First we take Manhattan…

It's time we got square. We're expanding our international presence, one city at a time. First stop: New York City. Here's how we plan to get down to innovation business in the City that Never Sleeps.

Board of Innovation is getting ready to split up. Not in a “your favourite band is no longer” kind of way. We’re sticking together as a core group, just moving a few members to the US of A to take Board of Innovation to a new level of entrepreneurism. That’s right. We’re gearing up to play to an even bigger crowd. But we’re doing it in a completely different way than most agencies do: by investing centrally and starting viral cells instead of local hubs. Since our turnover and team grew 60% last year, the plan is to open a US office based in Manhattan. The time has come to go platinum by dividing, multiplying, and checking out a different innovation scene.

Wish us luck!

And…start spreading the news.

Our roots

Board of Innovation is an international innovation agency that supports Fortune 500’s in the design of their growth strategies and new businesses. Our consultants are a diverse, hardworking bunch, coming from more than 12 nationalities, and working together in different entrepreneurial cells within Board of Innovation. Last year, we did projects in China, Argentina, Singapore, Rwanda, the US, and all over Europe. In fact, about 30% of the demand for services comes from outside of the EU, largely driven by the US. This is why it feels only natural for us to begin another journey in other countries to reflect who we are. We’ll still stay true to our roots by keeping our office open in our founders’ home city of Antwerp.

Branching out

Having such an international team gives us a unique perspective on business and society. Opening an independent international office allows us to continue to build up our entrepreneurial spirit, establish more international opportunities for our team, and increase our global presence and impact. Since we’re going to be doing this with only two people to begin with, we’re keeping it real: very lean and agile.

Going all-in

Learn from nature

Inspired by biomimicry, we want to grow our organization like bacteria in a culture by splitting off into entrepreneurial cells. Not that we want to be like bacteria, or take over the world like a super-virus consulting giant or anything. That’s just creepy. We want to keep our entrepreneurial spirit while differentiating our offering. Think of us more like productive ants in a colony.

Design criteria

We created design criteria for new entrepreneurial cells to build their colonies around our growth missions and continue believing in growth through entrepreneurship.

These are our criteria:

Small, agile cells with a maximum of 8 entrepreneurial people capable of infecting a community with our philosophy

Inspire a community of change-makers to help us design new businesses for our clients

Aim for long-term growth over short-term profit

Designed to be resource flexible so that each region can easily split again, meaning there is minimal investment in each cell

Cells are driven by turbo-charged teams that are self-steering.

Minimal investment in each cell

Exponential vs. linear growth

In contrast with what most economists predict, most of today’s business growth happens on an exponential curve, often driven by technology. If we were to say we would like to open 13 offices in the coming 5 years, most experienced advisors would tell us we’re crazy. We might be, but the insanity is driven by the concept of exponential growth instead of linear growth. Instead of opening one office every year from our head office (resulting in 5 offices after 5 years), we want to open a new cell from each cell. This allows us to grow exponentially instead of linearly. With a success rate of 75%, we should be able to have 13 international cells by 2023 and 25 by 2025. It is an ambitious plan, built on what we’ve learned so far and seen in concepts explained in books on exponential organizational growth.

Will it work? We’ll find out!

We value the principle of learning by doing, and learning from failure. We aim to run every new office with two people: one local and one experienced Board of Innovation team member. The plan is to minimize investment in each cell, allowing a cell to split up easily. In the event of failure, it will be cheap. We’re setting out to maximize central investments by managing recruiting, onboarding, marketing, and sales through digital transformation so that every cell can benefit. After this, we’ll record all our learnings in a Board of Innovation growth strategy playbook so that new cells within the organization can learn from each other. A handbook of our Board of Innovation family tree in which we’ll include all our awkward moments and epic fails. Because we wouldn’t be Board of Innovation if we weren’t transparent about our growing pains.

Launching to NYC

You might be saying to yourself: “I get the concept, but why New York?”

We wanted a new challenge and there is no better place for that than the Big Apple. The competition and speed of innovation will force us to sharpen our value proposition. In addition, there are quite a few other practical benefits. There are direct flights from Antwerp, it’s English-speaking, and we have a solid bunch of existing businesses and opportunities there. Plus, the six-hour time difference between the EU and US office is manageable.

Building on the principle of ‘learn by doing’ we aim to:

    • Build an internationalization playbook so we can start new cells quicker
    • Validate our international entrepreneurial cell model
    • Build our first successful cell outside of core team
    • Learn to refer to GSMs as cell phones
    • Sharpen value proposition & offers by working in a leading innovation location
    • Explore digital tools & ways of working remotely

Growth timeline

We launch in February 2019 and a team of us will move full time to New York City in May. If all goes well, we’ll launch two additional cells in 2020. Let’s hope that 2020 isn’t about hindsight. But based on our plan in the making, we don’t think it will be.

We have a broad set of contacts and clients in the US, including GE, PMI, TD bank, but we’d like to increase our local network.

Do you like what we have done for your company and want to share our services with others? Would you like to watch our journey unfold or support our growth? Feel free to connect with Vincent on LinkedIn and help us connect with your local contacts in the United States. Or just give us a call and wish him bon voyage.

Let's connect!


I’m Vincent Pirenne, Innovation Strategist @ Board of Innovation. Spreading innovation culture is in our DNA – if you liked the read, contribute to our mission by sharing this article.

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