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The Vision Roadmap for Startups

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Evolution-of-the-Fisherman

This article is written by Taylor Wescoatt, Entrepreneur in Residence at Seedcamp. Taylor’s background spans 20 years of Product and UX having held key positions at successful startups like Seatwave and CitySearch, and larger brands like eBay and Time Out. This is the first of two articles on Roadmaps for Startups.

The Problem

I speak with a lot of startups and often hear variations on the following;

I have the vision in my head, but I don’t know how to get it into the heads of my growing team so they can execute what and how I want them to — Startup Founder/CEO

This sucks for everyone. It stresses out the Founder, it frustrates the new marketing person, and the newly hired design, product, and UX folks feel at sea because they feel like they’re not delivering what’s expected and they don’t know how to.

Its easy for team members to rally ‘round the grand 5 year Grand Vision, but when they get back to their desk, then what? Work on that list of features, I guess, but they’re not quite clear on how they achieve the Grand Vision they just listened to. Its also frustrating to work on something when they don’t know where its headed.

As a startup, you’re constantly going to have to answer the question, “Who Are We?” By developing a clear, step-by-step, segment-specific answer, you will;

  • Save time, repetition, and confusion for you and your teams across the organisation.
  • Convince potential investors that you know how to achieve your Vision.
  • Helpfully abstract your Vision from tactical execution thinking.

Making the Grand Vision Actionable

I picked this up at eBay, where we used something like this for our 6-monthly Seller Releases. Each phase of a “Who are we to these people?” is a “Proposition” which is a step toward a full Vision. The format was subsequently very well received at (mid-sized) Time Out and at (small) Emoov as well.

The question “Who Are We?” should to be answered for each Segment (eg early adopters, followers, partners, etc) at each specific stage en-route to your full Vision realisation;

vision.roadmap.sample

The goal of this format is to allow you to render the roadmap between now and fully realising your vision. You recognise that your business will transform in stages over time, and this helps you focus on achieving those stages.

This works nicely in an agile world where the lighthouse stays the same, but the tactics evolve as we build, test, and iterate toward the vision — Bill Watt, Product Director, GoDaddy

The Hogwash Vision Roadmap

So, for example, let’s say you’re building a mobile app for at-home car-washes & services, “Hogwash”, and your Vision is “Car washing, servicing, and overall management all on your phone”

vision.roadmap.sample2

How does this help?

  • You’ve set a customer-oriented tone to your vision, which includes and activates your team to come up with tactics.
  • You can actually validate each of these with your customers. Do they perceive you this way?
  • You have communicated to your team a strong sense of focus on what they need to think about when.
    • First build out Central London, market to Busy Professionals, focus on washing
    • Later market to Families where our good washers live outside of London
    • Then expand services and geography opportunistically
  • You can talk to Partners (eg in a B2B or Supplier context) specifically about how your relationship with them grows over time
  • Investors now think, “Wow, this Founder really has a handle on how to get there”

I liked the proposition approach to (1) diverge vision from product development, and an evolving sales strategy, and (2) a way to manage customers’ expectations — Didier Vermeiren, Founder, Rial.to

This doesn’t take long to do; You and your Co-Founder can rip it out in an hour or so. If it takes longer than that, all the better because you’ve identified what must be a serious hurdle in realising your Vision. Your team will thank you as they dive back to work re-energised with a clearer sense of purpose and stronger connection to the Vision. Follow it up by asking them to give you a revised execution plan against this clearer vision. Drop it into your deck, it will be a nice touch to drive that next investor meeting in the right direction. Let me know if you have any questions, taylor[at]seedcamp[dot]com.

NOW READ PART 2: Building the 90-day Behavioural Roadmap for what to execute against

…or listen to the accompanying podcast!

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