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Dec 8, 2022

Lessons Learned from Sean Sheppard, Managing Partner at U+


By Drew Welton

Founder - I help companies hire innovation executives.

We recently sat down with Sean Sheppard: a founder, venture capitalist, and business advisor who has played a major role in several startups throughout Silicon Valley. His extensive resume includes founding several companies, three venture funds, the world's first product market fit accelerator for startups, and a school to train people to work in technology startups in the Valley.

As he focused on helping his startups grow, he noticed something was missing. Every startup, at some point in its growth journey, hits the same roadblock: they are unable to gain traction in the market and get adoption for their innovation.

“I wanted to see if I could apply the same approach that I use for product market fit for startups to new ideas coming out of big companies,” Sean shares. “Lo and behold, it worked. It worked really well. The biggest problem we ran into was working with internal IT and technology teams to rapidly iterate on products that we could deliver to the market on behalf of these innovation groups. So I went outside and found U+.”

His experience in not only entrepreneurship, but in having a keen eye for adaptability and finding solutions to industry-wide issues makes Sean a fantastic source for advice on innovation during a recession. Below are four insights we’ve taken away from our conversation with Sean that you can reference for help in making smart decisions for your company:


Surviving a Downturn Makes You Stronger

“Focus on doubling down either on lower cost solutions that positively affect the bottom line of your business and your customers' business, or on that strategic top line, high-value stuff where you can play the long game, recognizing that we'll be out of this sooner than people think- and you'll be in a much stronger position for it.”

- Sean Sheppard, Managing Partner at U+


A Strong Core is Necessary for Innovation

“It's important that you prioritize leveraging that core foundation through experimentation in adjacencies. You can experiment quickly, cheaply, and quietly if you know how to do it. And you can do it in a way that de-risks ideas, validates business models, value propositions, and scalable opportunities with particular customer profile segments and use cases without heavily investing in any kind of build.”


- Sean Sheppard, Managing Partner at U+


You Need Business Builders

“The best people for this kind of work have a set of attributes that don't typically exist inside a larger organization. Larger organizations are great at optimizing what they already know, but they're not great at venturing into the unknown. And it's because they don't have the structure or they don't have people with the attributes that know how to embrace ambiguity, have a growth mindset, or learn-it-alls instead of know-it-alls.”


- Sean Sheppard, Managing Partner at U+


Let Market Data Do The Talking 

“I don't mean desk research- I mean real, live data and insights collected from live customer interviews and interactions to support that you can contribute to the organization in one or more of these three following ways:

You can either contribute to the top line, the bottom line, or to creating and maintaining your current competitive advantage. And you need to be able to do that quickly. And if you can't do that with leading metrics that demonstrate in that seven- to nine-month timeframe that you're able to do that, then you don't have a strong enough story to support your efforts.”


- Sean Sheppard, Managing Partner at U+


Curious to hear more? Be sure to check out the full conversation with Sean. If you’re ready to talk hiring for your team in 2023, send us a brief and we’d love to support!


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