How the IU is Moving Startups Forward with V-REEL®

At Advent GX, we’ve been truly inspired by the overwhelming response to the launch of the Innovation Underground, the independently owned and operated business incubator we opened in historic Downtown Bryan, TX in 2009. In the last several years, we’ve served more than 70 start-ups and graduated nearly a dozen fledgling businesses, many that have gone on to grow a significant presence here in the Bryan-College Station community. Start-ups like next-gen-educational-gaming company Triseum, and Beautiful Abilities, a community services provider to adults with intellectual disabilities, are expanding in our own backyard. Others, like Imani Collective, are making their mark in the global marketplace. Still others came to us from points across the pond and as far away as South America, expanding into the U.S. market through our humble operation in the basement of a former post office.

It is a privilege to work alongside these innovators and, frankly, it’s a lot of fun! Where else can you move between space technologies, bovine reproduction, performing arts, and medical devices all within the course of a single morning…and under one roof? We get to do a lot and we are grateful. We are also grateful for “Think Beyond Value: Building Strategy to Win.” This book, by our colleague and friend Dr. David Flint, introduces the V-REEL® Framework for strategy development.

What is V-REEL® and Why it Matters

V-REEL guides users to think through how they will create value and be rare in the marketplace, prompting important questions that all entrepreneurs should ask themselves and be prepared to answer as they are starting their business or expanding into a new market. Our members tell us that V-REEL has been incredibly valuable to them as they think beyond the value proposition to form a strategy to win in the marketplace.

“Think Beyond Value” has been equally important to our leadership team as we have come into our own as an incubator. Here’s why…we cannot and should not serve everyone we talk to. That’s true of every business and it’s certainly true of any business incubator.

All of us who are working to support start-ups have some way we focus and screen potential companies. At the IU, we focus on five core competencies of the individual entrepreneur but we also look to the entrepreneur to articulate their value proposition and an early concept of the business strategy. We’ve found that many, if not most, entrepreneurs struggle to articulate their value proposition. Our founder and CEO Jose Quintana joined David Flint on his podcast “Thinking Beyond: Conversations with Strategic Thinkers.” They talked about how V-REEL is addressing the problem.

“Today, we ask all prospect new members to read ‘Think Beyond Value’ and then present their concept to us in V-REEL terms,” Jose explained. “This exercise gives us a sense of the individual’s commitment and we are able to rapidly move into meaningful discussion of strategy.”

Entrepreneurs always have at least one idea. They have enthusiasm, and they generally have business acumen, but focusing in on how they will create value and articulating the challenges to doing so is a very common struggle. “Think Beyond Value” presents the V-REEL Framework, using simple, common language and a process that guides the user to a place of clarity. It has really changed how the IU operates for the better.

V-REEL® in Action

Today, our conversations with entrepreneurs really begin after they have “V-REELed” their ideas. By they time we are sitting down and spending significant time together prospective IU members have already considered how they will create Value and be Rare in their market. As prompted by the framework, we ask them to think through Eroding factors that might diminish their ability to be valuable and rare, and to consider what Enabling resources and capabilities they might be able to put in place to extend their ability to be both valuable and rare. Finally, we ask them to think about Longevity. How long before things change? How long before they can put enablers in place to defend against erosion? Do they have enough time to actually create value in the market? If so, wonderful! If not, we need to keep working through the framework.

Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of the V-REEL Framework is the simplicity of the language. Increasingly, our operation is global, so the simple, easy-to-understand terms that Dr. Flint uses are a big boon to communication. We begin our relationship with common language and so we can really dig into the work of business strategy that much faster.

A Framework of Frameworks

Starting a business incubation relationship with a book isn’t an especially unique approach. I know many incubators have required or, at the very least, recommended, reading just like we do. In fact, we use “Think Beyond Value” and the V-REEL Framework right alongside other popular and useful tools, such as the Business Model Canvas. Dr. Flint designed the framework for that very purpose…to organize how and when to put various tools to work for your strategy formulation effort. The Business Model Canvas, the Resource Based View, SWOT analysis…these are great tools for thinking through and mapping out a strategy and Dr. Flint discusses all of them in “Think Beyond Value,” all the while avoiding overcomplicating the conversation. In fact, many of our entrepreneurs do not have a business background. You can see why a book like this is, well, valuable.

We incorporate all the great thinking that “Think Beyond Value,” the V-REEL Framework and other tools generate into our own proprietary ASD (AdventGX Strategy Deployment) process when consulting with start-ups as well as established corporations. We’ve done so since we began using ASD two decades ago, but using V-REEL to begin the conversation has proven invaluable because it saves time. Affording the entrepreneur the opportunity to stop and think things through in a simple yet complete fashion is incredibly important. Providing a common language we can all use as we determine if the company is a good fit for the Innovation Underground community is invaluable. And, if, for whatever reason, we or a prospect company decide we will not move forward together, we know we’ve at least given them a really solid basis upon which to build their business strategy.