Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

A New Way to Grow Startup Companies

Leave it to a New Hampshire guy to shake up the way companies innovate.  James Currier, founder of Tickle, has taken his windfall from the sale of that company to and has started a new kind of innovation incubator: Ooga Labs.

He calls it a “technology greenhouse,” a hydroponic environment that harnesses so much energy and ingenuity that it can nurture a crop of companies. The 13-employee San Francisco startup currently has five stealth projects under development, including GoodTree.

Until recently, the Internet incubator was dismissed as bubble-era folly. But the comeback of Idealab, the original Internet incubator founded in the 1990s, and the early success of Obvious Corp., the San Francisco idea factory that spawned Twitter, the popular Internet messaging phenomenon that tells your friends what you’re doing at any given moment, are generating renewed interest in testing many ideas at once and turning the best of them into businesses.

The small staff is organized into two-person speed teams, each pair an engineer and designer, who are the only employees working on one of the five businesses. They sit side by side in an open pit in Ooga Labs’ Financial District office so people can get to know one another and what everyone is working on.

For my next act (or one of them at least), I’ve played with a similar concept myself.  I’m one of those people with more ideas than resources and I’m a firm believer in rapid development.  Since almost every startup changes course significantly over the course of its lifetime, why not admit that up-front and try a different approach?  It’s what the big companies do — Microsoft, Google, and the others all have teams of people trying out new ideas.  Some stick, some don’t.

It will be fascinating to see how Ooga and Obvious play out.

(via Silicon Valley Watcher)

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