VNTR terminology – explained in simple terms

This glossary explains the technical terms from the innovation environment from the perspective of VNTR | Innovation & Venturing. This glossary should be of particular interest to readers of our two books: our failbook and our successbook.


An accelerator is an institution that helps start-ups develop quickly through coaching over a certain period of time. In other words, it speeds up the development of a start-up. There are various different accelerators in Switzerland, e.g. Kickstart Accelerator, F10 and Fongit.

Adjacent innovation

Adjacent innovation refers to the process of tapping into a new market and appealing to a new target group by drawing on something that the company is already very good at. It often comes about in connection with the horizon model.


Agility is the capacity of a modern-day company to respond to changes in a highly dynamic way. When it comes to projects and innovation plans, an agile approach will often supplement or complement traditional project management, something that is usually very gradual and which rigidly abides by the waterfall model (flowing from left to right). Different agile methods are used today (e.g. scrum).


Ambidexterity describes the ability to be both efficient and innovative. This involves being able to operate and optimize (exploitation) the core business whilst also being able to delve into new business areas (exploration).


The term “blockchain” describes data chains that link together information such as transaction data and time stamps. No central authority – in other words, a “trustworthy third party” – is required to manage the information and verify its accuracy. Accounting information is stored on various network nodes in a decentralized fashion. This ensures existing datasets cannot be manipulated or falsified.

Break even point

The break even point is the point at which the revenue and overall costs of an investment (or innovation) are equal, meaning the investor has neither made a profit nor a loss.

Business case

A business case examines a business scenario by looking into the profitability of the investment required. It allows you to present and consider the projected financial and strategic impact of a project, plan or investment.

Business model

A business model essentially describes how a business works. How profit is actually made is particularly relevant here. The main components of a business model are value propositions (what service is being provided), the added value architecture (how is the service provided), the revenue model (value) and target customers (who is the target audience of the service).

Business model innovation

A business model innovation is, therefore, the intentional modification of an existing business model, or the creation of a new one (see: Business model).

Business modelling

Business modelling simply refers to the development of business models (see also: Business model).


In the field of innovation, cannibalization refers to the situation where your own new products and services compete with existing ones. This is often met with internal resistance on the part of product managers or the management because established high margins fall sooner. It is important to strike a balance between self-induced margin loss and external competition.


At PostFinance, CO-STAR is a format used to describe and structure a new business idea. Other companies prefer terms such as NABC, business model canvas and so on, whereas we use CO-STAR which gives us a common language when it comes to innovation projects.

The VNTR CO-STARs are normally in horizon 3. Each letter stands for an aspect of the project/idea: C = customer, O = opportunity, S = solution, T = team, A = advantage and R = result.

Contribution margin

The contribution margin is the difference between revenue (turnover) and variable costs, which in turn indicates the available amount that can be “contributed” towards covering the fixed costs.

Crowd donation

Crowd donating is a form of crowd funding where many investors contribute financially to a project they feel is of interest to them without expecting anything of note in return.

Crowd funding

Crowd funding is a type of fundraising that allows you to finance projects and products, implement business ideas and do many other things using capital or similar resources provided by a group of people (the crowd, so to speak).


Cryptoassets are generally defined as private, digital assets that use cryptography and blockchain technology. The best-known cryptoassets, cryptocurrencies, are used as a means of exchange and payment.


This abbreviation is frequently used in companies to refer to board members who serve as chief technology officer or chief transformation officer, which makes them responsible for the technological development and infrastructure, or digital transformation, of the company.


Custody refers to the safekeeping and administration of assets (today also cryptocurrencies) on behalf of the customer.

Customer Journey

“Customer journey” describes the journey of a potential customer through different touchpoints of a product, brand or company until they reach the desired final destination.

Customer Lifetime Value

The customer lifetime value (CLV) generally indicates the value of a customer to a company throughout their “customer lifetime”.

Design Thinking

Design thinking is a mindset involving a number of processes, tools and methods that can be applied to complex problems where the solution is not immediately apparent. Design thinking is distinguished by the fact that it starts off with the customer/individual (user-centred), and then – based on their observations/responses – identifies needs, which in turn helps to come up with ways of solving problems. Instant feedback is obtained and tested using quick and simple prototypes so that the results can be used to help with further development. Design thinking is the core method used for every innovation process in innovation teams today. It is also an approach customer experience management (CEM) teams are familiar with and use today too.

Development areas

Changing needs and new trends and technologies present opportunities for new or different business models. VNTR strategically looks for opportunities and defines development areas to this end, i.e. related and potential new markets and themes, that it sees as exciting. These development areas are not the result of a rigid, pre-defined process. Instead, they are identified by monitoring new trends, technologies and start-ups and by bringing together all sorts of different components. VNTR regularly checks to ensure they are still up to date and relevant.


Unlike incremental innovation, radical or disruptive innovation can displace and destroy entire markets, existing products and companies. According to Clayton M. Christensen, radical innovations tend to come about in areas and markets that are of no interest to the market leader in terms of margins, for instance. The innovation is usually poor quality at the outset, but then evolves dramatically, becoming a disruptive factor in the high-quality, high-margin market of the market leader. Radical, disruptive innovations require a different approach to incremental ones.

Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT)

see blockchain: blockchain technology, one of the cornerstones of cryptocurrencies, is one of the best-known distributed ledger technologies, which is why blockchain technology is often used as a synonym for distributed ledger technologies in general. A distributed ledger is essentially a technology where data is managed online in a decentralized way.

Efficiency innovation

Efficiency innovation simplifies, streamlines and optimizes existing processes, products or services. This innovation is often incremental in nature.


Exploitation and exploration are two approaches to innovation. Exploitation is about capitalizing more on work that has already been done. Products and services that are already on the market are commercialized more in order to benefit for as long as possible. Exploitation is mainly embedded in innovation horizon 1 of the core business. Exploration involves looking for new, uncharted territory. This is embedded in innovation horizon 3 in particular, in which brand new business models, products and services are developed outside the existing core business (see also: Horizon model).


A person who is able to support teams and to learn from and apply specific methods and approaches, e.g. in innovation, without actually managing or directing the work themselves.


The term FinTech stands for finance and technology. This refers to financial services that are based on digital technologies, or the corresponding startups that provide this type of service.

Horizon model

Based on McKinsey’s horizon model, we divide innovation into three horizons:
Horizon 1 – Core business: optimizing the core business
Horizon 2 – Digital transformation and strategy implementation: changing the core business.
Horizon 3 – Future banking: innovating (developing new business models and fields outside the current core business by carrying out quick experiments and trials).

Human-centered design

Human-centered design (HCD) is a method of solving complex problems that focuses on the human perspective, which is incorporated into each stage of the problem-solving process. This will typically involve surveys, observations and collecting customer feedback.


An initial coin offering (ICO) is often an unregulated crowd investing method used by companies that have a business model based on cryptocurrencies. By using this method for raising capital for the first time, cryptocurrency companies avoid the strictly regulated process of raising capital required by risk capital providers, banks and stock exchanges if they want to acquire shares in a company.


In the field of innovation, the term “incremental” refers to the gradual optimization and development of existing components, e.g. products, services and processes.

Innovation ecosystem

An innovation ecosystem is a collaborative network that connects organizations, stakeholders, users and any other relevant groups of people. The idea behind an innovation ecosystem is to harness the strengths of individual members, overcome barriers and unlock new potential to sow the seeds for innovation.

InsureTech (sometimes also Insure-Tech or InsurTech)

The term InsureTech stands for insurance and technology. This refers to insurance services that are based on digital technologies, or the corresponding startups that provide the service.


Intrapreneurship (= intracorporate + entrepreneurship) refers to entrepreneurial behaviour displayed by employees within a company. The idea is for employees to behave as if they themselves were entrepreneurs. Some of Kickstart’s partners, such as Axa, Swisscom and Mobiliar, also send their intrapreneurship teams to Kickstart so that they can attend the master classes and coaching sessions with the start-ups. An excellent example of an intrapreneurship team that used Kickstart is the Axa “Up-To” car package service.


The Internet of Things (IoT) allows you to interconnect physical and virtual objects and get them to work in unison using information and communication technologies.


KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. The term refers to key figures that can be used to determine the performance of company activities. Which KPIs will be used to measure success or failure depends on the company, the particular innovation project and the goals.

Lean Startup

Lean startup is an iterative method for developing products, business models and entire businesses in a quick, resource-efficient manner. At the heart of this method are MVPs and a recurring cycle of build, measure, learn. The method was made famous by Eric Ries, among others.

Market traction

Market traction is the quantitative evidence or measurement of market demand, i.e. proof that someone wants the product. It is an early indicator for estimating the growth of the business model.

MVP – minimal viable product

A minimum viable product is the initial, bare-bones version of a product that is trialled with customers and on the market before undergoing intensive development, and is either validated or invalidated based on the feedback obtained. It is usually the product’s critical function that is tested, and often in very simple ways (a mock-up, a paper prototype etc.). With that said, nowadays the initial version of a product on the market is often considered a MVP if just one critical function is tested without there being any completed RAT product.


The idea structuring method: normally used with presentations to obtain feedback on an idea, prototype or concept. NABC is an acronym made up of four areas that require analysis: need (of the customer), approach, benefit (to customers and companies) and competition (alternatives today and in the future, value proposition).


No-code tools are software development platforms that also allow employees who are not very tech-savvy to produce and implement their own applications without having to write a single line of code. These tools invariably have a simple user interface with drag-and-drop capabilities that you can use to view the development process with ease, and to define the underlying business logic.

Not invented here syndrome

Not invented here (NIH) syndrome refers to resistance to ideas/products/services created outside your own company.

Open innovation

“Open innovation” is the active, strategic use of the outside world to increase innovation potential, for instance by opening up the innovation process. The concept of open innovation should ideally lead to a mutual exchange of knowledge and a partnership for innovating.

Organizational empowerment

Organizational empowerment is about achieving organizational effectiveness where members are organized as best as possible and empowered to reach their targets.


A peer-to-peer (P2P) service is a decentralized platform on which two individuals can interact directly without any mediation by a third party. Instead, sellers and buyers are able to carry out transactions via a P2P service directly.


In the field of business and especially innovation, pivot(ing) denotes a radical change of business model.

Pitch (or elevator pitch)

The presentation of an idea, prototype or concept in its most basic form. An elevator pitch is where you try to win over your audience in around a minute so you can move onto phase two (e.g. another appointment). A pitch presenting an idea tends to last five minutes and incorporates the NABC idea structuring method.


Using a proof of concept or a feasibility study, a solution is tested in a small environment to see whether it performs as expected and actually works. We use the term in relation to startups when testing a solution they have come up with.

Procedure innovation

Procedure innovations simplify, streamline and optimize procedures, often using new technologies, and result in new products, services or improvements to these products and services. Procedure innovations can also be defined as process innovations.

Process innovation

Process innovation simplifies, streamlines and optimizes processes, often using new technologies, or it creates new processes as the basis for new products and services.

Process innovation

Process innovation simplifies, streamlines and optimizes processes, often using new technologies, or it creates new processes as the basis for new products and services.

Property tech/PropTech

The term PropTech stands for property and technology. This encompasses products and services in the property sector that are based on digital technologies, or the corresponding startups that provide this service.


A prototype is an early model or version of a product or service that is developed to test a concept or process and to learn from it.


Riskiest assumption test – a type of risk assessment test This term is being increasingly used to indicate that just one function is being tested without having a finished product. In the past, the term MVP would have been more common in this context. Today companies often use the term MVP when launching the first version of a product.

Real options

Real options are decisions that the management of a company can afford to make in order to expand, change or limit projects due to changing economic, technological or market conditions. Using real options valuation (ROV), managers can estimate the investments required to continue or abandon a project, and make better decisions accordingly.

Retention (rate)

The retention rate is used to measure what percentage of customers are still part of the company’s core customer base after a determined period of time. This is why it is called the customer retention rate. The retention rate can be used to make observations about future user behaviour on a website, or the future success of a company. The retention rate can therefore be an important KPI.

Revenue per customer or revenue per user

The key figure revenue per customer or user measures the revenue generated by a company per customer. It is often used by companies that generate revenue from sales of subscription services, and it shows how resilient the use of the product is in the customer base.

ROI/return on innovation/return on investment

The return on innovation, or, more accurately, return on investment is a key figure that measures the success of a company. This key figure compares profits generated from the sale of new products or services with expenditure on research, development and other direct expenses.

Routine innovation

Routine innovations refer to regular (often seasonal) modifications made to products, fashion, shapes and designs that result in new innovations.


Sandbox is a term that generally refers to an isolated area or digital environment in which the activities carried out have no impact on the external environment or productive data.


Targeted attempts to increase the impact and scope of innovations, e.g. of products or startups that have been successfully tested in pilots or trials.


This is an agile development method, originating from software development, which is also used in projects and innovation plans today.


Serendipity is the phenomenon of observing or discovering something beneficial by sheer accident that you were not actually looking for.

Social innovation

Social innovation refers to the creation, implementation and proliferation of new social practices, products and services that create value in different areas of society.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a sales model for software a third-party supplier is responsible for, and which they provide to the customer online.


A spin-out or spin-off refers to a business unit that splits off from a company and forms a new company with the unit, ultimately becoming an independent startup.


A (design) sprint is a special problem-solving method where a team works in a focused way using a variety of tools under strict time constraints. In practice, a design sprint frequently refers to different approaches that all resemble design thinking. The best-known sprints are scrum sprints.


Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies backed by real money.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are political targets set by the United Nations (UN) that are designed to guarantee sustainable economic, social and environmental development worldwide.

Sustaining innovation

Sustaining innovation is about improving what already exists. This type of innovation focuses on the current customer and their needs. This innovation is often incremental in nature.


Events that occur simultaneously and are not linked together, but which are perceived and interpreted as being connected.


The concept of T-shaped capabilities is used in recruitment to describe the capabilities of people in the workforce. The vertical line in the letter T represents the depth of related skills and expertise and in a given area, whereas the horizontal line represents the ability to work across disciplines with experts in other areas, and the ability to apply knowledge in fields other than one’s own. The T-profiles should be very pronounced in innovation departments.

Think tank

Think tanks are about bringing together different teams or people to come up with new ideas and ways to make progress.

Trend scouting

Trend scouting is a term from market research that is about carefully scouting out developing trends in all areas of life.

USP (unique selling proposition)

Unique selling proposition is a term used to describe a distinctive feature in a product or service that makes it stand out significantly from the competition.


Validation is a process that involves gathering evidence and expertise about business ideas by carrying out experiments and user tests, the goal being to make faster, more informed and less risky decisions.

Value-added services

Value-added services are services that are not part of a company’s core business, but are part of a company’s range of services and thus represent added value for the customer. A company can use value-added services to set itself apart from the competition.

Venture capital (VC)

Venture capital is a type of private equity capital and financing that investors provide to startups and small companies that are believed to have potential for long-term growth. Risk capital tends to come from private investors, investment banks and other financial institutions. But it’s not always in monetary form; it can also be provided in the form of technical or business management expertise.


VUCA is an acronym that stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. It is used to interpret characteristics of the modern world, although the term dates back to the end of the Cold War. Corporate management must be aware of the difficult circumstances of the VUCA world and come up with appropriate ways to respond to it.


A wallet (when talking about cryptocurrencies in this instance) is a device, a physical medium, a program or a service used to store security elements and ownership structures for cryptocurrencies. In other words, it is a digital wallet.

White labelling

White label products refer to the products of a manufacturer that are not sold under the company’s brand name, but instead are sold as an (apparent) product of another manufacturer or distributor under a different brand name. Making white label products can make sense for manufacturers that do not want to set up their own distribution system or be dependent on a single distribution service provider.

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