Victoria Newton is a customer and digital consultant at PwC, and was Advisor in Residence for Startupbootcamp InsurTech during the 2018 accelerator program.
Startupbootcamp InsurTech is a global insurance accelerator working alongside a large portfolio of leading insurance players to foster disruptive and collaborative insurance innovation from early stage startups. As a partner of Startupbootcamp InsurTech, PwC for each of last three years has helped select the 10 most promising insurance technology startups from around the world.
The SBC InsurTech startups that formed the 2018 cohort are at varying stages of maturity, some coming to the program with just an innovative idea and talent, whilst others already have a marketable product and revenue. For the early stage startups, it has been a rewarding 10 weeks, working through a design thinking framework to support them in developing their propositions.
Design Thinking: A Non-Linear Process
The number one reason why startups fail is a “lack of market need”- they focus on a solution before finding the problem. In fact, 42% of the 101 startups surveyed post-mortem by CB Insights stated this as their primary reason for failure. These startups developed solutions and then tried to find a market need when they should have been empathising with their end customer, and then creating amazing solutions to meet their needs.
What is design thinking?
Design thinking is a customer centred method of innovation. With a focus on customer empathy, design thinking is an iterative process of understanding the needs of the customer and developing and adapting a solution to meet those needs. Using a design thinking approach helps to challenge our assumptions, empathise with the customer, and reframe the problem in a human-centric way.
What does design thinking involve?
Design thinking is not a linear process, nor do the stages have to be followed sequentially, but an important place to start is at empathy.
Empathise: In this stage, you need to identify your customers and engage with them to get an understanding of their needs, pains, fears, aims and actions from their perspective. The aim of this is to go beyond just what the customer says, and to understand underlying behaviours.
Define: Here, you will analyse information gathered in the emphasise phase in order to define the core problems faced by the customers.
Ideate: Now that you understand the customers needs and have defined a human-centred problem statement, the objective here is to find new solutions. There are numerous techniques for ideation, but the common theme is to allow for any and all suggestions before then refining the ideas.
Prototype: Prototyping provides a quick and cost effective way of refining ideas and coming up with further solutions.
Test: This is a vital phase where you get feedback from end users to ensure that you are creating a product that meets their needs and is one that they want to use. It is important to remember here that the process is iterative and the purpose of testing is to change the potential solution by continually taking into account the views of the customer.
Case Study: Charlie Palmer, CEO at ForestCar
ForestCar is a car sharing service for airports. The business offers car owners free airport parking in exchange for renting out their vehicles while they’re away on a trip. ForestCar’s mission is to create a global community of travellers who want to explore the world and contribute to a sustainable future.
ForestCar came to SBC with a unique idea, and an understanding that there was a space for them to disrupt the airport rental market with their peer to peer model. Throughout the program they have refined this idea using a design thinking approach, and have been able to pivot their MVP multiple times.
Charlie Palmer, CEO at ForestCar, says:
“Our approach is to validate a hypothesis quickly and adapt. Over a few short weeks, we have spoken with over 300 potential customers in order to define our proposition. Empathising with our customers has let us see that certain factors are more important than we previously thought. For example, from our research we have discovered that the environmental impact of our model is as important to users as making money from their idle cars. As our proposition evolves, we will continue to prototype and test concepts with customers to provide the best service that meets their needs.”
Why should you use design thinking at your startup?
Your technology is amazing, your product is different, you’re dreaming of being the next unicorn. That dream is unlikely to become a reality if you create a solution without considering the problem you are trying to solve and for who. A design thinking approach forces you to put yourself in the shoes of your customers, and empathise with them and their problems. Using design thinking will enable your startup to:
- Fail fast: By prototyping and testing, you can ‘fail’ fast and cheaply and adapt your solution before investing heavily.
- Pivot to a viable solution: If you have an existing technology, empathising with customers can help you pivot and create a viable market solution.
- Find innovative insights: Understanding who your customers are, empathising with their behaviours and pains and then ideating around these can lead you to solutions for problems you wouldn’t otherwise know they had.