Ed. note: This case study is a selection from the
2011 “Making the Case”
competition, in which an esteemed jury
identified submissions that demonstrate the value of design in a clear,
compelling and accessible way. It serves as an example of how to explain design
thinking to clients, students, peers and the public in general, based on
Internet icon Lars Hinrichs came up with the idea for an early stage,
pre-seed, evergreen (no fixed funding cycle) investment company for top
technology talent across Europe. His vision: Free the best developers
and coders from their corporate jobs and help them build their own
Hinrichs, who previously founded XING (a popular social-networking
site for professionals), asked our designers to help him turn his vision
into a reality. Together we developed the business from scratch.
HackFwd accelerates the route to beta, profitability and success by
enabling entrepreneurs to focus on what they do best and by providing
support for administrative tasks that do not drive value. With
HackFwd, Hinrichs aims to revolutionize the European tech industry,
increase the number of successful start-ups in the region and put
Europe on the global innovation map.
Hinrichs saw that most start-up
innovation was happening in Silicon Valley and wanted to unleash the
tech sector’s potential in Europe. His strategy was to put the needs of
developers and engineers (or “geeks”) first.
geeks know things much earlier than the rest, like what works, what
doesn’t, what is the newest technology,” he explained to the Financial Times in October 2010.
IDEO assigned a
European-led global team to the project, which began with interviews of
developers and coders throughout the U.S. and Europe, to understand what
they wanted and needed most. Their input provided valuable insights
into how to build a truly revolutionary company.
Putting the needs of developers and engineers first would mean developing an early-stage investment company from the ground up—or designing a brand-new way of doing business in the financial industry.
That was a tall order. The challenges Hinrichs and the design team faced were mostly external and hinged upon three major factors:
The design team (including Hinrichs) began by interviewing developers and coders throughout Europe and the U.S. to understand what these professionals wanted and needed most. Their input provided valuable insights into how to build a truly revolutionary company. As big believers in the “power of beta,” the team started prototyping and testing possible business strategies right away. As a start-up, they knew the “final” strategy could evolve and grow over time.
From there, the team designed HackFwd’s business model, financial model, organizational structure, hiring strategy, tools to vet and build investments, brand strategy and identity, and events to cultivate a strong sense of community, encourage sharing and collaboration, and provide inspiration. The team began development with four start-ups, called HackBoxes, and experimented with every aspect of the start-up experience to see what resonated and needed further iteration.
HackFwd works like this: Prospective developers and engineers submit business ideas through a referral network, which makes selections, based on an individual’s or group’s passion and on whether the idea meets a clear consumer need. The ideas must be pioneering, scalable and ready to beta test within six months. To eliminate the heavy early negotiations of the traditional VC model, HackFwd’s model features a fixed investment, depending on the team size, against a fixed stake in the business. If chosen, HackFwd roughly matches the current salary of those behind the idea and brings them into a network of highly experienced digital entrepreneurs. These advisers review and offer input over a 12-month period. During that time, the individual or team launches a beta product or service and receives critical user input to help determine how best to move the business forward.
HackFwd handles most of the administrative load—including legal setup, payroll and accounting—and helps each individual or team find talent when they are ready to scale up. This allows the “geeks” to focus on their expertise. In exchange for the financial support, creative and strategic advice (from a board of experienced entrepreneurs), and the help of promoting and marketing the product, HackFwd takes 27 percent of the equity, the founders keep 70 percent, and advisers who assisted the team receive 3 percent in options.
A start-up can be located anywhere in Europe. Although they operate independently, they can rely on support from the HackFwd core team and its network of experts: HackFwd is based in Hamburg, Germany, and the tech entrepreneurs and board members live and work throughout Europe. In addition, once per quarter, all start-ups meet with the HackFwd team and selected experts in Mallorca, Spain, for workshops and team building.
Since launch on June 8, 2010, HackFwd has invested in a total of eight new companies from several hundred submissions. Its effectiveness is defined by:
AIGA’s “Making the Case” competition awarded
honors to design case studies that demonstrated the value of design in a clear,
compelling and accessible way.
Section: Events and Competitions -
Each year a discerning group of jurors meets to review entries for “Making the Case,” identifying submissions that will serve as an effective tool to explain design thinking to clients, students, peers and the public in general.
This year's judging for the AIGA national design competitions had its share of nail-biting moments, as jurors assessed aesthetics as well as proof of effectiveness.
Section: Inspiration -
Competition, metrics of effectiveness, students
Learn more about the jurors’ thoughts on this 2013 “Justified” selection.
Section: Why Design -
Finding one’s way through the streets of New York when coming out of the subway or walking through an unfamiliar neighborhood can be confusing, even for the most seasoned New Yorker. WalkNYC is a new program of pedestrian maps by the New York City Department of Transportation that makes it easier to navigate the city streets.
Section: Why Design -
Competition, Justified, graphic design, signage
The go-to design podcast helps AIGA Women Lead celebrate women’s achievements, with a playlist of inspiring and innovative women leading the profession.
Section: Inspiration -
Womens Leadership, diversity, digital media
Mellow Mushroom Website
Video: Recognizing the 2009–2010 Worldstudio AIGA Scholarship recipients
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