Design Sprint Process for Startups: A How-To Guide

The Design Sprint Process for Series-A Start-Ups

Windmill Editorial Team
  • Delivery

You’re a Series-A start-up, you’ve just got funding, and you’re ready to take your business to the next level. Not sure what your next step should be? We’ve got you covered.

Design Sprints can be the fast-track solution you’ve always been looking for.

Design Sprints are a focused, ten-day process focused on solving critical business questions via design, prototyping, and testing ideas with potential customers. They have many proven advantages. For instance, they can help you prioritize tasks according to their level of urgency and importance, while also providing structure to problem-solving. They allow you to use your resources in a cost-effective way and gain valuable user feedback beforehand.

So, if you’re itching to know about how a Design Sprint can benefit Series-A start-ups, you’ve come to the right place.

Why a Series-A start-up should use a Design Sprint 

It can save you money 

While all businesses face some level of financial pressure, a Design Sprint is particularly valuable for Series-A start-ups, helping them to maximize the cash injection for their first funding round, which can be crucial to the survival of the company. Design Sprints are a proven solution to reliably get mission-critical decisions right.  

By short-cutting an expensive MVP design and build phase, a Design Sprint takes an iterative approach to problem-solving that allows products and ideas to be quickly tested and validated. With actionable data, you can then move into the development phase with confidence, maximizing investment returns in your product. 

Design Sprints encourage fast action, bringing team members of different specialties and knowledge together to explore solutions in a tight schedule. This saves a company months of design, engineering, and development costs. 

It can save you time

There are two big, time-saving advantages to a Design Sprint. Firstly, they minimize the in-workshop time of a CEO/founder, being built to respect the busy work schedules of key decision-makers. Windmill’s Design Sprint process only needs decision-maker involvement on the first two days. 

Secondly, a Design Sprint process is quick—just a couple of working weeks—providing actionable data, fast. Without a consistent revenue stream in place, getting to market and making money quickly can be vital to a start-up.  

When a Series-A start-up should use a Design Sprint  

You want to launch a new feature or functionality of the product  

Design Sprints can help test new product features before it gets launched in the market. It gives start-ups an insight into how customers perceive the product, and the business the opportunity to make any amendments based on the customer feedback they receive.  

At the beginning of the product  

Instead of launching an MVP into the market to understand if an idea is any good, design sprints can help you get clear information from a realistic prototype. With a Design Sprint, start-ups can fast-forward into the future to see their finished product and customer reactions. This also keeps them from making expensive commitments. 

Design Sprints are the best way to create efficient, yet quick solutions to any product issues. They’re a great way to kickstart the development of, for example, your app, web project, hardware, or sales projects. 

Validate business models or solve a business problem 

A Design Sprint can solve strategic problems via Design Thinking tools, such as the Business Model Canvas, amongst others. The Business Model Canvas, in addition to Lean Canvas, Value Proposition Canvas, and Mission Model Canvas, guide an executive team toward thinking clearly in terms of strategic orientation. They help a team really get to grips with their customer interactions, value proposition, infrastructure needs, and finances, among other critical aspects of their business. By mapping out the structure of a business in a clear way, teams can pinpoint weaknesses, set a new direction, or rationalize operations. 

The Design Sprint process explained

A Windmill Design Sprint, all-in, takes ten days, but to reduce stakeholder participation time, our process has four days of workshops, instead of the traditional five. The founder or CEO of a Series-A start-up is a busy person people—we get it! Before a workshop begins, Windmill conducts preliminary research. Then begins the five-step process: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. 

Day 1 

The first day is about defining the challenge, building empathy, and mapping how customers will interact with your product.

To define the strategy to find the right solution, the team will create personas that include the characteristics of their ideal target audience, taking into consideration customer needs and motivations.

Empathy is a critical element of a Design Sprint, according to Windmill’s Principal Designer, Taras Bakusevych:

“Building empathy is a great starting point for your workshop. It will help you understand our customers, what are they trying to achieve, what drives them and what challenges they facing in the process.”

Commonly, a workshop will produce a design principles list that contains certain adjectives you want users to describe your company’s products with. One of the main goals of the first day is to map how customers will interact with your products.

Day 2

The second day is dedicated to Ideation. Often, the workshop participants will engage in a sketching activity to brainstorm solutions to the problem. A great way to do this could be to ask every team member to identify UI (user interaction) solutions. Other ideation activities could include Lightning Talks, How Might We, Affinity Mapping, SWOT Analysis, Value Proposition Canvas. It’s always a good idea to have a diverse mix of ideas and perspectives on the table. Here at Windmill, we sketch ideas and user journeys by using storyboards.  

Day 3

Day 3 is for prototyping. On this day, the team takes learnings from the first two days to build a prototype. It lets the teams test their ideas, whilst also saving money, time, and other resources. The prototype can help predict the success or failure of potential solutions. It’s important to keep the prototype as accurate as possible to get the most authentic user feedback.  

Day 4

The last day is dedicated to validating the prototype in question. The validation stages need the technology team to go over the solutions to figure out their dynamics, and the time it takes to develop them. The stakeholder’s validation is also an essential part of the validation process, as their review is critical for the design sprint to succeed.

Days 5-10

With the workshops concluded, the Windmill team compiles a report packed with insight for sharing with investors and making decisions. This report will highlight the biggest opportunities available to you. It will prioritise the features that will have the most impact with the least amount of effort, time, and resources.

Design Sprints and Series-A start-ups—a match made in heaven

Design Sprints have various advantages for Series-A start-ups. If the process is fully understood and implemented using the best resources, it can help give you a clear idea of what customers think of your product, and how you can improve it if need be. Series-A start-up CEOs/founders want to make the most out of their money, and this includes investing it wisely rather than cost-cutting. With Design Sprints, not only will you save money, but you’ll meet your overall business goals too when your products are aligned with customer needs.  

Windmill Digital is experienced in conducting Design Sprints. Our team is highly skilled and trained in their field and can help you solve any product issue efficiently. To book a Design Sprint and accelerate your start-ups growth, contact us. 

Contact with Windmill envelope

Facing a digital product challenge?

As guide and partner, let us help you deliver impactful change and delight your customers.

Contact us