Launching an innovation incubator for a Fortune 500 tech company

As a company built on innovation, our client had taken all the right steps. They had a blazing innovation pipeline in hot areas such as wifi connectivity, smart camera’s, and the internet of things. They had built an international partner network consisting of startups and corporates, which applied our client’s tech in technologically incredible ways. Still, the resulting solutions often did not achieve the commercial success they were aiming for. As it turned out, one crucial piece was missing: Validating product-market fit. Learn how we helped our client by launching their first market-fit incubator program.


6 weeks


Set up an innovation incubator to help our client's partners create products and services that hit the innovation sweet spot


Four partner teams that have gained hands-on experience using a wide range of customer-centric methods

Launching a product-market fit incubator program

It takes more than technical prowess to achieve commercial success. You also need to consider market needs (desirability) and business strategy (viability) if you want new products or services to succeed. To help ensure that our clients’ partners would take these considerations into account, we worked with our client to set up their first market-fit incubator program. That way we could strike two goals at the same time. Firstly, we could help partners to create new applications for our client’s tech, and validate their product-market fit in a user-centric way. Secondly, we could immerse them in our way of working, giving them the experience needed to use customer-centric methodology long after finishing the incubator program.

Setting up a stage-gated, customer-centric incubator process

We coached four of our client’s tech partners over the course of six weeks, resulting in four user-validated prototypes that apply our client’s tech in novel ways. To get there in such a short time-frame, we created a robust step-by-step process. First of all, we established a strategy for identifying the partners with the most potential in terms of skills, mindset, and initial challenge scope. Secondly, we helped these partners to scope their challenge towards the most exciting target groups and use cases based on our client’s tech (tech-push!). Thirdly, we taught our 2-day, pressure-cooker masterclass using a dummy case. That way, partner teams could learn to apply the relevant techniques, understand the design process, and learn from each other without having to worry about IP. As a result they were ready for the last, and most sizeable step: Being coached through the full double diamond design process over the course of 5 weeks to create and validate the market fit of novel solutions. We made sure to include multiple points of validation with our client and real customers through customer interviews, elevator pitches, co-creative idea generation, and user testing.

When it comes to incubators, it’s all about learning by doing

We believe in learning by doing, and boy, did we have work to do for our teams. They did all of their own customer interviews, research analysis, pitching, research analysis, and user tests. That way they grew hands-on experience with the most essential customer-centric methods within the double diamond design process (see illustration). Of course, we didn’t leave them on their own. Every team had their own coach to guide them, and we created visual, self-explanatory Miro templates for every single step and method used along the way. Learning by doing also rang true for our client. Since this was a pilot project we made sure to continuously gather feedback from participating teams, gathering a wealth of learnings that could help us improve the incubator program itself.

Embedding a scalable incubator within our client’s innovation funnel

By conducting the incubator fully remote, we ensured it was covid-ready while also making it internationally scalable. Furthermore, we aimed to embed this incubator within our client’s existing innovation funnel. They already had hackathons, funding contests, and technical incubator programs. By aligning with these other programs, we ensured that the market-fit incubator filled in a key piece in our client’s innovation strategy puzzle.

Our key learning was to learn the service design methodology and really seeing the advantages of using it. We’ve started using it in our internal projects as well - we used to always start with the solution, but now we start by uncovering our client’s pains, gains, and needs.

— Partner team lead


  • Four partner teams that have gained hands-on experience using a wide range of customer-centric methods
  • Customer-centric discovery, creation, and market validation of four novel solutions based around our client’s tech.
  • Each team created a clickable prototype
  • An average of 2300 digital post-its used (and many trees saved)
  • At least three partners that will continue development of these solutions
  • Proof of concept for the practice of doing incubators, paving the way for our clients to scale up their  international incubator efforts