unizeit Schriftzug

Reliable idea evaluation

Product innovations are vital for companies to survive. However, which idea from myriad possibilities is the most promising? The software created by IdeaChamp, a start-up company from Kiel, helps with making the right decisions.

The team of IdeaChamp
© Henning Drews

Supporting companies with their software to make the right decisions: Dennis Struck, Laura Röseberg and Gerrit Jochims (from left to right), founders of the new start-up IdeaChamp.

Stagnation is not an option for most companies. Those who strive to survive on the market in the long term must constantly reinvent themselves and their products on offer. But to generate new products, services or markets, you need ideas – lots of ideas. And which of these ideas will be the most successful in the end is hard to predict. IdeaChamp, a young start-up company that is currently in the process of being established, offers a decision-making aid. Gerrit Jochims, Laura Röseberg and Dennis Struck have developed a software for small and medium-sized companies that helps to structure compilations of ideas and to assess the potential risks and rewards of the individual ideas.

In 2019, business graduate and innovation manager Dr Gerrit Jochims and innovation manager Laura Röseberg, who both graduated at the CAU, got together with IT specialist Dennis Struck in order to launch the IdeaChamp programme. Their initiative is being funded by the EXIST Business Start-up Grant.

Gerrit Jochims already started thinking about the problem of how companies innovate in 2014. At the time, the 33-year-old worked for Professor Achim Walter, today one of the team’s mentors, at the Chair of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management at the CAU, where he helped conduct a field study. “We realised that many companies encountered similar difficulties when it comes to generating and implementing ideas.” These problems continue to prevail in many companies today. Negative examples include the box for employee suggestions, which is not emptied regularly, or the e-mail inbox which nobody checks because of excessive workloads, sickness or holidays. Either the employees receive no feedback for their suggestions, or they receive it much too late. This has consequences for their level of motivation with regard to contributing new ideas.

Moreover, the IdeaChamp team realised that the selection of new product ideas is often random or primarily based on intuition in some companies. For example, a suggestion that is still vague gets less attention than one that has already been formulated in detail. “We found that many companies lack structure when it comes to collecting ideas and evaluating them,” Jochims explained.

And that is exactly what the IdeaChamp software, which companies can subscribe to, is designed to do. It provides companies with a platform on which employees can sketch out their suggestions in short fact sheets during the idea collection phase. “The programme then allocates these ideas to categories that are based on their level of progressiveness, novelty and strategic value,” Struck explained. “Hence ideas are now evaluated in a standardised assessment framework.”

In the first pilot projects at companies, employees submitted an average of around 70 to 100 unfiltered proposals, which are evaluated within the platform. In the second step, the companies use the evaluation to decide which ideas should be pursued further. “Around 15 to 20 projects make it to the short list,” according to Jochims. These projects are then described in more detail and substantiated with figures. Based on this data, the management team can make a decision on which one or two projects it wants to realise.

Both concept and relevance of this software have convinced public investors. Since April 2020, the team has been funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy for 12 months through the EXIST start-up grant. At Kiel University’s Centre for Entrepreneurship (ZfE), the three founders are currently working on the realisation of their start-up project. “The grant is a great opportunity for us,” Laura Röseberg said. "It allows us to further develop the technology for one more year until it reaches market maturity, while at the same time working on the acquisition of new customers.”

Author: Jennifer Ruske