Bill Haskell, CEO of the industry-disrupting company Innventure, has more than 30 years of experience launching, scaling, and selling private enterprises. Today, he uses this expertise to flip underutilized intellectual property, repurposing it into brand-new startups — and he never takes on a project he doesn’t think will result in less than a billion dollars in total value.
“Building a billion-dollar company is just as difficult as building a million-dollar company,” Haskell said. “The principles are the same.”
What are those principles? According to Haskell, the science of building a successful company comes down to mastering the fundamentals, heeding experience, and relying on data and the right relationships.
Master the fundamentals
“At Innventure, we spend a lot of time vetting possible projects before agreeing to take them on,” Haskell said.
Innventure’s team of analysts meets with scientists at multinational corporations (MNCs) to investigate promising new technologies that the MNCs recognize are not in their best interests to bring to market themselves. They also hold discussions with the MNCs’ marketing and other departments, in addition to outside experts and market constituents, to ascertain if demand exists for those inventions. The purpose of these deliberations is to evaluate whether or not Innventure should create a new company to commercialize the technology.
Not all new technologies have what it takes to seed a successful startup. After all, only between 5-10% of patents are licensed or commercialized. According to Haskell, products that solve present-day, real-world problems for a large market have a greater chance of success.
“We’re looking for inventions that can meet an existing need. For us, the demand for that product needs to be more than just robust,” Haskell explained. “We take on projects that have the potential to revolutionize an industry.”
While many aspiring entrepreneurs may feel called to start a business based on an invention that they would like themselves, Haskell recommends caution.
“My advice is to be honest with yourself,” he said. “Don’t spend a lot of time, energy, and resources researching and developing a product just because you personally think it would be cool. Make sure the world is actually experiencing some kind of issue that indicates a need for your product. Make sure to rule out other easy, existing solutions to that same problem, as well. If there’s any competition, you want your product to be the clear winner.”
No substitute for experience and relationships
At Innventure, Haskell has a team of serial C-Suite executives with decades of experience steering companies from inception to initial public offering.
“This enables us to skip a lot of steps,” he said. “When we launch a startup, the people at its helm know what they are doing, so we avoid a lot of the mistakes that can commonly emerge for new businesses. They also don’t need time for a learning curve, so we can move faster. Basically, the companies we give birth to are young adults — not infants — and we start out running, rather than crawling.”
For aspiring entrepreneurs who don’t already have a background in creating companies, Haskell recommends finding advisors and other relationships with relevant areas of expertise, given the particular industry, type of business, and exit strategy.
“Know your limitations,” he said. “No one is a specialist in everything. It’s important to stay humble and recognize that even the most brilliant businessmen have blind spots. A good advisor will make up for those lacks. For instance, if you aren’t a corporate lawyer yourself, then you should probably hire a corporate lawyer. The Innventure team has been building companies for a long time, and the right relationships are key to our success”
Understand the data
Innventure’s proprietary method for building companies relies heavily on gathering and analyzing quantitative data, an approach Haskell says is key to growing organizations over the long term.
“Numbers help take the emotion out of decision-making,” he explained. “Without hard data, it can be easy to rationalize doing what you want to do just because you want to do it. Knowing your business’s actual statistics helps you stay grounded in reality, rather than losing yourself in wishful thinking.”
According to Haskell, tracking as many elements of a business as possible — not just standard budget items, but also each step of the production and distribution processes — is necessary not just to scale the company, but also to position it to implement its exit strategy. “The value of your company depends on your ability to demonstrate profitability with real numbers,” he said.
Building a new company may seem like an epic task, but Haskell and his team at Innventure have refined this process into a science. Turning opportunities into real businesses requires solid fundamentals, expertise, and data.
With these tools in hand, however, even first-time entrepreneurs can actualize their business dreams.