Here's the rigorous 5-day design sprint Google Ventures' 'SWAT team' puts startups through

When startups raise a round of funding from Google Ventures, they’re not just in it for the money.

One of the venture capital fund’s biggest draws is its design team, which acts as a “SWAT team for startups,” according to Bloomberg’s Ian Allen.

The five design partners — Daniel Burka, Jake Knapp, Braden Kowitz, Michael Margolis, and John Zeratsky — have helped build some of Google’s biggest products, like Gmail, YouTube, Apps, Google+, and AdWords.

Part of the team’s secret sauce is a process Knapp created called “design sprints.” Each design sprint takes five days and runs like a “commando operation.”

The team has conducted more than 100 sprints with dozens of different startups so far, like Blue Bottle Coffee, Medium, and FitStar.

The goal is that the fledgling companies will learn the process from the Google Ventures design team, and then continue to use it moving foward.

Google calls the process one of the “greatest hits” of business strategy, innovation, and behaviour science, that compresses what usually takes a couple months into a single week.

Here’s how it works:

  • The first two days are all about brainstorming. The design team wants to help each startup find identify something they could do to make their product or service better.
  • With a large timer to keep people moving fast, Knapp asks all startup team members to start with the question “How might we…?” and then fill in the blank. He “hands out Post-its, scribbles on walls, calls on just about everyone for ideas,” Allen writes.
  • The second day of brainstorming includes sketching differet problems and solutions out on paper.
  • By the third day, the team should have one big problem it’s decided to focus on. That day and the next, the team will hustle away on building a solution (like creating a new feature for an app).
  • On the fifth and final day, Google brings in a focus group of target users to try out the team’s prototype. The startup then has great data to inform how (or whether) they will move forward with their individual project.

Google is currently working on a step-by-step guide book so it can teach even more startups about how to do design sprints.

Read the rest of the Bloomberg piece here.

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