This week’s startup is innovation management platform, Solverboard. The Bristol-based company were founded in 2015 and are looking to change the way business approach innovation in their organisations.
Answering our 10 questions is Solverboard co-founder Charlie Widdows.
1. What do you do?
I’m one of three co-founders of Solverboard, an innovation management platform designed to help businesses innovate better. The platform gives businesses a place to organise their change, transformation, and innovation strategy and programme around their organisational purpose.
It starts with identifying the business goals, then clustering ideas around those goals. These ideas can then be validated, and those that will deliver value could become new business programmes. The platform records and reports on every touchpoint in the process, so the business can easily measure the value of their innovation programmes.
I’m responsible for the customer, so under my remit comes the marketing activity to drive awareness of the platform among our target market, then the sales activity to convert those prospects into customers, and the management of their experience on the platform through our support and customer success channels. Also, my role involves evangelising on the importance of having an innovation, change and transformation programme that is measurable and trackable. So I’m talking on the topic of innovation management and helping build our community.
2. What’s the most exciting thing about what you’re doing?
Meeting and talking to loads of new people, getting to understand more about our potential customers’ drivers and behaviours. Solverboard is built based on customer feedback, so I like hearing about what excites them and what they’re passionate about, and thinking about how we can support that. It’s exciting to hear how our platform can help them do their job better and feel more valued.
Every organisation is different, every enterprise innovator in an organisation has different needs and does things in different ways, and there’s a lot of mythology around innovation. For example, being ‘failure friendly’ is supposedly quite easy but it’s really not – a lot of organisations are miles away from having that sort of culture and most businesses are still fearful of failure.
Our challenge has been to help innovation managers to deploy the right people at the right phase of the process, and provide as much reassurance as possible that the risks they’re taking will pay off. It’s about helping innovation teams to harden those business cases to make sure there’s always a focus on delivering something of value at the end of it.
3. What are you most proud of so far?
I’m really proud of the collegiate nature of our team, that we’ve created a culture where everybody cares about the product we’re building and the journey that we’re on. I’d like to think that our clients’ journey will reflect the one that we’ve had, in the way that we’ve managed to create something of value over the two or three years that we’ve been building this platform, and take everybody in the organisation on that journey.
4. What have you found most difficult about being a startup?
The challenge is keeping a lid on the need to launch quickly. I think every tech startup founder thinks they’ve got a genuinely brilliant solution that the world needs, and the difficulty is in getting the timing right. You want to get your product in the hands of prospects as quickly as possible, but giving them that product too early might mean a poor user experience. Meanwhile releasing too late might mean a competitor has stolen a march and has an opportunity to launch before you. Managing that moment of wanting to be first but also wanting to be best is probably the biggest challenge.
5. What would you do differently if you started now?
I think, as a team, we would have released something earlier than we have done, possibly. Solverboard is built based on direct feedback from our target customer, so we wanted to get a beta version into their hands as early as possible, but we don’t ever want to give them a poor user experience.
6. Where do you think you’ll be in 12 months’ time?
We want to be on the pitch list for any innovation leader that is looking to introduce a tool to help their business innovate better. I’d also like to think Solverboard will become the default choice for people who are new to an innovation role, to help them embed innovation into their organisations. For my part, I want us to have done a good enough job on the marketing side that people see us as a useful partner in the innovation journey that they’re on. If we can hit that sort of position then customer volume, repeat purchase, and monthly recurring revenue will follow.
7. What tools/people/services/organisations from the cluster have helped you the most?
We’ve got massive value out of our partnership with Future Content, who are TechSPARK alumni. They approached us as a young business but with a huge amount of authority on how to manage our content marketing activity. We really can’t speak highly enough of Tom Sandford and his team for helping us get the Solverboard message out there.
Also, by the nature of how we’re funded, we’re now at a position where we’re able to start looking at other organisations that exist to help us drive awareness of businesses like ours, so we’re looking forward to aligning ourselves more with TechSPARK, at a local level.
8. What’s the best thing about the Bristol & Bath tech cluster?
“What I love about the local tech cluster is the mix of technical ability and expertise with the irreverence of the cities. I think Bristol, especially, has a particular modus operandi when it comes to business and work that is quite culturally unique. So, overlaying that with the technical prowess that organisations have in Bristol, every event and every time we meet with someone in the sector, it’s always an engaging, charismatic and enlightening experience. It feels like it’s about Bristol and Bath first and tech second, which is the way it should be.”
9. Who will you be nominating for a SPARKie next year?
Some people I think are doing brilliant jobs are companies like Ultraleap and Open Bionics, but I would also look to nominate Future Content if there’s a category around marketing. Some of the stuff our parent company, Istoria Group, is doing around virtual events and exhibits is going to be very interesting. They should certainly be up for an award for the work they’re doing there.
10. Where can we find out more about you?
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