How EI had to think like a startup again and test some new business models
2019 was the year that Eastern Innovation (EI) revisited its Vision and Mission. A whole new strategy followed which made it easy to make the incremental changes needed to define and meet the Mission to actively impact 250 startups by 2025.
EI is a not-for-profit company that serves local communities. It has traditionally earned reliable income providing flexible, accessible business real estate for startups and innovators. Providing affordable (some might say very affordable) and reliable services meant that sustainable and risk adverse methods of revenue were essential. Many community-focussed organisations rely on grants to survive but whilst they help to run programs, they are rarely sustainable in the long term. Rent and space hire has always been sustainable.
Then came 2020. Like many businesses this year in Victoria, EI had to close the doors a number of times due to lockdowns and restrictions. Essentially, it meant no income for many months.
Like many businesses in Victoria – EI took a hard hit and had to take a hard look at the viability of continuing exclusively with the previous business model. The lockdown gave the Board, Management and the Team some reflection time to revisit the strategy and reprioritise. Reprioritising meant that new income streams had to go on the table and plans to execute those, found fast.
EI had to think like a startup again and test some new business models to complement and support the existing one. Over the nine months, EI piloted several new paid programs. Some were successful and some weren’t but that’s the nature of business for any startup.
The exploration resulted in the uncovering of a new market for EI and the design, pilot and expansion of a program that focusses on helping startups and innovative SMEs form and execute advisory boards. It’s called the Global Advisory Program (GAP) and it hand-picks advisors from all over the world to help participating innovative businesses accelerate more sustainably.
The program, supported by AusIndustry’s Incubator Support Grant, has seen many successes for participating companies. It has also attracted into Australia’s innovation ecosystem a whole new batch of advisors keen to make a difference.
Unlike a traditional accelerator program, GAP doesn’t push companies through a program of set steps, it expertly matches and aligns three expert advisors with a participating company, runs governance-aligned board meetings and coaches founders and advisors alike.
This focus of individual matching aligns closely with EI’s strategic intent of offering intimate, tailored experiences to its clients. This addition to their business model complements their existing model and will support it when circumstances might cause it to falter in the future.
Throughout the business model realignment (no, they promise, they won’t call it a pivot) EI has made sure that they’ve stayed connected to their strategy and the needs of startups and innovating SMEs and the early results are proving that they’re on the right track.