This is an unsponsored review of’s Ideation Bootcamp.

In a time where IP is King, Sam Parr and Gagan Biyani held nothing back. And I don’t mean IP as in Intellectual Property, rather Innovation Prowess – a term used by Wharton marketing professor George Day to describe the difference between growth leaders and growth laggards. Sam and Gagan, both growth leaders and the respective founders of The Hustle and Udemy, offered their first Ideation Bootcamp to an audience of over 200 current and aspiring entrepreneurs. Through six two-hour Zoom sessions over the course of two weeks, the speakers taught everything from discovering opportunities for business and validating ideas, to testing products and gaining traction. With refreshing candidness, they supported everything they taught with personal anecdotes and tools for application. They even exemplified the process by evaluating ideas from participants.

As the founders of Onova - a consulting firm helping Fortune 500s generate ideas and turn those ideas into real products - we constantly have our ears to the ground on new ways to ideate and ship products. We have learned that almost every founder has their own take on entrepreneurship, so we love talking to and learning from other founders and incorporating those learnings into our own process. We believe blending the startup mentality with corporate resources can create a truly unfair advantage for our clients in the market. Now, we are exploring how AI can transform the way we work and live.

Here are our 6 biggest takeaways from Ideation Bootcamp: 

1. Innovation is like writing a song—it takes practice, creativity, and process.

Sam and Gagan described it best: entrepreneurship is an art. But when described as an art, entrepreneurship seems daunting, unapproachable, and reserved for the Steve Jobs and Elon Musks of the world. Yet, just because it’s an art, doesn’t mean there’s no process. During the Ideation Bootcamp, the speakers granularly broke down the steps of starting a business and taught the scientific thought process behind each step. Like writing a song, while there is limitless artistic freedom, there are certain proven structures that work. Over hundreds of thousands of songs share the same four-chord progression. What differentiates hits from misses is the creative use of melodies and rhythms within the structure. Likewise, Gagan emphasizes the need to develop one’s own style of entrepreneurship, your own way of doing things, and that’s what makes it an art. The more songs you write, the more you’re able to pick out the patterns and indicators of a hit in the making. With entrepreneurship, the more you do it, the more likely you are to find something that works.

2. Substance over Style: Your value proposition is more important than branding. 

How many of you have made an impulsive buy simply because you thought the product looked good? I know I have. These days, we are flooded with new brands and products trying to appeal to consumers using aesthetic branding or too-good-to-be-true giveaways. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, Ideation Bootcamp reminds us that those shouldn’t be the focus when trying to validate an idea. At the testing stage, the goal is to create a minimum viable product (MVP) and validate assumptions about the market or product through iteration. When creating the MVP, rather than making it fully-functional or visually appealing, it instead needs to be cheap, haphazard, easy, specific, and simple (CHESS). Why? Because you want people to buy the product by virtue of that it actually fulfills a need, not just because it looks good. A product that caters to a real need is infinitely more valuable than a product that just looks good. Substance over style. And the only way to find out is to strip away all the distractions from the solution. Besides, the MVP is meant to be iterated upon and continuously tested. Product and service development is an ongoing process—before over-investing time, effort, and resources, first validate it and generate quality feedback. 

Check out these tools to create your MVP:

  1. 99 Designs - Create fast and quality designs for your tests. 
  2. Nucode - Join a community of makers with access to numerous no-code tools.
  3. Bubble - Build a fully functional web app without code.

3. Don’t lose yourself in the process. What you want is important, too.

It’s not uncommon to hear stories of entrepreneurs who become alienated from family and friends on their start-up journeys. Over-fixation on growth and success may lead founders to forget the passion and spark that led them to start their business in the first place. While many start-up blogs tout this as a necessary sacrifice of becoming a successful entrepreneur, the speakers call us to reflect on ourselves and what’s important to us as an integral part of the ideation process. Right from the first session, instead of diving into their own experiences or teaching the frameworks, the focus has been on defining our strengths, interests, passions, and desires. Declaring that the goal of entrepreneurship is finding Ikigai, a Japanese term meaning “reason for being,” the sweet spot we should all be looking for lies at the intersection of our passion, mission, vocation, and profession. This is a refreshing perspective coming from two entrepreneurs who know what the hustle is like and have gone through it many times. In today’s world, where an attitude of “stop-at-nothing” is put on a pedestal, it’s hard to step back and make room for other things in life that we care about in our pursuit of success. The Ideation Bootcamp asks us to evaluate what we want in terms of lifestyle, finances, and risk and reflect that all back into our ideation. Ideation is a process of learning about yourself and picking an idea or business that fits you best. For Gagan, that was his interest in online education, and for Sam, it was his passion for discovering and learning about new trends. By stopping at nothing to reach our goals, we may have nothing by the time we reach them. Spend time to map out your skills, interests, and expectations before diving into starting your business.

4. Success is not linear, it’s an iterative process. 

In the world of entrepreneurship, success is not a straight line upwards, where overcoming each stage means you’re ready for the next. Rather, it’s an iterative process where you may find yourself returning to previous steps and challenging your assumptions along the way. In Gagan’s experience of starting Udemy, he shared that he didn’t start making money until two years after coming up with the idea. While we now know Udemy as the popular learning platform with pre-recorded classes, it started out as a marketplace for live classes. With that model, Gagan and his co-founders tried to gain traction and sales for over nine months with no success. That’s when he realized that they skipped two essential steps: definition and testing. Starting again and working through the exact steps and stages that he taught during the workshop, they were able to come up with the current business model and build Udemy to what it is now. Gagan’s story with Udemy is not an outlier in the world of start-ups but rather the reality. Starting a business is a learning process and once new insights are discovered, don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board and do it all over again. 

5. Don’t wait for luck to strike. Create it yourself. 

We’ve all heard the phrase “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” As inspiring as that quote is, “luck” is still portrayed as something that just happens to you as if you have no control over it. In the Ideation Bootcamp, however, the speakers tell us that we can actually create our own luck. The process of starting a successful business is like finding luck, finding that business idea that interests you and aligns with your skills at the right time. Rather than waiting around for this to happen, we can induce it instead by having a unique hustle and high shipping cadence. This means targeting your efforts in your areas of interest, continuing to do good work, improving your skills, all while putting yourself out there as much as possible. In this sense, creating luck is also an iterative process. As you continue to immerse yourself in things that interest you and people that inspire you, you’ll also narrow down your interest and hone your own skills. By doing so, this elusive luck now becomes attainable through commitment and rigor. 

6. Getting started is more important than how you start.

If a high shipping cadence is what you need, then it’s imperative that you start now. In any pursuit in any field, to be known and successful means doing as many things as you can and hoping one of them sticks. If we know what our end goal is, then why wait? Sam and Gagan both have demonstrated boldness in pursuing their interests and passions. When something catches Sam’s eye, he’ll immediately go home and read up on the topic, and try to understand it as much as possible. If you determine there’s an opportunity after doing the research, then immediately start testing it. From when Gagan’s food delivery start-up, Sprig, was conceived, it only took him a month to complete his first MVP test. The fear of starting something is a fear of the unknown. But the Ideation Bootcamp demonstrated that these unknowns can be removed through a process, and by following it, the rate of success is higher. One of the most helpful parts of the workshop was when the speakers provided actual tools and strategies they used to approach each step of the way. These tools are accessible, easy to adopt, and straightforward. They have shown us how easy it is to get started, whether it’s scouring existing databases to look for rising trends, or dissecting a large company’s current business model. Often the information we think we don’t know is already out there, we just have to do a little bit of digging. Knowing that alone is empowering enough to get anyone started on an idea that they have. And that’s what Sam and Gagan have done through this Ideation Bootcamp. 

Check out these resources to help discover your next big idea: 

  1. Product Hunt - Stay on top of the best new products in tech.
  2. Facebook Ad Library - See what trends and products big companies are promoting.
  3. Jungle Scout - All things Amazon including research, product tracking, and keywords. 
  4. Maven - "Idea to Launch in 14 Days," a two week founder boot camp for anyone who wants to learn high-impact innovation skills by rapidly ideating, building and testing a product or business idea. Taught by Onova co-founders, Victor Li and Helen Yin.
Interested in seeing how we can support you and your business in your innovation initiatives? Book an introductory call with Victor Li, Founder & CEO of Onova.
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