Amid the proliferation of new approaches to launching startups, you can add this one from Seattle-based Be Labs. While venture capital firms might screen a hundred startups before choosing one to support, Be Labs turns the process on its head, studying social trends to identify business opportunities and then creating companies to address them.
Take the Vital Juice Co., for example. Be Labs saw an emerging sector for healthful organic juices and determined that the market was fragmented. So it set out to create a market leader—to be to juice what Starbucks is to coffee. The company put its in-house marketing experts to the task of helping to build a brand.
“We do a lot of stuff people get distracted by, such as financials, operations, branding and marketing, so the people we hire can focus on what they are good at,” says Be Labs CEO Edward Balassanian. Thanks to that prep work, soon after the product was released in July, it was available in 60 supermarkets around the region at $8.99 a bottle.
Be Labs addresses in advance the key challenges a startup is likely to face as its scales its business. It spent a year on research to develop a system for sorting and juicing local produce so that it could bring down the time from farm to store shelf to five days from the two weeks typical at other fresh juice companies. And it was ready to deliver a thousand bottles a day before it had a single customer. It has also done the marketing and branding it believes it needs to sell the pricey juice.
Be Labs prototypes two to three business ideas a year and usually has one that is viable enough to spin out. Among other startups is Strings, a mobile app that allows users to share photos, and Pom Pom, a line of fashion-forward athletic wear.