I have become a barefoot runner. This merits a blog post, it being the first time I have applied disruptive innovation to my running since I begrudgingly pulled on a pair of trainers a few years ago and hauled myself around Hyde Park for a charity 5k (at a pace that would more accurately be described as “waddle” than “run”).
Barefoot running – a potentially transformative approach – has been in my deal pipeline for some months and I am sharing my due diligence process as other potential investors may be interested to learn from the critical path – complex not linear – that I undertook to reach my final investment decision.
First came a detailed and inclusive consultation phase. I conducted extensive expert interviews with a diverse range of stakeholders and convened a focus group discussion within one specific user-segment. I spoke with long-term barefoot runners and recent converts. I recorded qualitative and quantitative data and identified externalities, both positive and negative, that had affected their user experience.
Then I moved to market assessment. I landscaped the suppliers operating in this space and ranked them by product range; price point (including projected longevity of use as a proxy for sustainability); alignment to my running values and norms; and catalytic effect on performance. Following this analysis I was able to confidently shortlist three high-potential products for further screening.
Next came a detailed risk-reward ratio analysis on the shortlisted products. I identified two issues as the greatest potential drivers of negative impact. First, injury: I conducted due diligence on likelihood of acquiring injury as a direct result of transitioning to each of the products. Second, reputation (vanity): I considered the impact of being spotted around town in a shoe that does not prioritize aesthetics, and the subsequent negative effect on my credibility. My analysis enabled rapid exclusion of this product.
My complex multi-faceted risk-weighted logical pathway model led me to conclude that the VivoBarefoot Lucy Lite is the optimal product for my running needs. I made the switch a couple of weeks ago and so far its performance, measured against simple yet clear metrics, has been impressive. I certainly feel lighter on my feet and the only negative impact has been a slight and temporary calf strain directly after a run. I am fully expectant that, with well managed experimental iteration of my running style, this side effect will diminish over time.
I have been fortunate to also identify an important unintended consequence of this disruptive innovation: these shoes take up much less space than my previous preferred product – Asics – in the suitcase of a frequent traveller.