Learnings from building a new wholly-owned venture internally within a large organization:
Momentum in the early days is important (not dissimilar to traditional startups), you can build momentum by having a bias for “showing” vs “telling” and doing the “showing” in public
Keep pushing even in the face of resistance, as the leader(s) of a new venture you may have more internal support and leverage than you think
Find and stay tuned in to who your champions and supporters are within the broader organization (watch what they do and how they try to help, not what they say); executive turnover among supporters will be an ongoing challenge
Broad C-level executive support is all that really matters at the end of the day within a large organization, how does the organization view your team’s vision and progress?
Pick shared team milestones that get you closer to financial sustainability as early as possible and ask for additional investment support in advance of your needs that will account for lagging / slow financial results eg don’t assume the best case will unfold
Stay grounded and confident, this balance is important within larger organizations that may not be experienced with startup organizations and are looking to you for guidance
Set your team’s unique cultural tone early by modeling it yourself and distinguishing it from the broader organization as necessary eg starting / ending meetings on time, openly requesting feedback from team to facilitate collaboration, praising publicly, whatever cultural elements are key for your specific team, etc.
Figure out and never ignore the incentives of key stakeholders eg what are internal teams incentized by: is it new user growth, revenue growth, etc? if it’s not clear, ask about these early on and often as they may shift over time
Aligning incentives is at the same time the key to progress and extremely challenging, this will take an enormous amount of time and energy
Try hard to understand what’s going on beyond your new internal organization, avoid siloed thinking and think about the larger organizations strategic objectives, surfacing this to the team is important
Creating a new growing revenue source is the holy grail incentive for almost every organization, it’s silly and naive to ignore this
Optionality is particularly important for a captive wholly-owned internal venture, try to grow in a way that preserves future options for partnership, acquisition, financing, etc.
Time kills deals and agreements, even internal ones, where all parties are within the same organization; a consistent and exhausting sense of urgency is a key part of the job