Peer Insight Ventures Spotlight: An Interview with Natalie Foley

I got to learn more about Peer Insight’s new corporate innovation practice, Peer Insight Ventures from Natalie Foley, Partner. Natalie talks about the “ego check” that exploring new opportunities requires and how we help our clients navigate the emotional and functional journey of bringing new services to market.

What is Peer Insight Ventures?

NATALIE: for 13 years, we've been helping clients move from concept to reality. This is a journey, and like all journeys, it varies as you travel. At the beginning, middle and end of your journey, you use different tools, rely on a slightly different mindset, angle your map differently, encounter different people and meet different traps. Peer Insight Ventures focuses on the middle and latter stages of this innovation journey.

The first part of the journey is hard, but the 2nd half is harder. And less traveled. Our clients who have come out of the first part many times, but stumbled in the rest of their journey, wanted a place that housed “sherpas” experienced in this back half and wanted to walk the journey with us to learn it themselves and hone inside their organizations. We built Peer Insight Ventures to share the knowledge we’ve learned alongside our clients.

How would you define our approach?

NATALIE: As I mentioned, we see ourselves as sherpas to clients in this back half of their journey, where they are going from concept to first-dollar-in-revenue. Typically, an organization’s journey from concept to first-dollar-in-revenue is to leap from concept into a small-ish commercial pilot requiring a solution and a very high fidelity prototype (or the real thing.) Though the path is worn and familiar, it is expensive, risky and not a surefire path to success.

Our clients choose to travel in a different way than usual. One where we know our final destination, but haven’t built the road yet. We know that we want customers that can’t live without it and a solution that hits our revenue targets, but not sure which way to go to get that. So we make that path by:

  • Taking stock of what we know and don’t know. What we don’t know we treat as assumptions to test. What are we not entirely sure of about our customers’ needs? What are not entirely sure about in our proposed business model?
  • Running several small experiments. Throw out some new paths and test them out for 2 weeks. Gather data and listen to it carefully.
  • Looking at your compass. The data you just gathered tells us which way to go. Sometimes we note this as a pivot if it bends our path in a different we didn’t expect initially.
  • Moving in that direction for a short period. And then repeating these steps.

What are some of the challenges companies face in acting more “entrepreneurial?”

I find companies, and entrepreneurs, struggle to be more entrepreneurial because we’re all so darn human.

Even in a small brainstorm, once you write that Post-It and slap it up on the board, or share an idea out loud at a meeting, there's some really strange emotional attachment that you have to it. Even if the idea popped into your head only 2 minutes ago.  Magnify that attachment by 500 when you have a strong company and brand, a few users who say they like it, hold a title of someone who is supposed to know what to do, and it gets really hard to have the discipline to say, ‘you know what, this might be a good idea, but I really don't know yet.’ That takes a real separation and a real ego check. Seeing clients show real humility during in-market experiments is inspiring each and every time because of how hard that is.

Peer Insight really tries to honor that ego-check and tries to sort of replace that emotional attachment to an idea with an emotional attachment to a good test resulting in really good data. In this way, you build confidence, which is a more powerful emotion. Hearing a client say they are a more confident than they were 30 days ago, based on what they’ve learned, is our goal.

Read another perspective on Peer Insight Ventures from Kathi Hendrick and drop us a line to chat more about our approach at cmaxwell@peerinsightventures.com.  

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