Letts Group’s Incubator

Corporate incubators have been all the rage. Around 10 years ago, a number of corporates started to set up some kind of corporate incubator or accelerator to nurture new business lines and innovative products. They had a limited vision of ‘incubator’ – generally designed to host new startups within their facilities. They offered them resources, support and, as they matured, market access.

10 years later many of these corporates have scaled down their efforts or largely abandoned them. Corporate incubator 1.0 did not realise its somewhat loose ambition. A number of the more innovative corporates and a few management consultants are working on the next generation of corporate incubator.

Letts Group has taken a different approach. Our incubator is an internal function that is central to the organisation. It is our growth engine – period.

“We see our incubator as a strategic, internal, centralised function. We have repositioned the group as a ‘branded incubator group’ to underscore this. We don’t just make small bets on our incubator or outsource it’s core capability. We’ve bet the entire shop on our incubator. It is our core capability.”

The concept of incubator has been with us for 225 years. In 1996, our original founder, John Letts opened a stationery shop and publishing incubator in the city of London. The front rooms the shop and the back rooms the incubator studio. From this setup he launched the world’s first commercial diary in 1812. It was market tested exclusively in the store and designed and made in the back rooms.

Letts Group’s Chairman, Philip Letts, started to develop the latest generation incubator in 1998. It was a separate entity, called Prophete, that nurtured external, non-branded innovations. It developed concepts such as Beenz, the Web currency, and Surfkitchen, a mobile operating system and media platform. It was an important parallel initiative as we started the process of divesting some of our book publishing interests.

In 2007 we further developed Letts Group’s latest generation incubator, after initial successes. We built a proprietary incubation methodology, which is called Innov@te™, and we designed our first incubator studio with a clutch of then, very new, cloud systems and processes. From this base we launched b-uncut, a social network for artists and blur Group, an online marketplace for creative services. Both were successfully spun out and became independent businesses.

It took much of the last 10 years to perfect the methodology, systems and processes to get to the point where we felt comfortable that our incubator was ready to develop multiple Letts branded businesses and products from scratch – and in parallel.

At the end of 2020 we gave the go ahead for 3 new Letts branded ventures to go to ‘live concept phase’. The tech industry would call it ‘beta launch’. The first hits the market in June. We have engineered the group, and developed the incubator, to the point where we feel comfortable that we will be launching a new Letts venture per year, starting this year.

It’s taken us 20 years to get to this point but we believe that we might have a line on corporate incubator 2.0. The proof will be in the pudding – starting next month!

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Letts Media Publication Examines Solutions to the Climate Change Crisis for Earth Day

Letts Media publication ‘Surviving’ outlines a possible roadmap to reduce global warming – for Earth Day.

We should all understand the challenge by now. If we don’t keep global warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels we risk an irreversible climate crisis.

“There are two ends of the problem that need to be addressed. We need to both reduce emissions and get better at capturing and storing carbon in the right places, rather than letting it escape into the atmosphere which adds to the heating problem.”

From ‘Surviving’

The article goes on to look at 5 macro-level solutions to the crisis that are proven, deliverable in the shorter term and internationally relevant. As we celebrate Earth Day 2021 it is important to not just focus on the risks that climate change presents – but to highlight the advances and approaches that can start to solve the problem.

“We have boiled it down to just 5 macro-solutions to the problem that combined should get us there – they include renewables, electrification, replacements, rewilding and lifestyle.

Extract from Letts Media’s ‘Surviving’

Letts Media publication ‘Surviving’ is about navigating business, innovation and life. It is edited by Philip Letts who is supported by some amazing analysts and researchers at the Surviving thinktank.

To read this and other articles go to Surviving.


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Eco Change Management

Is this the new direction for corporate board rooms?

We have all heard the term, the new norm, enough times to give us the shakes. We understand that things are different and that we need to adapt. But adapt how? If the landscape has changed so much how do we best navigate it?

Corporate board rooms around the world will be ringing with such questions. Managers have been playing defense most of this year. Now that their employees are back to work, whether they are working from home or at the office, managers will need to paint a new direction.

Your colleagues need inspiring leadership like never before. They seek clear direction with a concise, data driven analysis of how things have changed on the ground for the industry and for their company. They will hope for a new path forward.

So what’s new?

Well, of course, there is that elephant in the room which changes everything. Coronavirus has affected all our lives. The data, analysis and trends from this year are fundamentally different to anything seen in modern times. The world has altered course.

The pandemic has made us feel insecure and vulnerable. We realise for the first time in a long time that we are truly at risk. Our future might not seem as assured as it felt before. And if the elephant in the room is Covid-19 then the dinosaur in the room is climate change. Fix climate change and we might see fewer pandemics. Fix climate change and we might still be here in a hundred years time.

Climate change is the issue of our time. It will likely affect consumer behaviour more than any other issue. It might prove to be the constant backdrop to our future. The ultimate macro event. And as the Internet has changed society and business over the last 30 years, global warming will do the same over the next 30 years. This time though, there is so much more at stake.

Progressive businesses will want to steal a march and drive change in their business toward this new reality. To an eco change management programme.

This, was the challenge that the Surviving think tank set the Letts Group more than a decade ago. Over the years we have helped them to journey from awareness to analysis to action. Action has ultimately proven quite profound and far reaching. So much so that they developed a third area of business for the group focused on environmental solutions.

Looking back, it is clear that together we have undergone an informal, experimental eco change management process. We started with a simple desire to understand the implications of climate change on the business. Somewhere along the road we collectively decided to become eco-leaders in our sectors and through our products and services. We believed that our customers, employees and partners would share the same concern for societal wellbeing and the protection of the planet.

At the outset we read and watched as much as we could to learn about the climate crisis and to attempt to understand the science. We talked to those steeped in developing the early environmental solutions from a wide spectrum of sources including technology, energy, media, fashion, the arts, agriculture, wildlife, foods, transport, travel and more. It was amazing how much was going on at the grass roots level.

We started to map out a plan for how the business could follow some of the higher impact disciplines we researched so that they could get some early wins and become more eco friendly. Today it has developed into a 10 point plan that a wide range of businesses and eco warriors are in various stages of absorbing and adopting.

The Letts Group has ended up putting ‘eco’ into all of its offerings and business lines. The digital media products are skewed towards environmental issues and trends. The group is on a path to become a leader in environmental arts and has set up a whole new division focused on natural solutions to the climate crisis. We worked together to open a centre of excellence for the business and its partners which practices what we preach. It is an eco-learning centre for the Letts Group, partner companies and other worthwhile organisations.

It has been an amazing journey for the experts at Surviving’s think tank and it has been a pleasure watching the Letts Group and its partners embrace this grand safari into the new world. One that we feel we have traveled just far enough to be able to share.

More recently we have nudged the group to a next point of arrival with its all new, eco-friendly group positioning, website and a strap line ‘a brighter future’ that we think says it all.

In the mean time and in response to our partner companies questions about how to begin an organisational eco journey we have a simple answer – get in touch.

We would be happy to nudge you in the right direction. It has and continues to be the ride of our lives.

It might not be very long before your most valuable customers decide that they only want to buy from an environmentally responsible and environmentally active business. Don’t get left behind.

This article first appeared at the Letts Media publication Surviving.


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Welcome To Our New Website

We are excited to launch the Letts Group’s brand new website.

We opted for a clean, minimal look with a Buzzard soaring as the main image to support our new strapline ‘a brighter future’.

We wanted the website to look as fresh and fluid as when we first started. Even though we have been around for 250 years, for us, this is a new beginning.

The Letts Group is about tradition, quality, innovation and change.

John Letts invented the commercial diary in 1816. Today we are a branded incubator group run by the Letts family and focused on media, the environment and the arts.

We hope you can join us for the next leg of the journey.

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