How to build something new

Trying to build something new can be quite an adventure, full of unexpected twists and turns. The world of startups and innovation is known for its chaotic nature, leaving many entrepreneurs wondering if there’s a way to find some order amidst the madness. I personally was quite overwhelmed when I first started to work with corporate startups in 2019 since building something new by its definition comes with the fact that there is no clear path how to approach it.

Where do you start? What should you work on? Which tasks are worthwhile and which tasks are not? What’s the order in which you should solve the problems that arise?

By working with different startups and by founding a startup myself I have learned that building something new is oftentimes unfamiliar, however, there are certain patterns that repeat themselves. Many great resources like the Design Thinking method or the Lean Startup method build upon those patterns and show that building something new does not inherently lead to a chaotic process that is all over the place. Quite the opposite is true. I think there are actually quite smart and structured ways to approach navigating the unknown.

Making the process of building something new easy to understand

The biggest problem which I always have when engaging with different startup methodologies is that they often only focus on a specific part of building something new and they are often quite theoretical which makes them hard to apply to real situations.

To solve this problem, I spent the last few weeks reflecting on the one-year journey that my two co-founders and I have behind us with our startup Teigpiloten. I collected all the steps that we went through (and those were a lot) and then asked myself exactly the questions I mentioned in the beginning. Did we start with the right things? Were the steps we took valuable? Did we solve the problems in the right order?

By doing this reflection, I not only recollect the journey that we went through, but I was also able to establish six general phases, each including multiple steps, deliverables, and todos of how I would approach building something new the next time.

I documented my findings in a reading deck which I think provides value in two ways. First, it showcases the journey that we went through as a relatable example that makes the process easy to understand. Second, it gives a holistic view of the startup process by generalizing the experiences that I had into one big chain of steps which illustrates how all the different methods and approaches you can use to build something new are connected.

Reading Deck Explanation

The reading deck looks something like this (click the image to enlarge it).


In the top left corner is always the phase. I structured the process into six phases which are Idea, Testing, MVP, Scaling, Operating, and Exit. Each phase has a unique character and the goal of a phase is to take the foundation you established in the phase before to the next level by achieving a new big deliverable or outcome.

In terms of duration, a phase spans at least multiple weeks and more often multiple months or years. A phase is not something you quickly jump through. It’s rather something that will stick with you for quite some time and guide what you work on and how you work.


The left column shows the steps that I recommend taking. I formulated them as deliverables so it is easy to understand what has to be done and it makes it also easy to check if a high-quality deliverable exists that marks the step as done. I talk about high-quality deliverables on purpose since not every deliverable is a good deliverable. With a high-quality deliverable, I imply that the deliverable is based on well-researched, truthful, accurate, and validated information.

One of my biggest pet peeves is making information up out of thin air just to complete a deliverable. For example, the goal of filling out a value proposition canvas is not to fantasize about potential customers. Instead, its goal is to actually go out of the building, talk to a significant number of customers, and then fill the canvas out with proven data from the real world to categorize and analyze the learnings made.

Needlessly to say, the structure I provide only makes sense if the deliverables are done well and the person doing it also knows how to do them right. This also means that one needs to spend a good amount of time and effort, often spanning weeks or months to achieve a single deliverable.

The last step of a phase also has a fail criterium. This means if you do not achieve this deliverable as it is described, then you need to go back in the process and do another iteration from the point where things went wrong. In the early phases, it’s quite likely to jump back often as you cycle through different ideas, hypotheses, or MVPs fast. This reiteration of a whole phase or steps of a whole phase is what I would consider a pivot.


The middle column includes todos that are connected to the deliverables. The goal of the todos is to provide some ideas for how the deliverable can be approached. The way to achieve a deliverable is not always obvious which is why I added those exemplary todos.

For example, it might not be obvious how you can create a pool of validated problems. This is why I added the todo of interviewing industry experts. Interviewing industry experts is in my experience the best way to validate gut feelings about potential problems and replace them with real insights and numbers about the problems that exist.

There are also other ways to achieve the todos as the rabbit hole of potential tools in entrepreneurship goes very deep. So if you have other or better tools in your toolbox, then of course use them!

Role of the founder

I added this small column to illustrate how the steps or the phase feels as a founder. Building something new also means constantly changing one’s role while the project or company matures. Therefore I found it extremely interesting how my own role constantly changed.

The best way I can describe this shift is that it feels like you are switching positions or even departments in a company very rapidly. You start out as a market researcher, then you transition into a creative innovation expert that comes up with new solutions, then you have to do a lot of experiments and hypotheses validation like an academic researcher – the list goes on.

I tried to connect each part of the startup process to typical roles found in companies to communicate what the work looks like, which skills are required, and which feeling it creates for the founder during that time.

Teigpiloten Journey

The very right column contains the personal journey that my co-founders and I went through. As first-time founders, our approach was far from perfect execution, so I do not have good examples for each step. Nevertheless, I attached some images with a small description whenever I found a fitting piece of media from our own journey.