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How Bain Helps Build the Next Generation of Billion-Dollar Businesses

How Bain Helps Build the Next Generation of Billion-Dollar Businesses

We work with established companies to adapt and make their big, innovative ideas a reality.

  • min read


How Bain Helps Build the Next Generation of Billion-Dollar Businesses

This article is part of a series of sponsored content created in partnership with Fortune, available on our Breakthrough hub.

COVID-19 has accelerated the proliferation of digital platforms and new technologies like never before. As a result, companies are having to reimagine their business models to meet the rapidly evolving needs of their customers—and fuel the growth they need to stay competitive. 

“The pace of change is only going to get faster, making more business models obsolete and creating new growth opportunities,” says Mikaela Boyd, a partner with Bain & Company and head of its strategy practice for the Americas. 

Today, forward-thinking companies are working to build large, new core businesses to drive innovation and meet quickly evolving industry and consumer demands. In a recent survey by Bain & Company, CEOs projected that over the next decade, 40% of the value their companies create would come from entering new markets and launching new business models.

To help companies establish successful new cores, Bain recently rolled out a new name for its corporate venturing, product, and business-building solution: NextSM. The service pairs companies with Bain strategists, designers, engineers, and venture ecosystem experts to support every phase of business building. Together, they create “engine two” businesses and strengthen organizational muscles to accelerate new business ventures from seed to scale. 

Here, Boyd discusses how Bain is setting companies up for long-term success.

Why is business building rising to the top of the strategic agenda?

Simply put, business building drives growth and value. To win in today’s marketplace, companies need to proactively identify, validate, and capitalize on signals of change. In the past, organizations often relied on incremental investments in their strongest core businesses, whether it was expanding a product line or moving into new customer segments, but those that want to succeed in the new era have to think differently. 

Is that what inspired the recent rollout of Next?

Yes. Next is really the evolution of the business building, innovation, and design capabilities that we’ve been building and delivering on for years at Bain. The name reflects a doubling-down on our commitment to help companies envision and build for the future.

The ultimate goal is to create the next generation of “scale insurgents”—those that combine the benefits of size with the nimble, focused energy of a startup. We do that by partnering with clients to build up their muscles and connective tissue so that corporate venture teams can innovate, validate, create, and scale new growth engines over and over again. In our experience, those are the biggest obstacles: scale and repeatability. 

In your conversations with CEOs, what are some of the key challenges they face in building new products and businesses?

Companies are often too reactive to the latest trend and chase shiny objects with innovation. We work with them to commit to “investment themes,” bold beliefs about the world that guide sustained investment. Doing that well requires an innovation strategy that continuously unpacks market and customer insights to reveal clear visions for where to play.

Another common pitfall is trying to go it alone. Our research shows that more than 70% of successful ventures use mergers and acquisitions (M&A) to directly acquire the desired new venture, establish new capabilities, or expand to new geographies. Our startup and venture capital ecosystem provides a pulse on where an industry is headed as well as deep connections that lend access to partnership and acquisition opportunities. 

The last major challenge we encounter is talent. We tell CEOs that their biggest talent pools are internal “hidden talent.” What do I mean by “hidden talent”? In most large organizations, business units have a natural tendency to keep their best talent close. The “unlock” is to identify those individuals who arrive at unique insights, tell it like it is, and bring energy and a growth mindset to every scenario. In our experience, most companies harbor these stars within their organizations. The better you get at business building, the more hidden talent will emerge. So it’s a virtuous cycle.

Can you explain more about what the business building process is and how Bain supports it? 

At the beginning of the business-building journey, we help companies do two big things: (1) We work with leadership teams to identify the raw, unmet customer need that sits at the center of creating a great business; (2) building on that raw need, we help them shift gears with the right acceleration to scale quickly.

For example, we recently helped a financial services company develop, build, and scale a new enterprise solution in less than 10 months. We began with two rapid workshops to align on the target space, resources, and governance. We then conducted a large startup ecosystem scan as one of a number of inputs to examine the space—ensuring we had a clear view of the different ways the market might evolve. 

What we uncovered together was a subtle shift in the market that led us to explore a novel partnership model for their business. We made introductions to private equity and venture capital funds to establish exclusivity and began proof-of-concept testing with several partners. The new distribution model expanded the top of the funnel and lowered acquisition costs, creating a win-win for the company and its partners. Bain’s software engineering team established the high-level platform architecture, and we stood up six multidisciplinary, agile squads spanning strategy, engineering, product, and design personnel from both Bain and the company to build and launch the platform a few months ago. The market feedback has been unbelievably positive, and the new business is already well ahead of growth projections. 

What are some of the other results you’ve seen so far?

We’ve worked on more than 150 new growth engine projects over the past five years and have a 90% concept-to-launch rate. A few recent results stories include a technology company where we helped to design and launch a new hardware business that led to a 30% stock price increase after the announcement. We helped a coalition of companies combine their unique data assets to create a sustainability-focused data and insights offering that is on track to deliver $100 million in revenue by 2025. 

What are the long-term goals for Bain with Next?

We aim to be the partner of choice for the world’s boldest thinkers. Bain has long been committed to building iconic businesses that transform the way we live and work, and Next builds on that history. We want to help both incumbents and insurgents build, transform, and develop sustained market leadership positions by giving them access to all the cumulative intelligence and capabilities that we’ve collected from decades of experience with the leading global organizations. 

We’re proud that the companies we work with have built successful businesses and repeatable innovation programs. Business building is now a part of who they are and what they do. This is the continuous reinvention that business today requires. 

If you want to learn more, feel free to get in touch with Mikaela Boyd.


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Next℠ Business Building is a service mark of Bain & Company, Inc.