Founders’ Collective – Innovation Done Properly

When we began running our Founders’ Collective events with a small group of founders in our meeting room eight years ago, they were born from a desire to share learnings and encourage a community among founders building fast-growing brands.

Since then, our community has grown to thousands of brands, founders, and brand-builders, who we regularly speak with to understand their challenges and opportunities.

Through these conversations, we have observed the importance of innovation and NPD in driving growth and brand-building. Most brands don’t focus enough on setting out the strategic agenda to determine brand value or looking at it through the lens of the customer, as well as business model. Very few brands innovate well within their category, let alone stretch innovation into new categories, as is often the entrepreneurial temptation.

To foster the discussion, we invited a group of around 60 founders of future brand legends across different consumer sectors and stages of growth. A former Piper brand, Proper, were kind enough to host us in their stunning offices near Euston, with its own popcorn cement mixer and Lego table.

We have hosted our last four Founders’ Collectives in the offices of partner brands that we have sold our stake in, including Mindful Chef, Orlebar Brown and now Proper. When we find a new home for our brands, our relationship doesn’t end there. We continue to share experiences and learn from them as they cement their brand legend status.

Cassandra Stavrou, founder of Proper, started by telling the Proper brand story (‘Done Properly’ being the lens through which they looked at everything) and their experiences of driving growth through innovation as thought leaders in healthy snacking. Cassandra then joined a panel of founders and leaders – Simon Langham (ex-Global Head of Product at Dyson and Joseph & Joseph, now running his own sustainable innovation consultancy), Simon Nicholls (co-founder of design-led pet products brand, Omlet), and Kate Prince (founder of whole body health supplements brand, Ancient + Brave).

All of our panellists agreed that teamwork, communication, sharing and challenging have been core to their most successful product launches. Here are their top five learnings:

  1. Set out your strategic agenda up-front to understand what success looks like for your new product (e.g. prove growth potential via an increased addressable market size; ability to move into new distribution channels; improve product or logistics margins). This will ensure you judge its success or failure through the right lens and know when to quit if it doesn’t work.
  2. Innovation should come from really understanding the consumer need and the problem that needs solving. Think about what the customer wants not what you want to do. Speak to the customer to understand their behaviours and needs, but also be brave in challenging what customers ask you to launch.
  3. Think carefully about the launch strategy at the beginning, especially how it fits with your current distribution and marketing strategy.
  4. Get involved in every stage, from every detail of how it’s made to tasting / trying out every ingredient or prototype. Look at all elements of the whole supply chain and the margins that you will be able to achieve with the end product through different sales channels.
  5. Remove ownership to allow for teams to work more collaboratively and to fail fast without blame. Have people across different departments involved in the process, including production, sales, marketing and finance. This will allow the idea to be challenged from different perspectives and discourage group-think.

Finally, don’t get distracted from and endanger your core product that you have already had success with and will most likely still drive the majority of your growth.

We would love to hear from you. Please tell us what product innovation has worked for you in the past, successes or failures – email