Letts Group’s Incubator History and Methodology

In the 1990’s it became clear that the battle for the digital diary would be lost before we could go after it in any meaningful way. We were hemmed into paper based products.

The desk diary market was destined to get eroded by Microsoft with their windows PC’s and MS Office software, which included integrated diary features.

Soon after, Nokia and Motorola launched calendar features for their mobile phones which, over time, would erode the traditional pocket diary business.

It was a huge wake up call. How could we have dominated the diary market for 175 years only to watch these upstart technology companies out innovate us?

For the Letts family it began the process of gradually divesting of paper based products so we could focus on a new, diversified group and a digital future. The seed of the future Letts Group was born.

We made a promise to ourselves that we would not get out innovated again. But how could we guarantee that? We had a hunch that it would not be enough just to focus on digital media and publishing. It came to us in a possible moment of madness that we should build a private incubator to help us develop our various ideas and turn the right ones into profitable products and services. A repetitive process that would be the engine of this new diversified group.

In the late 1990’s we started to experiment with what ultimately become Letts Incubate. We understood early on that we would need an incubator methodology to ensure that we could develop new products and businesses in a scalable and process-driven way.

We were also interested in the idea of incubating businesses and products that we could spin off and sell. Some carrying the Letts brand and some that were not Letts branded (which we call partner companies).

As a long standing family business we understood the constraints of many private, family controlled businesses. Access to capital is more limited which works for certain kinds of businesses and markets, but not for all.

Our incubator would need to be world class and one that could create and nurture a range of different ideas. So we designed a methodology calle Innov@te™. It took us a decade to complete the work as we wanted to develop it while we were also nurturing the early fruits of the nascent incubator. So we could road test the process.

Innov@te™ has come a long way. It has 7 key stages and 49 steps. Our manual is over 50 pages long and is constantly evolving. The 7 stages include:

  • Creativity
  • @HA Idea
  • Concept
  • Market Entry
  • Market Development
  • Market Dominance
  • Exit

We use it whenever we incubate a new Letts branded idea or a partner company. And we have incubated quite a number of partner companies in the last twenty years.

Today, we also use Innov@te™ to help leading corporates develop a faster and better approach to innovation and we recently set up an incubation centre in the southwest of England.

If you would like to find out more, go to Letts Incubate.

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