Checklist for new business development

Tiina Apilo @TiinaApilo

Should you develop new business holistically, rather than single products and services? Absolutely, at least if you want to enter the markets quickly and found a scalable business. Startups – and the companies of all sizes and ages that are seeking to mimic their approach – are rapidly shifting from design thinking to new business creation via fast experimentation.

The following eight-point checklist summarises important issues and lessons that arose from business cases during the Accelerate project. The checklist and four-phase model (the figure at the end) combine to serve as guides to business acceleration for both startups and more established companies.

  1. Step outside of the building to recognise the real problems your potential customers are facing: e.g. apply user and customer experience thinking.

Higher volumes of customer and user data are now easily available than in the past. In addition, the social media make user discussions easily accessible from behind our desks. However, user-oriented design is best begun by getting out and exploring the user environment of potential users and, in the case of BtoB customers, visiting the customer. You can identify the pain points of customers – problems whose solutions will create new business – by thinking coherently about the kind of user and customer experience you want to create.

  1. Make the whole acceleration journey with and for your users and customers.

The participation of potential users and customers in every phase of the business development journey avoids situations in which a fine product emerges without a market. You can change your designs during the development stage by playing around with solution concepts and gathering experiences and feedback.

  1. Act fast but remember to invest time in eliciting material from the problem space, competitors and indirect competitors. There needs to be a well-argued problem statement.

When referring to business acceleration, I mean getting quickly to markets of the kind that are ready to buy the solution in question. However, to clarify the problem space in question, it is worth stopping for a moment to gain a clear picture of the kind of problem you are trying to solve and what kinds of solutions already exist.

  1. Never stop with idea generation and small experiments, including with your business model. Continue it at every phase of your business.

Although idea generation is emphasised when identifying the problem, the key insights of the forthcoming business model can occur at any phase of the journey. You can gain feedback on the direction development should take through testing and rapid experiments.

  1. Use the power of social media: e.g. in identifying problems, finding solutions, creating awareness and new markets.

Due to consumerisation in general, the social media have also become an important channel of communication in the BtoB market. You could identify a problem by visiting Twitter, Facebook or reading below the line in a blog and immediately begin defining the scale of the problem, or evaluating new implementation ideas. The role of an expert is suitable for many companies, whereby they become an attractive partner and supplier via content shared on Twitter or LinkedIn and by networking with other experts. While growth hacking does not replace traditional marketing, it effectively helps the new business to gain visibility, as well as providing valuable feedback on development efforts.

  1. Test and find social media channels suitable for you: utilise multiple supporting accounts and utilise platforms’ own analytics.

You can find the most suitable social media channels through experimentation. Use them on a versatile basis at all phases of development. You could use several accounts for different purposes, instead of one corporate account. Good analytics tools are available on a range of social media platforms. Using them will provide you with a picture of which topics and solutions are of interest and to whom.

  1. To guide your journey to scalable business, progressively select and use KPIs to track customer experience, business performance and learning.

Measurement is essential to the acceleration of a new business. As in measurement in general, you should avoid having too many key performance indicators. Different indicators are needed for the different stages of new business acceleration. These will enable you to evaluate customer behaviour and business development with the correct focus for each stage. And don’t forget to measure organisational learning.

  1. Use acceleration tools & mindset and startup-like structures regardless of your company’s age and size.

New business acceleration thinking and practices can also be applied in established companies, when seeking to accelerate development and make it more customer-oriented. Whether you are in a small or large company, you can use a startup structure to try out a new, more radical type of business. A big company may favour experimenting under a different brand, while a small one may need to differentiate the development of new business from old activities due to issues such as its ownership or financial structure.


” These were all very important questions which I think, on a high level, are precisely the things that, if you can’t answer any one of them, then you need to stop and go back.”

This text brings the series on the Accelerate phase model to an end. Previous publications on the model include How to accelerate the development of new business activities?, Without problems there are no solutionsProblem-solution fit, Finding a value proposition and Scaling and building a sustainable business.

The quotes are comments from companies, given in validation interviews for the Accelerate model, on their own business acceleration stories.


Scaling and building a sustainable business

Tiina Apilo @TiinaApilo


” We have two components of the scaling part. One is to get your customers and to get a lot of them…that’s another part of scaling too, to make sure that these processes work well.”

Scaling is the moment of truth, regardless of how much the solution, markets and business model have been tested – both together and separately – during the earlier phases of new business model acceleration. This is when you find out whether the initial business model is the kind that will enable your markets to grow and your business to take off. Scaling will reveal any flaws in your business model that remained hidden on a smaller scale. For example, surprises can occur in the form of hosting costs for IT services, or the amount of online service needed, i.e., wherever advantages of scale were not exploited. Furthermore, in such non-scaled models, the delivery of a single, scaled up solution requires the same level of resources as sole delivery.

“We wouldn’t be able to scale up by ourselves. Ecosystem partners play a critical role for us.”

In small startups or companies in particular, it can be far from easy to grow internal resources while also developing processes and systems to serve a growing business and engaging in marketing and sales efforts. It is not enough to get your own business functions in order, your networks also need to be adjusted to match the pace of scaling.

Many kinds of marketing

“Each and every new customer is highly appreciated and we are ready to pay for this, to pay for marketing. Let’s use growth hacking to achieve this.”

According to the new business acceleration experiences of Accelerate project companies, the difference between the Product-Market fit and Scaling phase lies in marketing investments and techniques in particular. Whereas the focus during the Product-Market fit phase was on word-of-mouth marketing techniques, during the scaling stage more traditional marketing methods, such as paid advertising, were used alongside growth hacking, especially in large companies.

Sustainable business

”Sustainable business is the motor that will pull many others forward.”

A new business acceleration model involves development through iterative, fast experiments. You have an initial business model as a result of the Product-Market fit phase. During the Scaling phase, the business model should be structured in a way that enables a profitable and sustainable business (see the table).


 By sustainable business I mean a situation in which, after the Scaling phase, your company has created the basis for a profitable business and for accelerating new business ideas or, if necessary, accelerating the journey of the same business to a new level.  The Scaling stage is not, therefore, only about seeking explosive growth rates; it is also about envisioning how you will make money and create channels, networks and brands for developing your next new business ideas. I used the arrow in the phase diagram to depict the results, and the feed-ins for the next round, from each acceleration cycle.


We developed a new business acceleration model via the Accelerate project. Previous publications on the model include How to accelerate the development of new business activities?, Without problems there are no solutionsProblem-solution fit and Finding a value proposition.

The quotes are comments from companies, given in validation interviews for the Accelerate model, on their own business acceleration stories.

Finding a value proposition

Tiina Apilo @TiinaApilo


Before entering the Product-Market fit phase, you will have succeeded in identifying a suitable problem and then – through small experiments – a solution which interests potential customers. Now, in the Product-Market fit phase, two issues should take centre-stage: where to find suitably sized markets and based on what value propositions. Suitable markets may be quite different to those you envisioned during the first two phases. You may have defined the markets well when identifying the problem, but test marketing shows that the value proposition or another part of the business model needs to be completely revised. In the Problem-Solution fit phase, it was enough to get customers to buy once, but repeat purchases are already needed for solutions that ‘wear out’ quickly. The key question during the Product-Market fit phase is:  How to acquire and retain customers on the basis of a scalable business model?

Initial business model

“An initial business model provides a good overview of how to create a business, but is not yet about actually creating one. It is a vision of it.”


As in my previous post about business acceleration models, with the help of the above matrix I present the readiness level of each of the business model’s four components.  However, you should bear in mind that, in practice, development is iterative and covers a number of more or less distinctive solutions. The bullseyes on the dartboards describe the issues that must be completed during the Product-Market fit phase. So, both the solution and value proposition are validated in this phase. The initial business model can still be adjusted in the Scaling phase, even though a fairly clear idea has already been formed of the sustainable business. The initial business model is a shared understanding between your entire development team of how the new business will be built on a large scale.

Methods and measurement

” Here you have to be very innovative, on the level of ‘Can we find a business model that works.’”

“In a sense we know the things that we should do better. To move forward, we need resources, more funding.”

The Product-Market fit phase is mainly about doing – developing the solution alongside customers and measuring your success in this. When we asked Accelerate project companies about the methods they developed during their Product-Market fit phase, they referred to business modelling such as Business Model Canvas and Lean Canvas, and the related trials. Some had used internal start-up experiments and a range of experimental social media accounts to test new markets. Digital content marketing and growth hacking enabled companies to gain the attention of customers and offer solutions for trial. The companies were positive about the analytics tools offered by social media platforms, despite the fact that many had developed their own analytics systems.

What should be achieved before moving to the Scaling phase?

“A vision of what would follow if money and resources were deployed here. An understanding that you should move to the scaling stage.”

During the Product-Market fit phase, the focus was on testing a suitable value proposition and revenue model for the selected market. A clear vision of both should be included in the initial business model, before moving to the Scaling phase. Resourcing is another critical issue, since the Scaling phase is resource intensive.


We developed a new business acceleration model via the Accelerate project. Previous publications on the model include How to accelerate the development of new business activities?, Without problems there are no solutions and Problem-solution fit.

The quotes are comments from companies, given in validation interviews for the Accelerate model, on their own business acceleration stories.


Problem-Solution fit

Tiina Apilo @TiinaApilo


Before the Problem-Solution fit phase, you will have identified a problem which is worth solving. Now, during this phase, the idea is to find a solution to the identified problem quickly, via small experiments. Of course, you can still also refine and redefine the problem – the goal is to achieve a scalable business rather than stubbornly clinging to the problem originally defined.

What on earth is MVP?

The idea of the so-called MVP (Minimum Viable Product) lies at the heart of the Problem-Solution fit phase. At this point, the concept description has been developed to the stage where the customer can assess whether it is interested in the problem and its solution as described. An MVP differs from the traditional idea of a prototype in seeking to demonstrate marketability rather than feasibility. Depending on the case, an MVP could be a video, virtual prototype, service description, web page or even a 3D printed product.

Solution for happy or paying customers?

”There’s a difference between a happy customer and a paying customer.”

We developed the Accelerate model alongside companies from a range of sectors and with various customer orientations. Many software companies stated that the Problem-Solution fit phase is not complete without paying customers. For them, at this phase it was not enough to have described a solution which interested customers. On the other hand, many business models are based on a free product, with revenue being generated from advertising or data collection. In BtoB markets with a smaller number of customers and prototype-like products, customer interest during the Problem-Solution fit phase can be sufficient.

” If you have an idea that people really like but they don’t want to pay for it, you shouldn’t spend too much time on it as a company. It could be interesting just to do it but not if you want to make money out of it.”

Developing a business model

It is easy to fall in love with our own ideas and it is difficult to admit that they will never catch on. However, by the Problem-Solution fit phase the company must have tested whether buyers are interested in its solution. The business model does not have to be crystal clear in every respect at this stage. The concept should be sufficiently tangible to enable prospective users and customers to form an idea of the solution. The jigsaw pieces in the following matrix indicate the readiness level of the business model’s various components during this Problem-Solution fit phase: the problem has been validated and the solution has been created and tested. The value proposition should not be finalised at this phase, during which a rough vision of a sustainable business model is still sufficient. In practice, development is iterative and covers a number of more or less distinctive solutions. Why a matrix? I used a matrix to describe the outcome of, and where resources should be focused during, each phase.


What needs to have been achieved when moving into the Product-Market fit phase?

Creation of a concept and user approval measured through testing are sufficient during this phase. From the resource perspective, in addition to seeking the approval and commitment of the core team, you should cover a wider set of stakeholders and key players across the ecosystem of the prospective business.


We developed a new business acceleration model via the Accelerate project. Previous publications on the model include How to accelerate the development of new business activities? and Without problems there are no solutions.

The quotes are comments from companies, given in validation interviews for the Accelerate model, on their own business acceleration stories..


No solutions without problems

Tiina Apilo @TiinaApilo


In the case of a business acceleration model, development work does not begin with a product or service idea. Instead, thought should be given to what kind of problem is worth solving. So, everything begins with the identification of a suitable problem. For its solution to be turned into a scalable business, a good problem should be one that is important to a large enough number of people. Of course, such a problem should also be a fit with the company in terms of the latter’s expertise, resources and strategy.

” We still tend to think too much like I have this idea that I want to do rather than is it what people really need.”

Together with the customer

The best ‘right’ kinds of problems can be found by getting out of the office and identifying the actual challenges faced by potential customers. Asking users and customers is not enough, because the respondents are often unable to define the problem. Of course, companies operating in the BtoB markets can chat with customers about future business activities and the changes under way in them. Fears and anxieties are particularly worthy of careful attention.

However, there is no need to scrap traditional approaches to idea generation and platforms within companies or shared by innovation networks. The key issue is to ensure that the user and customer lie at the centre of idea generation. The focus should on the kind of user and customer experiences you wish to create.  In large organisations, flexible development methods and the development of an internal innovation culture will promote the identification and progression of new ideas. Other hallmarks of large, innovative companies include permission to be inspired, experiment and fail.

Testing the problem

” We will use the technique of customer interviewing to make sure that what we are doing is actually what people need.”

During the acceleration of a new business, it is worth performing continuous small tests to measure customers’ interest and willingness to buy. In the following matrix, I tried to visualise – from the business model perspective – how development occurs gradually, at ever greater levels of definition. The four levels of definition, or ‘readiness levels’, are as follows: drafted, created, tested and validated. I divided the business model into four components from the perspective of new development: problem, solution, value proposition and sustainable business. During the first phase, the problem should be the centre of attention. Rough sketches at vision-level are sufficient for the other components, which you will need in order to tell your stakeholders about your amazing goals.


What should be achieved before the next phase?

The key issues during this phase include making the problem concrete and describing it, while understanding its scope, to ensure that the required partners and sponsors commit to developing a solution. There is still no need for a precise description of the business model – a vision of your future business will suffice.


We have developed a business accelerator model via the Accelerate project. For further information on the background and goals of the model, see the earlier publication How to accelerate the development of new business activities?

The quotes are comments from companies, given in validation interviews for the Accelerate model, on their own business acceleration stories.

How to accelerate the development of new business?

Tiina Apilo @TiinaApilo

Ideas and inventions are not yet innovations, but concepts which can lead to innovations. Without experimentation, you cannot simply know what will work and what will be in demand. In addition, markets are changing rapidly. These three issues lie in the background of the new business acceleration model we have developed. When we began developing the model, we defined finding the right markets as quickly as possible as the objective of our approach.

Background of the accelerate model

Our research team already had much experience of developing innovation, business activities, products and industrial services for established companies, from the perspective of the engineering industry and ICT enterprises. When seeking a short-cut to analysing the acceleration process, we looked to the fast experimentation approach taken by startups, as referred to by Eric Ries in the Lean startup discussion. We combined these elements into general innovation success factors, service-dominant logic, the open innovation perspective and, in particular, the creation of a customer and user experience. The popular and simple business model building blocks developed by Ostewalder et al. and their newer versions form an integral part of the basic tools in our Accelerate model. We also sought inspiration from growth hacking, word-of-mouth marketing (WOM) and the application of design thinking.

Multipurpose Accelerate model

“Whether it’s an existing business activity, or a genuinely new idea which is being spun off, the same process always applies in principle”

When developing the Accelerate model, we took the acceleration of new businesses by ICT firms as a starting point. However, we still tried to create a model that would also be adaptable to other sectors. Big established companies, small companies, internal startup-type trials within both, and new companies were among the enterprises represented in our research consortium. Experiences of the model’s application demonstrated its suitability for new business development in companies of all sizes and ages.  The model helped established companies to accelerate their product and service development projects and make them more customer and user-based. It helped startups, which have limited resources and time, to focus on the right things at the right time. As a bonus, the companies also deemed the approach suitable for boosting old business operations. One comment was as follows: ”The same practices and indicators can be used to accelerate existing products.”


The purpose of the Accelerate model

”Phases, they give you some kind of a reference frame about what is important to do in your phase.”

The goal of the Accelerate model is to help companies accelerate the commercialisation of their innovations through an iterative process. We have attempted to describe the iterative process using the above cycle. Unfortunately, in this highly simplified illustration we were unable to visualise the iteration rounds contained within phases. So what do these four phases, Idea, Problem-Solution fit, Product-Market fit and Scaling actually mean? They illustrate the issues and level of precision on which a company should focus at each phase of business development. We use them to show that there is no point in devoting too much attention to issues such as the finalisation or pricing of a solution at the very beginning, when the focus should be on understanding the problem space. We formulated a question which the company should be able to answer during each phase. The companies involved in piloting made an excellent observation: ”This is more of a rolling, continuous process than a series of stages involving passing through one gate to another.” In other words, this is not a new stage-gate model for product development.


In the Accelerate project, we developed a model which is also a European ITEA project coordinated by VTT. See the following websites for further information on the project and its results:

You can test the maturity of your company’s new business idea by using a self-assessment test based on the Accelerate model. You will find the test here.

The quotes are comments from companies, given in validation interviews for the Accelerate model, on their own business acceleration stories.