When you hit a wall, narrow down
Sep 30 2014
In three days, my team has gone through three prototypes. And we just might have something.
We’ve gone from “fighting global corruption,” to “fighting corporate corruption” to “increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of corporate compliance programs.”
After talking to Ron Strauss, executive vice provost and chief international officer at UNC-Chapel Hill, last week, we knew we had to 1) interview people outside of the corporate world to get an independent look at the issue and 2) shift our service to a platform that connected businesses with international business schools. The idea, at least for about 12 hours, included a “corruption feed” where students and business people could exchange anti-corruption strategies.
We talked to a law librarian and were horrified when he suggested our service could “aid and abet” corruption. How would we make sure that the peer-shared strategies meant to avoid corruption wouldn’t actually encourage corruption?
But that wasn’t even our biggest problem. In our current model, no one had a strong incentive to give information. A sharing site doesn’t work when no one wants to share.
We were stuck. In comes James Reimer, a former Cargill employee who worked internationally and is currently developing a salt business in Haiti.
He also happens to be my Dad.
We asked him, “What do companies need? What are they willing to pay for?”
He said that most companies have mandatory compliance training on corruption and code-of-ethics issues. This training is usually offline, non-interactive and a huge pain for human resources.
We had a new problem to solve. One that was, thankfully, a lot narrower and more manageable.
Our new service offers “customizable, interactive and regionally-specific compliance training.” Employees would read and watch cases of recent corruption issues in their countries (i.e. Walmart bribery in Mexico) and give their feedback.
For instance, “Do you think what the company did was wrong?” and “How likely is it that your company would do something similar?”
The service would then create reports on the “ethical status” of each division, allowing companies to address problems before they become headlines.
And with that, we sent out our first email to a potential customer.