1:37 - From Mexico to Switzerland
10:44 - Corporate innovation
27:26 - Validating an idea
39:37 - Calculating client ROI
48:28 - Looking for a different type of investor
Alan Cabello is the founder of SparkLabs, Sparkworks and Sparkademy, three sister companies working towards a common goal: business innovation in Switzerland. He previously co-founded the startup Kooku and holds a PhD in Strategy & Innovation Management from the EPFL.
Around 2013/2014, while he was getting his PhD, Alan was a visiting researcher at Stanford, and there had a great experience with the d.school, where students and professors from different academic fields come together to tackle complex issues through a transdisciplinary and human-centered approach. When he returned to Switzerland, despite the prevalence of high-quality education, he found no such problem-solving approach. In 2014 he created SparkLabs, a cooperation between different Swiss universities with the purpose of educating and advancing a human-centered approach to product, service, and business model innovation.
Then in 2015 he created Spark Works, a small innovation consultancy to tackle corporate innovation and transformation challenges. Finally, in 2020, Alan built Sparkademy, a digital-first institution bringing scalable and measurable learning to the corporate world. Sparkademy offers Online Courses, Practical Assignments, Knowledge Checks and access to a Method Kit, and also defines clear learning objectives and effective inputs, so as to help measure participant progress and provide feedback.
Sparkademy runs on two business models: one is the classic business school model, where companies are charged per participant per course, and the other one is an engagement-based yearly fee (plus in-app purchases), meaning if engagement goes down, so does the price. Alan feels confident offering this alternative because Sparkademy’s average rate of course completion is 88-94% (stupendously higher than the online course average).
These levels of engagement are possible firstly due to the fact that Sparkademy courses were built using behavioral science insights to keep learners motivated, and secondly because Sparkademy forms the learner cohorts using the Spark Check, a tool based on neuroscience research which helps them test employees' ability to deal with uncertainty and other people’s emotions.
"As an innovation consultant, at least half the time spent with your client goes into educating them on process basics. Which is not the best use of their time, or yours."
"You want to make sure that people are on your team because they want to be there. The person sitting in the corner with their arms crossed brings everybody down; no matter how motivated they are."
If you would like to listen to another founder who also focuses on business innovation, check out episode 79 with Manuel Hartmann, founder of SalesPlaybook.
Don’t forget to give us a follow on our Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin accounts, so you can always stay up to date with our latest initiatives. That way, there’s no excuse for missing out on live shows, weekly giveaways or founders' dinners!