Keep up to date with our product launches, events, talks, announcements and all that newsy stuff.
We’re often asked to participate in talks or publications about Startup Studios. The common question is about the money. The tone is generally “Startup Studios are all well and good, but are they just a bunch of agency folk messing around?”
At Mint we started developing our own products for a number of reasons, only one of which was financial. Also we wanted to:
1. Scratch an intellectual or creative itch;
2. Make cool things;
3. Improve our working environment;
4. Show the world what we can do;
5. Put ourselves in the same shoes as our clients.
But as 2015 is drawing to a close I decided to investigate the financial returns on Mint’s various ventures. Here is my methodology:
We’re delighted to see that Boomf has recently announced it’s closed a new round of funding and launched its second product, Buntella the personalised bunting. Well done to Andy, James and the Boomf team.
Since WhiteAlbum was shuttered a few people have asked me about the decision, and what led to it. There's no denying the product had what looked like a very successful launch, with lots of publicity and some glowing reviews. I can appreciate that, viewed from outside the Mint bubble, there might appear to be a disconnect between that launch and the product’s subsequent closure mere months down the line.
I talked to the founders about the notion of publishing a ‘post-mortem’ of sorts, which is something we tend not to do very much - not because we don’t want to, but if we pondered over every product we shut down (of which there have been over fifty) we’d never get any work done. However, I thought the case of WhiteAlbum provided an interesting opportunity to share the thinking behind closing down a product, and the kinds of things we try to learn in the aftermath.
I’ve been fortunate to have been invited to speak a bit about employee engagement recently, particularly in relation to the way we’ve enabled employees to pursue ventures at Mint Digital.
In April I presented at the Employee Engagement Summit, which was an event aimed at HR professionals. My presentation was called ‘Why we deliberately plan to lose some of our best people’ (you have to give your presentations provocative titles, or nobody shows up).
I also took part in a breakfast panel on employee engagement with Purple Cubed in September, and was recently interviewed by the Institute of Leadership & Management on the topic of keeping small teams happy.
Throughout these conversations, there was a genuine curiosity about whether enabling internal ventures could be used as a way to empower people at other, typically larger, companies. Does Mint’s small size lend itself more to this approach? Could firms in other spheres use a similar method? Do internal ventures by definition make staff happy, or is it more nuanced than that?
I’ve had plenty of opportunities to think about what we’ve done at Mint, and why the way we’ve empowered staff via product ventures may/may not be a fit for other companies. By which I mean I’ve pondered and cogitated and come up with exactly zero solid conclusions.
Nevertheless, I’ve been persuaded that my thoughts around some of the questions I’ve been asked might be useful to some people, so here are five things you may want to consider if you’re thinking of enabling your workforce to pursue ventures aside from your core business.