Wendy Tsu, Partner of New Business Ventures at AlleyCorp, has a talent for identifying winning business ideas and building the teams to execute them. Some experts advise entrepreneurs to focus deeply on one area. AlleyCorp, which is known for the breadth of its diverse portfolio, follows a different approach. Shikhar Ghosh sat down Tsu to discuss how she finds uncovers and develops great ideas in vastly different industries.
Tsu graduated from Standford GSB and started her career in product—focusing on mobile payments—at PayPal. She’s learned that, depending on the industry, often the best innovative ideas come from people outside the industry. She explains, “they’re able to see the inefficiencies of a product.”
Key questions that the team at AlleyCorp lives by:
- What’s a process that is too inefficient? What costs someone too much time to do?
- What is such an inefficient process that it’s become very annoying for you?
- What’s a process that is too expensive? What do you wish was cheaper or easier to do?
Every week for AlleyCorp, we have a weekly stand up called ideation. We come to the table and we note down exciting people or interesting models or interesting companies—internationally as well as domestically, across nonprofit, for-profit.
Idea Process at AlleyCorp
A Process for Ideation
She notes that the CEOs of AlleyCorp are always on the lookout for inefficiencies. “We actually keep a tracker of all different pain points that we hear,” she shares, “from perhaps seemingly boring ones like managing international payroll taxes, which is one that our director of people at Mongo certainly feels.”
Tsu often asks people, “what has been unnecessarily taking up a lot of your time?” Then, she works with teams to identify the various pain points related to inefficiencies and brainstorm possible solutions. Zola, she explains, grew from dissatisfaction with online wedding registries. Customers they interviewed wished that registry experiences were better. People wanted to give unique and personalized gifts. Before Zola, options were limited to rather generic options. Beginning with that paint point, Zola became “a re-imagined version of “The Knot” but mobile-first, mobile-friendly, and focused around more small niche brands and experiences.”
Is there a new way of solving for a pain point of which there’s already an existing company that’s doing it but, quite honestly, isn’t spending time thinking about the customer in the way that they should?
Your Team Is As Important As Your Idea
As Partner of New Business, Tsu has identified many ideas and worked closely with the teams executing them. In terms of ideation, she shares that one of the biggest surprises she learned was that “the team is almost more important than the idea.” She elaborates, “as I think about the year 2020, for AlleyCorp and for myself, I think about how can we continually empower people who are just incredible humans to think of themselves as founders, to start more companies?”
At the end of the day, ideas are everywhere. Ideas are almost a commodity. It’s the teams that have to execute against the ideas that are super important. An excellent team is able to pivot. An excellent team is able to uncover insights that normally wouldn’t have been uncovered before.