Chapter 5

Vision

The Innovation Thesis

An innovation colony is designed to develop innovation opportunities into products with a ready market. But which opportunities? What criteria can a colony use to decide which opportunities to pursue and which to reject at the port of entry? The answer depends on the colony's innovation thesis.

Your innovation thesis is a statement of the range of ideas you're interested in supporting. It describes an area of the market that you've identified as a fulcrum of growth over a particular time period (say, the coming five years), and it summarizes the beliefs that drive your decisions to incubate a particular idea, invest in a certain company, or acquire a certain startup.

Many investors use a similar tool known as an investment thesis, and that's essentially the same thing. For example, Union Square Ventures' blog encapsulates its investment thesis as: “Large networks of engaged users, differentiated through user experience, and defensible through network effects.” (The complete thesis statement, which is quite lengthy, can be found online.) This statement directs the firm toward businesses with a focus on user experience and network effects that might drive immense scale.

It's important to differentiate a thesis from a theme. A theme is a broad space such as an industry (education, health care, petrochemicals), a technology (mobile, social, or cloud), or a platform (iOS or Android). It doesn't say anything about the dynamics that affect that field. ...

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