Ideathon: How to design or improve a business idea?

Ideathon at Republica, Berlin

Mark Smith, Professor at KTH Stockholm

Founding a company includes not only lots of nerves, courage and financial support, but also an idea with high potential. Founders often reflect of their beginnings when they came up with a good idea and were enthusiastic to bring it to life. What it often lacked was the concept or a certain spin that makes it really outstanding.  It sometimes needs a push into the right direction to make the innovation become an internationally valuable and sustainable business.

The Ideathon of EIT Digital that was first held at the digital conference Republica in Berlin delivered such a spin. The Ideathon follows the core idea of EIT Digital’s Co-Location Centers all over Europe by physically bringing together digital entrepreneurs to develop ideas and innovations together. Republica started 10 years ago as a blogger conference in the heart of Berlin has now evolved to one of the most vibrant events for startups, digital society, politics, business and culture. It combines a very heterogeneous mix of people from all over the world: the perfect ground for the Ideathon. Mark Smith, Professor and leader of the Mentorspace at the EIT Digital partner KTH Stockholm, as well as three EIT Digital Master School students moderated the session. Mark explains in an interview the concept of the Ideathon at Republica:

1) What is the EIT Digital Ideathon about and what makes it special for entrepreneurs?

The Ideathon is a moderated idea marathon that helps people to tear down mental barriers and define solutions for their individual businesses. We discovered that founders often couldn’t answer the question: how can my product best meet my customer’s needs? The founders face a mental distance to their customer’s perspective that the Ideathon can help them to close.In a mentored session the participants discuss their challenges and help each other to focus on core issues that connect society to their businesses. For example, a Berlin startup joined the session at Republica. They are developing a digital peer-to-peer education solution and needed advice on how they can remove the people’s socialization barriers, so they actually start interacting and educating each other. After the session they commented that they received a number of different approaches to improve their business

2) What did you learn from the participants of the Ideathon? What did they learn?

The most important thing I learned was the relevance of the inclusion of people in developing a business. At the Ideathon a diversity of people started to interact and nailed down what was crucial for the business’ results. What ever they were doing, they had to form a network and cooperate with other people to develop a successful business-focused idea or solution. It was a very intensive and open exchange of ideas between people and a concentrated search for business solutions. Even after the Ideathon session was over, the participants continued their exchange on how to improve their innovations. So the Ideathon concept of tearing down mental barriers to develop innovations really worked out.




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