Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Commercial: Skunkworks

What is this document?
A response to this statement:

“Know we’ve talked about this before… how to make money out of ideas… think this is definitely something we should explore.”

Who else is ‘making money out of ideas’?
Advertisers, for one. For example, BBH have launched a ‘brand invention’ or product development agency called Zag. See,,1761758,00.html

So, can we do it as well?
No reason why not. We have generated a fair number of ideas which, with a bit of time, care, research and attention, could come to fruition, either as businesses or brands in their own right, or as complete pieces of IP that can be sold or traded on.

What sort of ideas?
Well two spring immediately to mind:
  1. The ‘spectrograph’ developed as part of MIA p-design – that could be flexed into a product (a toy?) sold under a proposition of ‘design your own device’

  2. the time management software project that is currently being investigated
In addition to larger ideas we’ve had like Teaden; or the possibility of taking MIA forward should VF not.

Can we really do it?
Between us we have relevant skills in positioning, branding, design - product, service, UE – as well as systems expertise. What we perhaps lack are legal and financial skills, as well as organisational building capabilities. But we can always explore more collaborative methods to plug those gaps, either through venture capital, or more ‘open source’ business models as recorded at We can also get more skills on courses such as that run at the London Business School on ‘Building the creative business’: There are also resources we can use such as the British Library ( as well as studying companies such as First Partner (

How would we do it?
The most obvious way would be as an ‘agency in an agency’ model: ie part of Seren, but with a separate management and staff (who could be seconded on a project by project basis). The model I have in mind was most clearly summarised as:

In this type of skunkworks, geniuses are not just left to breathe pure intellectual air, as they often were in previous incarnations; they are also constantly brought into contact with designers, marketing people, production managers and accountants. The idea is not that they emerge at the end of the day with something that makes their competitors say “wow”. It is that they come out with something that makes their competitors' customers say “wow”. (

And hence the title of this document.

What next?
I would suggest:
a) taking the time management software project as a test case, and seeing if we can formalise both our software needs and the initial research about competitors into something that can become a solid product concept
b) developing a full-blown business plan for the ‘Skunkworks’.

RD 02/v/06


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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5:35 pm  

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