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The “100 Task Startup” playbook was officially unveiled at TEDxBrussels, Europe’s largest TEDx conference, in March of 2018. Martin Bell’s TEDx speech, called “Can Innovation be as Simple as a Checklist?”, provides context as to why the 100 Tasks matter in today’s era of disruption.

 “The 100 Tasks let you zoom out to see the big picture, then zoom in to solve each step. It lets you put one foot in front of the other, while not losing track of the big picture.“

 Check out the full version of the speech 1) as a blogpost and 2) as a YouTube video!

The “100 Task Startup” playbook is nicknamed 100 Tasks or just Playbook and it’s best viewed as a large, thick, and glossy poster (size A0 or E in the US). The Playbook provides you with the 100 steps that any organization needs to take in order to build a successful startup: from 0 to validated idea to launch all the way to scaling.

What Differentiates the 100 Tasks from Other Literature on Startups?

The Playbook exhibits key differences from the ton of existing literature on startups and entrepreneurship:

  1. The Devil is in the Details

The Playbook dives into the nuts-and-bolts of building companies. By breaking it into 100 concrete tasks, the Playbook is not stuck hovering at a stratospheric high level. Most frameworks propose only 3, 5, or 7 generic steps.

In fact, the Playbook provides both the high-level and the nitty-gritty. It offers the bird’s-eye view with its 3 broad stages, while simultaneously offering the option to deep-dive into 100 specific tasks, which are categorized not only into one of 3 stages but also into sub-stages, types of task, functional areas, and timing.

2. Success = 1% Idea + 99% Execution

In contrast to the vast majority of the literature on entrepreneurship, the 100 Tasks focus not only on the ideation, but much more on so on the execution of that idea.

Political economist Joseph Schumpeter is the intellectual father of entrepreneurship and innovation. His definition of innovation is that “innovation is the commercial spread of ideas”. Therefore, while most people use the term “innovation” to mean “invention”, Schumpeter’s definition goes much further, underlining the fact that real innovation is about the successful execution of that initial idea.

To illustrate, Thomas Edison is not only the most prolific inventor of modern times, but he is more importantly one of the most prolific innovators. In his famous quote, he maintained that “innovation success is 1% idea and 99% execution”. Coming from Edison, that means a ton.

We agree with Schumpeter and Edison that the idea is the most important step, but that there are many many other steps as part of the execution that follow.

Thus, the 100 Tasks do focus on the ideation part in stage 1, the Setup stage. In that stage, several tried and true frameworks are cited in the 100 Tasks. Examples are the Three Horizons, Four Steps to the Epiphany (i.e. Customer Development), Design Thinking, Business Model Canvas, and of course Lean Startup.

However, the 100 Tasks, especially stages 2 and 3, focus on the execution of that idea, an area in which there is a dearth of literature. The Playbook fills that critical void to make sure entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs don’t inadvertently drive their idea off a cliff.

3. Versatility via Various Viewpoints

Finally, the Playbook differentiates itself from the plethora of startup literature out there because it’s from the viewpoint of a major organization. That is, the Playbooks details the granular steps a major organization needs to setup a systematic company-building structure — called “launchpad”. How to establish a “launchpad” that is capable of launching and scaling multiple ventures is explained in stage 1, Setup.

While the Playbook calls it “corporates”, the Playbook is actually relevant to any public or private sector entities — governments, universities, NGOs, investors, and of course corporates — who want to transform their own innovative ideas into successful companies.

In addition, the vast majority of the 100 Tasks are relevant for any stand-alone startup.

Thus, the Playbook is so versatile because it can be utilized from the viewpoints of various organizations.

How was the Playbook Conceived?

The 100 Tasks represent the product of years of real experience in building great companies fast. As Martin Bell elaborated in his TEDx talk:

“Over the past years, I’ve consulted over 30 private and public sector entities.

Along this journey, I wanted to answer the question: What makes a digital company a success?

Specifically, I wanted to discern

  • which tasks are skipped by ventures that fail and
  • which tasks are essential to those that succeed.

Admittedly, I got a little obsessed and excited. Yet despite the complexity, I distilled the truly necessary steps into a comprehensive yet reasonably-sized playbook.”

What’s Each of the 3 Stages About?

The 3 stages — Setup, Launch, and Scale — are successive. That means, that one must complete one stage in order to move onto the next one. It’s analogous to a stage-gate® at the end of each stage.

Stage I:  SETUP

In this crucial foundational stage, the launchpad infrastructure, capable of building multiple startups, is set up by the organization.

Meanwhile, the entire ideation journey is traveled:

  1. a long list of ideas is turned into a short list,
  2. from the short list one decides on one idea to validate, and
  3. once that idea is validated the startup is ready to move onto the next stage.

The setup stage groups its tasks into the following 5 sub-stages:

  1. Plan Mission
  2. Staff Launchpad
  3. Collect Ideas
  4. Validate Ideas
  5. Make Starter-Kits

Stage II:  LAUNCH

In this stage, a validated idea is commercialized, or brought to market. The company’s various functions are systematically built in order to rapidly achieve go-live (i.e. first revenues). Functions are built to last, while focusing only on the must-haves that are launch-critical.

Image source: shutterstock.com

The launch stage groups its tasks into the following 5 sub-stages:

  1. Staff Temporarily
  2. Develop MVP
  3. Build Functions
  4. Set Up KPI Reports
  5. Go-Live

Stage III:  SCALE

This stage is the one in which the live company’s functions are optimized, or set up for success, so that the company can grow sustainably. It is very much about leveraging data to find adjust the business model to find product-market find and about implementing best practices.

At the end, the startup is ready to be independent, externally funded, best practices have been implemented, fully staffed, and it can stand on its own feet.

The setup stage groups its tasks into the following 5 sub-stages:

  1. Staff Permanently
  2. Learn From Data
  3. Optimize Functions
  4. Best Practices
  5. Independence

What Do the Milestones Mean?

The milestones, located at the bottom of the 100 Tasks diagram, reflect the most important achievements an organization or startup must achieve. Moving from left to right, they reflect the sequential nature of building great companies. For example, a long list of ideas must be generated before it can be filtered into a short list. Or: a data deep-dive can only occur after go-live because you need to be live in order to collect real data of your top 20 KPIs.

Importantly, the milestones also reflect the iterative, lean-startup methodology that is inherent in the 100 Tasks. More specifically, whenever there is a second arrow that points to a previous milestone, it means that if a certain milestone was not achieved in full one needs to go back. For example, if one does not achieve “Validated Venture”, one should dispose of that idea and pick the next best one on the “Short List”. Or: if the “Go Live” (i.e. launch) fails, then one should re-do to its “Stress Test” in a more comprehensive manner.

What Do Other Key Components of the 100 Tasks Mean?

Types of Tasks

The types of tasks refer to who is in charge of executing the task. Either it’s both the organization and its startup working in unison on the task, or the task is executed mainly by the organization, or the task is executed mainly by the startup. Defining ownership is crucial to get things done fast!

Functional Areas

On the left (i.e. on the vertical axis) of the 100 Tasks diagram are the functional areas. Since organizations tend to be divided into teams according to function, their startups will most likely reflect this organizational structure. As a result, it makes sense to group the tasks also by functional area:

  • Cross-Functional
  • Business
  • Operations
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Product & Tech

A “Cross-Functional” functional area is important because in a fast-growing startup many things need to be decided and executed across team barriers. As the company scales effectively and structures and processes become more fortified, cross-functional tasks are on the decrease.

Timing

We sincerely believe that, if done right, the 100 tasks can be completed in 20 weeks. This means that, on average, one task is completed every working day. While the timeline is ambitious, so should your goals be. At his previous position, Martin Bell launched companies through the 100-day launch process he designed in less than 100 days, even once in 4 weeks. Thus, if done right, this timeline is entirely possible.

Conclusion

That’s it! That’s all you need to know about how to navigate the Playbook — an unparalleled resource for both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.

If you enjoy the “100 Task Startup” playbook, please share it or contact us to discover how you can leverage it to achieve your goals: 100tasks@bell.ventures.

Ultimately, why are the 100 Tasks such a vital tool in today’s age?

According to Martin Bell:

“I want all organizations to be able to successfully build their best ideas.

We have reached a state in which creating digital venture-building systems can be learned.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel every single time.

There is a blueprint and we can all be architects of our future.”

Image source: shutterstock.com

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