factored into the success criteria for this project.
One consideration of being supported by our parent organization, however, was that we were limited in how much we could pivot from the original idea and still have it be of interest to ReadyTalk.
3. Being part of ReadyTalk gave us the opportunity to tap into the Expertise of those around us. At the same time, we had the flexibility to seek out external resources or adopt new practices if it meant we could move more quickly. We recognize that different teams have many competing priorities, and it can be hard to expect teams not to focus on what are already profitable initiatives for the parent company.
4. Before we introduced UbiMeet to the world, we had to decide how we wanted to represent its relationship to the ReadyTalk Brand. Initially we launched it as a separate entity so that we could make our own mistakes that wouldn’t reflect on ReadyTalk, and we wouldn’t be subject to the expectations that ReadyTalk customers would have. I also didn’t want us to receive too much support and positive feedback from ReadyTalk’s existing customer base. I wanted to see if UbiMeet could be a success on its own without that brand lift.
Eventually, however, we did release under the Ubimeet name (hence why you’re reading this here). This gave us the validation that we’d done good work, and it allowed ReadyTalk to showcase its new product confident that many of the kinks had been worked out.
5. Compensation can vary widely between startups and innovation groups. We decided to make things easy on everyone and not make any changes to compensation for this program. Luke and I received our pre-UbiMeet salaries as we developed this product. Given the fact that make of the returns were non-financial, an equity-split on the revenues of the product didn’t align with the value we were offering the company. Should the company decide to scale up this program and have several teams working on new products at once, there may have to be some changes to the compensation model so ReadyTalk is better balancing its investment portfolio. But for our initial pilot, this was the quickest way for us to getting something in place.
To recap, here is our Recipe for Intrapreneurial Success:
1. Create a dedicated team and pay them a steady salary
2. Give an allowance to remove roadblocks
3. Consider non-financial success criteria
4. Establish a separate brand to insulate the parent company
5. Leverage existing knowledge when available
(but don’t depend on it or expect it)
I welcome any questions or comments on how we introduced intrapreneurship into ReadyTalk. Of course, we’d also love your feedback on UbiMeet! Sign up for free at Ubimeet with invite code “readytalk” for immediate access.