How do we evaluate ideas for I-Prize?
What makes a good idea for I-Prize? We have a list of specific questions we use to evaluate all contributions. Before I explain what they are, I should also specify that some ideas which may not be good for Cisco, may still be very interesting for startups to pursue. Most contributions into I-Prize fall into 3 broad categories:1. Feature (e.g. add Bluetooth to IP-phones)2. Product (e.g. create a networked home health monitoring device)3. Market (e.g. get into the mobile phone business)(the above are merely examples-I’m not suggesting that we are actually going to do these :-)For the Cisco I-Prize, we’re looking for new businesses, so features aren’t”big enough”. We’re interested in Products (especially if we can see a range or family of products in the same area) and Markets (especially if they are good adjacencies for us). The evaluation criteria for the Cisco I-Prize comes down to market size, timing, adjacency, and differentiation.Identifying a big market opportunity isn’t enough in itself. If you’re too late, it’s like arriving when the party’s over (the good stuff is already gone). The notion of timing is pretty straightforward (too soon, too late, just right?). Contrary to what you might think, first movers rarely win (Google wasn’t the first in Search).Adjacency is all about core & context (see Geoffrey Moore’s books, including the recent Dealing with Darwin). The basic idea is that companies should concentrate on their core and outsource or partner for context. For new business opportunities, we want them to be close to Cisco’s core-so that we can bring existing skills, technologies, or business-models to bear. In other words, getting into wireless medical devices could be adjacent, but fluffy children’s toys would not.A final consideration is to consider what Cisco’s enduring differentiation would be. That’s another way of asking the question:”once everyone knows what you’re doing, why should customers continue to pay you a premium for your product or service?” If there is no advantage except for being early to a market, your offering could quickly become commoditized and you’d make little or no profits in that market.The Cisco I-Prize evaluation criteria are the same criteria Cisco uses to evaluate any business opportunity (acquisitions and internal developments). We have a team of people in the Emerging Technology team that are reviewing all of the I-Prize ideas and will use the questions of market sizing, timing, adjacency, and differentiation to select the best overall idea.