If it's complex to gain momentum for a fast innovation cycle, *sustaining* it can be an even bigger challenge. 

While certain skills are required to innovate at pace, it's also vital to recognise that the ones needed to maintain your speed are different. 

The cards can feel like they're stacked against you. The novelty can wear off, you may drift off course, and you risk getting too comfortable. 

But if approached methodically, staying at the top can bring unique opportunities that will further shape your company for success.

Some takeaways? Here's what we found mattered: 

  • Adapting to your new climate ⬅️
  • Remembering the V in MVP ⬅️
  • Innovating by example ⬅️
  • Investing in an innovative team ⬅️

The experts we spoke to on this topic include: 

  • Art Shaikh, CEO and founder of CircleIt
  • Connor Ondriska, co-founder of SpanishVIP
  • Chon Tang, founding and general partner at Berkeley SkyDeck Fund
  • Archit Rathi, investor at Oxx
  • Jovi Overo, managing director of banking-as-a-service (BaaS) at Unlimint
  • Nayan Gala, founder of JPIN

Scroll down to read what they had to say, and to get more updates like these on a weekly basis, sign up for our newsletter below 👇

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Prepare for a Different Challenge 

So, you've finished the race, you've reached the top of the mountain. You did it! 🏆

But, the race keeps going all around you. Innovation, by definition, must not stop. 

The real battle for you, now, is to try to retain your spot, and to keep ahead of the competition. 

So, what are some of the main challenges that must be overcome?

It also may be helpful to recognise that "achieving and maintaining the number one spot are two different things entirely," as Jovi Overo from Unlimint says.

To get to the top, you have to be creative and scrappy, move quickly, and have a level of constant urgency and hunger, he says. 

⛰️ But, he continues, this gets harder at high altitudes. 

You start to gain market share, the company should be getting larger. This, in turn, undercuts its ability to innovate at pace. 

"Layers and layers of decision-makers increase the inability to make quick decisions. Companies become fat and complacent," says Overo. 

The transaction cost, the friction that creates in actually trying to move quickly and make decisions quickly, and all of the handoffs that happen when you have that much fragmentation, are what lead most large companies to move at a fraction of the pace that they could move, thus unable to maintain the number one pace of innovation spot.

Jovi Overo

Avoiding complacency and pursuing humility is crucial to staying at the top, adds Nayan Gala from JPIN

“It can be easy for firms to rest on their laurels once they’ve reached the top when in reality a competitor could be just about to overtake them,” he says.

Remember What Makes Something Innovative 

💥 Is there such a thing as *too* much innovation? 

Well, let's just say this: it shouldn't be the company's only goal. 

Don't forget to keep doing this right in mind, too. In short, remember the *V* in MVP. 

Releasing products and services in a state that is consumer ready is the main goal for Art Shaikh at CircleIt. 

That might mean a day or two later than our intended goal, but if it means that we aren't releasing with bugs and other launch problems, then we are ok with it.

Art Shaikh

Others still remind us: innovation does not correlate to usefulness. And, it's pretty obvious when that's the case. 

"Focus on valuable solutions, rather than simply building new things," reminds Connor Ondriska at SpanishVIP

And, as well as focusing on whether you *should*  instead of just *could*, Ondriska invites you to ask yourself questions. 

What is the real-world use case, is there a reasonable market for what you’re building, and is your thing different enough to catch the attention of your market? Ask these questions to decide on where you’ll innovate.

Connor Ondriska

And last–but *certainly* not least–the biggest reason you do this: the customer.

Ask yourself: will it solve a pain point for the customer? Or is it just new? 🤔

You should be clear-eyed about who your ICP and target user personas are. Indeed, it's also crucial to keep them in sight, says Archit Rathi at Oxx.

If you lose track of customer needs and use cases, and just want to build something that is innovative and fascinating–that is the fastest way to move off track into oblivion.

Archit Rathi

Innovate in Your Own Home

Beyond speed, there are deeper changes that can also lead you to true innovation. 

🏠 For one, are you practising what you preach, and do you innovate in your own home? 

Indeed, innovation can *only* come once standard operating procedures have been turned on their head, according to Chon Tang, founding and general partner at Berkeley SkyDeck Fund.

All mature businesses share similar work processes, says Tang. First, they define the outcome to be achieved. Second, they make sure there are resources necessary. And yes…resources *do* include a budget.

In a traditional industry, the outcome is defined by specific, measurable results, like "revenue generated, units shipped, margins achieved," says Tang. 

And, if you're in operations and are looking for marginal improvements from the previous quarter, that works, he says. 

But things are different, he says, if you're a startup that depends on innovation. “Successful founders, in my opinion, are mad scientists who are focused on the process of innovation."

They design their teams to be focused around the number of experiments (or product iterations) that they can run and sensitivity to the feedback they're getting back from the market. By being focused on these metrics alone, teams open themselves up to being starting with a blank canvas and being fundamentally creative.

Chon Tang

Keep the end goal in mind, say others, and remember that you may have a long ways to go. In short, as Jovi Overo from Unlimint reminds us: “Innovation is a marathon and not a sprint."

The pace of innovation is small wins bundled together to drive breakthroughs. This needs a clear strategic goal. Additionally, with a clear strategy, it will be much harder for the competition to copy. The organisation needs to commit to a long-term strategy and prioritise it for everyone in the company.

Jovi Overo

Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork

What's more, you're going to need all the help you can get. 

🤝 Never underestimate the power of a synchronised team. 

Now, says Nayan Gala, recruiting and retaining the best talent should be a focus. This can be a worthwhile investment for innovation. 

From here it’s also vital to ensure that companies are recruiting and retaining the best talent. Clearly, it can also be an expensive task maintaining this spot in the industry as other firms will be spending a lot on research and development.

Nayan Gala

As well as materially contributing to the innovative hivemind of your company, hiring and talent can also bring good optics. 

It's important, says Gala, for companies "to make themselves as attractive as possible for prospective investors, while ensuring their current operation is profitable and growing."

And Speaking of Your Team…

If you want to give your team time and space to innovate, one of the things you can take off their plate is all the back and forth needed to file your R&D tax claim. 

The application process and eligibility criteria for R&D incentives are complex and time-consuming, often undercutting the very thing it aims to nurture. 

And, this isn't a one-time problem, but instead a yearly recurrence. 

That's where Claimer comes in. 🦸

While we make it quick and easy, you can get back to disrupting the industry–again and again. 

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