BCG Digital Ventures
aunching a startup from scratch is never easy, but the journey can be incredibly rewarding. Yvette Bellamy, the People and Operations Director in North America at BCG Digital Ventures (overseeing offices across Los Angeles, New York, Silicon Valley and Seattle) and Hicham Mhanna, the VP of Engineering, shared some essentials with us on building up a business from the ground up.
First, they believe that staying lean in the early days – in the operational sense and in terms of not building more than you need – is important to keep in mind. Conserve your resources and focus on finding a product-market fit. “You can outsource almost anything operational until you’re ready to scale, and it’s okay to not have all that figured out in the beginning,” says Yvette. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to experts to ensure you’re on point but remember not to overengineer your operations.”
Founded in 2014, BCG Digital Ventures builds and invests in startups alongside its corporate partners. Ventures in their portfolio include Regi (a booking platform for medical aesthetic and beauty treatments, built alongside pharmaceutical company Allergan) and HeyCar (an online platform for used cars, launched in partnership with Volkswagen Financial Services in Germany). Bringing startups and corporates together in their ventures means both parties can learn from each other during the process. Most of BCG Digital Ventures’ team members, who are spread across its seven centers in Manhattan Beach, Berlin, London, New York, Sydney, Shanghai and Tokyo, consist of former startup founders and employees.
“Our methodology takes the mindset of a startup and applies it to the assets of a corporate, meaning a corporate has an accessible way to practice innovation and the startup has a higher chance of success,” says Hicham. For instance, startups can learn about being proactive in thinking about risks and good scenario planning, while corporates can learn about allowing ideas and innovation to thrive without working in silos and ensuring they have permission to fail.
For fledgling entrepreneurs trying to get their business off the ground, Hicham advises them not to think about technology as a means to an end. “The goal isn’t to build technology just to build it,” he says. “Remember that tech serves a much bigger role, like solving major pain points in sectors such as healthcare or logistics, to name a few.” In addition to working with and supporting the firm’s engineering teams to build innovative products for corporate partners, Hicham is a general manager (GM) for one of BCG Digital Ventures’ startups in the AI and machine-learning space. He explains that being a GM for a venture or startup means taking the responsibility of executing a strategy from beginning to end.
You can outsource almost anything operational until you’re ready to scale, and it’s okay to not have all that figured out in the beginning.
A startup is nothing without the people behind it. That’s why hiring a passionate and talented team is critical to the success of your business. “You don’t need a cofounder for the sake of it,” says Yvette, who works on understanding what people and operations infrastructures are needed at BCG Digital Ventures in order to continue to scale the business. “You can back yourself up by having a great team of people around you, but don’t forget to give yourself the flexibility to change the team up if you need to as your business scales.”
In Los Angeles, BCG Digital Ventures is very active in the startup community. The team hosts a number of meetups and hackathons for entrepreneurs, many of which provide a platform for innovators to demo their technology. “The unique startups we create here have a higher likelihood of success than the average startup,” says Hicham. “We build these companies with influential businesses from around the world that can bring resources, brand equity, an existing customer base and other assets to the table.”
Most important tips for startups:
- Keep your startup lean at the beginning of your journey. Conserve your resources. The early days should be about finding a product-market fit and validating your idea. Don’t spend your hard-earned or hard-raised money building something you don’t need.
- Remember that technology isn’t just a means to an end. Don’t build technology just to build it; tech should serve a bigger goal and solve a problem in a sector or industry.
- Surround yourself with a great team of people. Hire a dream team of people who believe in the product or service you’re offering and complement each other with their skills.