From Idea To Impact

October 22, 2011

Your mission statement should be nine words or less: verb, target, outcome.

This is a great talk by Kevin Starr from The Mulago Foundation.

If you’re working on a venture – either non-profit or for-profit – I strongly recommend you invest 25 minutes of your time and watch this.

Kevin is an amazing guy. I was lucky enough to travel with him and his team in Africa last year, and it was great to spend a bit of time with them and learn a bit from some of the ventures and people they are funding there (my post about that trip: Muzungu). I’m looking forward to future adventures with them.

As he describes it, Mulago is an “investor in impact” – meaning, unlike many donors, he’s not investing money in order to just feel good, he’s looking for the change that results from the money they put in.

This is his list of the full chain needed to get from an initial idea or invention to real impact:

This logic applies just as much to for-profit ventures. If you omit any of the links in that chain then your idea is not going to have the impact that you intend. If you’re not making something that people really want; if you can’t take your concept and turn it into a real product that you can build; if you don’t have any way to get your product to customers and make them want it; if you can’t convince enough of them to actually use it (and pay for it) … then your idea is just not going to work, simple as that.

Technical people often jump straight from “interesting idea” to “can I build it?” without any regard for whether it meets a need or how it can be distributed. Non-technical people seem to start with the product and how they will generate demand, overlooking the challenge of finding a technical co-founder  to work with who can actually make it a reality.

So, think about your venture.

Which of these steps are you skipping or doing poorly? Start there.

As Kevin says, “have at it”.