How Do I Come Up With a Good Idea for a Net Zero Startup?

In this video, Chris Coleridge, our CEO, will talk you through four answers to the question “where do good ideas come from?” with specific application to net zero entrepreneurship.  You can apply for our Venture Builder even without an idea…and if you have one, be aware of the possibility you may change that idea quite radically, or even drop it, by the time you’ve met our collaborators, co-founders and experts and gone out to really validate the idea with customers in the right way…. but we hope you find the video helpful in testing your idea.

Investigations into solutions to net zero:

Mission Innovation

Prime Coalition

Cambridge University - Centre for Science and Policy

A simple explanation of the concept of “avoided emissions”:

If you need to understand the concepts underlying a carbon footprint and Scope 3 emissions:

Carbon Trust - Carbon footprinting

Edie - Scope 3 Emissions

Some examples and analogs to learn from in constructing your business model:

The Cleantech 100

Elemental Excelerator

And finally some thoughts on considering, filtering and then evolving “good ideas”:

Seth’s Blog - Subconscious pre-filtering

Product Coalition - Successful Companies Build Mind Maps, Not Cool Products

Kellogg Insight – The second mover advantage

In startups, it’s widely understood that “Ideas are Easy, Execution is Everything.”  Everyone is told that ideas are ten a penny, and that bringing the innovation to life is what matters.  This is, of course, an oversimplification. 

It’s true that

  1. we should hold our “venture ideas” lightly, ready to change and develop them – or even drop them altogether – in response to feedback.
  2. an idea is not really worth a bean until it is validated through the eyes of a customer and the lens of how the customer sees the world and their own pressing problems.
  3. we should normally be far more committed to telling people about our idea and the effect it can have on the world than to “guarding” it and keeping it a secret.
  4. we should remember that great relationship building and execution (not to mention speed, acceleration and momentum of relationship building and execution) are far more impressive to stakeholders of all kinds, including customers, co-founders, and investors, than even the most beautifully articulated business model canvas or pitch deck. 

All these are reasons to subscribe to the “ideas are cheap” philosophy.

On the other hand! 

  1. The ambition of your idea, both in purpose and in scale, is as fundamental to its “stakeholder attractiveness” as your early steps in execution.  The delightful small innovation has its place in the world – but the engines of rapid, boundary-spanning change (the ones we need for net zero) are fuelled by difficult undertakings with the ambition to be large.
  2. Net zero innovation is sometimes complex – involving changing the behaviour of entire systems and value chains, not just a single “customer”.  Difficult, ecosystem-bending, multi-stakeholder value creation that is based on ripping apart and then restitching the fabric of a sector requires ingenuity and reasonably sophisticated thinking.  You must solve not only the “what does my customer want/need/demand” question but also the “what tradeoffs will my customer allow compared to their existing solution, in order to adopt the (superior) solution I am offering” and the “what problem do I solve for my ecosystem/value chain counterparts” and the “what problems do I create for my competitors” questions.
  3. Some of the earliest choices you make about your venture’s identity—“what would success look like”?  “what organisational culture should I create given the kind of mission we are on?” “who should my earliest investors be?” will weigh heavily on your venture as you move forward and are not as susceptible to “lean” iteration as are your value proposition, business model, and even customer segment themselves. 

So, careful, thorough ideation, synthesising expertise from many quarters and many perspectives IS necessary, even though the resulting idea will evolve and become richer as it comes into contact with the stakeholders it is intended to help and create value for.

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You bring your talent and commitment to reducing carbon emissions. We bring everything else you need to make progress on a venture. 


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