Start With People: Building Digital Ventures the U+ Way

September 8, 2022

The global marketplace is evolving faster than ever. Organizations that evolve in tandem will improve their chances of remaining competitive and ultimately securing their future. Organizations that refuse to change will remain stagnant and die out. In a time of pervasive digital disruption and immense global challenges, victory goes to companies that make decisive moves, while businesses that stay still risk losing everything.

Sean Sheppard, Managing Partner at U+.

A quick look at business history reveals how ruthless these dynamics are. In the 1950s, the average age of an S&P 500 company was 60 years; today it’s under 20 years. Less than half the Fortune 500 companies from the year 2000 still exist. Since the pandemic, many of the world’s top brands have struggled to remain relevant in the face of digital transformation and shifting consumer preferences. The rate of change is so fast and furious that even the most established organizations are turning to startup principles and processes in a bid to stay nimble and relevant.

Most expensive slide decks end up warehoused and forgotten.

Common sense says a large established company should be able to launch a profitable new venture with ease. They most likely have abundant talent and resources, a huge customer base, high brand recognition, and successful revenue models. But even with all these advantages, many businesses lack the agile nature and growth mindset that are essential to innovating from within. To compensate, they often hire consultants that charge thousands of dollars per presentation slide. Their return on this sizable investment: a slick deck full of clever quotes and gorgeous graphs that will end up in a folder full of similarly commissioned and forgotten decks.

The rate of change is so fast and furious that even the most established organizations are turning to startup principles and processes in a bid to stay nimble and relevant.

Eventually, these companies realize they don’t have the internal teams and processes required to plan, build, iterate, and scale new business ventures successfully. This understanding should bring to light the value of working with a strong venture-building studio that has a proven track record of bringing new businesses to market. Corporate venture builders like U+ provide firms with the entrepreneurial talent, technical know-how, lean startup mindset, and cross-industry experience they need to effectively develop and commercialize new ventures, all without jeopardizing their core business and brand.

The U+ Solution

U+ is a leading global corporate venture-builder that helps companies develop, launch, and scale profitable new businesses. Our remote team focuses on product development, technology, design, commercialization, and market adoption across every stage of the innovation lifecycle. To date, we have brought 100+ successful businesses to market, creating over $1 billion in value for our clients.

At the heart of our approach to innovation is the U+ Method, a step-by-step product development framework for turning ideas into profitable businesses. This framework draws on Silicon Valley product-building best practices, as well as our own experience successfully launching ventures across multiple industries.  

The following simple principles explain, in part, why U+ innovations have such a high success rate and why our clients are so happy: we put people over products, and we use stage-relevant teams.

People Over Products

U+ focuses on markets and people, not just products and technology. Far too many innovators begin with a solution then look for a problem it might solve. This method simply doesn’t work. A new solution or piece of technology, no matter how clever, provides no value if it doesn’t meet a clearly defined market demand. 

Since user adoption is the only relevant success factor, we start by talking to customers, learning about their problems, and understanding their behavior. Before we write even one line of code, we conduct thorough market research, run value discovery sessions, form and test hypotheses, and set up feedback systems to ensure a new product will offer real solutions to real users.

This people-first, problem-first approach de-risks the entire innovation process, reducing potential points of failure down the line, and ensuring that, if necessary, we can pivot quickly at little cost.

Stage-Relevant Teams

As an organization matures, it tends to adopt a fixed mindset characterized by status quo bias and long decision-making cycles. These are the wrong conditions for developing a market-ready product effectively and quickly. 

Enter stage-relevant teams—teams that can innovate cheaply and quietly outside your core business, operating like a semi-independent startup under your organizational umbrella. Stage-relevance ensures you have the right people executing the right tasks at every step in your product’s lifecycle.

As an organization matures, it tends to adopt a fixed mindset characterized by status quo bias and long decision-making cycles. 

U+’s stage-relevant teams move quickly and efficiently, while adhering to a growth mindset. We run daily standups, weekly insights reviews, and monthly steering committee meetings to help make decisions efficiently while keeping all stakeholders informed and aligned. 

In short, the U+ Method aims to weave startup DNA into the corporate venture-building process from day one. We’ve used this approach for over a decade to help some of the world’s leading corporations develop profitable and scalable new business lines—and we’re always learning.

To find out how U+ can help you bring your next digital venture to market, reach out to us


Sean Sheppard is Managing Partner at U+, a digital venture-building firm that offers a variety of solutions for corporate clients. U+ is one of InnoLead’s strategic partners.