Designing New Ventures with NGK

  • Launch new ventures
  • Business design
  • Product design
  • Design research

Building on the success of our Design & Society workshop and opportunity identification in aging and mobility, NGK asked ADG to lead a 3-month venture sprint to find and pilot a $100M+ opportunity in mobility.

Opportunity: Building the Future of Mobility

Established in 1936, NGK has grown into one of the leading automotive and technical ceramic suppliers worldwide and is the number one supplier of spark plugs, a core component of the internal combustion engine. With a market cap of 4.55B, NGK is a large and prosperous company but is also facing the rise of EVs and increased importance of sustainable operations and the subsequent decline of their primary revenue driver, spark plugs.

To adapt, NGK has invested into future industries, including automotive electronics and  has launched three Venture Labs in the EMEA, APAC and Americas regions. ADG has partnered with all three NGK Venture Labs, including hosting a Design & Society workshop exploring how to grow new business ventures and support the development of new products and services that redefine contemporary life.

NGK’s Americas Venture Lab asked ADG to build on our ongoing trusted partnership by deeply exploring Mobility to find and ultimately pilot a new venture that draws on NGK’s capabilities with the potential to grow past $100M+ in revenue per year.

The ADG and NGK team conducted workshops, user interviews, and market research to explore every aspect of mobility, including systemic pain points deep into the supply chain.

Strategy: Ventures That Solve Today and Tomorrow's Problems

We began with a Design & Society workshop to identify opportunities across macro trends, like the aging population and mobility. We ideated four venture concepts and found that suburban mobility was a pressing and growing global challenge. We interviewed people from the suburbs and found three key pain points.

1. Pressure on all family members from forced negotiation of mobility needs.

2. Lack of flexible mobility choices within a radius of comfort.

3. Difficulty building a trusted community who can offer mutual support.

From our research, we developed a thesis around shipping and connected mobility, which we partnered to explore building a venture that could launch in the near future. We formed a joined up team of ADG’s talented designers and representatives from NGK’s Americas Venture Lab and Strategic Growth and Partnerships team. We led this team through a process spanning exploration & discovery, design research, synthesis & solution generation, and venture pitching.

We discovered opportunities across the global shipping process that address decentralization, distribution, persistent volatility, labour shortages, and bottlenecks.

Design: Nudging a Complex, Evolving System Towards a New Value Proposition

Mobility exists across the global economy, where people fuel, move, nourish and serve each other. Initially, we explored the entire supply chain but we found the last-mile was a red ocean space, marked by generic sharing economy services and solutions that change but don’t improve the status quo. We found the most viable opportunities were in the movement of goods, not people. 

ADG began by identifying trends, key criteria and constraints to frame four initial problem spaces: Bicycle Safety, Motorcycle Safety, Construction, and Fleet / Freight. Each problem space presented its own compelling opportunity.

Bicycle and motorcycle safety (which we later combined to vulnerable road users) are vulnerable. They have a greater incentive to prioritize getting into connected mobility to stay safe. They also tend to spend more on aftermarket gear, where NGK has a strong presence. For Construction and Fleet / Freight, stresses from global volatility were breaking existing supply chains and just-in-time manufacturing systems.

We conducted deep research into driving forces, startups, investment activity, patents, and other change indicators across each problem space. For example, there are tons of startups focused on last mile delivery, such as Slerp, OnFleet, Postmates, and Matternet. Next, we engaged users and experts from across each problem space to surface pain points, unmet needs, and systemic contexts.

From connected vehicles to new infrastructure and services, we designed and tested concepts that rethink how people and goods move globally.

We found that the issues around connected mobility were structural, and therefore any transformational ventures must involve restructuring the system. For instance, people can’t walk to the grocery store in the suburbs and must drive. At the individual level people can carpool or rideshare but there’s a deeper structural issue with suburban isolation and how housing isn’t set up for walkability or transit. We consider the whole system to uncover more than just band-aid solutions but transformational $100+ million new business opportunities. Therefore, we needed to conduct macro- and micro-research covering today’s human experience and the broader systems those experiences are embedded within.

As we designed this new venture, we explored three lenses:

  • Desirability - What are user barriers and motivators that could help with adoption?
  • Feasibility - What technology barriers would need to be overcome to make this new venture feasible? 
  • Viability - What are the most attractive and viable market segments to tackle, with low competition, and space to scale to a $100+ million opportunity?
The team spent a week on-site workshopping at NGK's Venture Lab in Silicon Valley.

We designed a handful of 2030 scenarios that pointed to possible future worlds. Each scenario offered context to what future business opportunities might succeed and how they would exist when already at scale. The team met at the NGK Venture Lab in Santa Clara for a week of onsite workshopping. We built roadmaps for our future businesses by exploring how they would look at 4- and 2-year time horizons to understand what would need to be true today for them to succeed. Our new venture involved a platform approach that combined physical space, hardware, and systemic interventions in the global supply chain.

Our final venture addresses painful clogs in the global supply chain system by drawing on NGK’s deep logistical expertise.

Impact: Driving Revenue and Pioneering Process

We built a pitch deck for NGK’s senior leadership, including a business overview, problem, solution, trends enabling the solution, market sizing, competition, the product and its business model, financial projections, and roadmap. We also built a detailed proposal for how we might pilot this new venture and continue NGK and ADG’s partnership.

NGK and ADG's joined up team delivered a pitch to NGK's senior leadership, including the board.

The new venture opportunity was met with enthusiasm and support, particularly from the president of NGK USA who had faces supply issues firsthand. ADG took a complex, global opportunity space and built a new venture that could drive $100M+ in new revenue per year and that draws on NGK’s supply chain mastery as they deliver parts to 140 countries and uses those capabilities and existing relationships to win in this space.

After celebrating, the team took a well-deserved break and got ready for what's next.

ADG responded to our challenge to find big ($100M+) opportunities in the Mobility space with brilliant analysis, in-depth research, and creative application of our capabilities. They have established themselves as a trusted global partner as we create our future.”

Craig Tibbetts,

VP at Venture Lab, NGK SPARK PLUG CO., LTD.