Lab Notes

Shipwrecks, pivots, and entrepreneurship

How GoKart Labs and Studio/E are working to progress entrepreneurial thinking in the Twin Cities.

Every single day entrepreneurs face the unknown and we can choose to either fear or embrace that which we don’t know. At GoKart Labs, we choose the latter, knowing the rewards are greatest for those with the courage to explore.

But navigating the unknown is never easy, and we all need tools – both literal and metaphorical – to find our way. To invent such tools, we teamed up with the folks of Studio/E, a community of leaders created to help influencers realize the potential to think and behave as explorers and as entrepreneurs (that’s what the ‘E’ is for).

When Twin Cities natives Nate Garvis (consultant and civic thought leader) and Tom Wiese (counsel and tool designer) approached us, they already had the framework of Studio/E in mind. They had several ideas, some crumpled maps, and Sir Ernest Shackleton as inspiration.

garvis_wiese
Left to Right: Tom Wiese & Nate Garvis

Important side-note here, Shackleton is the great British explorer who led the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition from 1914–1917. Though technically a failed expedition, as Shackleton didn’t reach his initial goal, it has been recognized as a remarkable feat of harrowing challenges and endurance while navigating his entire crew back to safety.

Garvis and Wiese so admire Shackleton that they decided to base Studio/E off of his ways of leadership.

Where Ideas Go Places

Initially, the ask was for GoKart to create a website and a brand for Studio/E, and provide Wiese and Garvis with the tools to bring their concept to life. What we did together, however, was create an experience.

Here’s an idea of how our companies collaborated:

We started off with the “knowns” of Studio/E. These included Wiese and Garvis wanting to build a support system for all of the intelligent folks in their community; an environment where learning and playing went hand-in-hand; and the location would be the historic James J. Hill Reference Library in St. Paul.

Then we hit mind maps, mood boards and games of various natures to define what else Studio/E could become. One such mood board had images of whiskey, leather, wine and George Clooney (you know, everything sophisticated, timeless and relevant). We wanted this experience to emulate the historic times of Shackleton and Hill while marrying it with today’s progression and technology.

We also played a game of “This, Not That,” whereby we gathered ideas and images of what Studio/E would be and would (definitely) not be. (This, by the way, is a highly effective tool for idea creation).

As Garvis notes, “We wanted Studio/E to be an exclusive community of leaders and learners but not elitist at all. It’s an important distinction and GoKart helped navigate that idea beautifully.”

All of these exercises and meetings lead to the creation of the Studio/E private-access portal where members access studio materials, view images and videos, and share ideas and articles with each other. This is how the community stays connected outside of the quarterly sessions at the James J. Hill Library.

Together we’ve built a classic but modern experience that transcends the 1900s (when Shackleton embarked), providing leaders in every sector with a platform to interact, play, learn and grow together.

But again, entrepreneurship is never easy

We have endured moments of panic and doubt – it simply goes with the territory and, just like Shackleton, we didn’t know what we didn’t know.

After releasing the member portal to the first cohorts, feedback poured in from members about issues they had navigating the experience. By design, we wanted to quickly put the tool into the hands of users who we knew would provide direction for where to take things next. Together we grabbed the helm once more, and bravely pivoted.

Our pivot brought us in a very different direction, which is the experience that Studio/E is today. Instead of looking at that as a failure we viewed it as an opportunity to learn and improve. Undoubtedly, we will continue to evolve as the needs of the users do the same.

This is the essence of entrepreneurial thinking and the point of having created Studio/E in the first place – GoKart Labs and Studio/E not only worked together to foster a safe haven for entrepreneurial thinking, but also used this same framework in the very development of it.

Success is a Shared Outcome

Now, with six cohorts and around 160 members, Studio/E is rapidly growing and developing graduates with the confidence and the know-how to execute their brilliant ideas. This ongoing relationship between GoKart Labs and Studio/E has proven a successful endeavor – pivots and all – and we’re very proud to have helped navigate.

At GoKart Labs, we specialize in Invention & Business Strategy, User Experience & Design, Web & Mobile Software Development, and Digital Marketing. To find out more about becoming a client, call 612.454.4012.

Blazing the cyber trail for over 15 years, AJ broke the seal on many online tactics, techniques and technologies that are now industry standards. His constant analyzing and asking questions is part of his DNA and, by association, has defined GoKart culture; by turning that introspective tendency to interactive strategy and architecture, he maintains his status as a pioneer (minus the Wild-West aroma).

  1. What a great concept and unique story of partnership. StudioE sounds interesting, I like the Shackleton references, I just picked up Lansing’s book Endurance. Here’s to continued growth and awesomeness!