How we build

Polymath has developed an entrepreneurial methodology for emerging markets. These markets look very different than hubs like Silicon Valley, so how you design, launch and fund companies needs to look different. At our core, we we combine powerful solutions for the emerging middle class with exceptional teams that have the ability and hunger to build big.


Human-centered design to uncover scalable business opportunities

Seed is where it starts

Seed is a collaborative process of discovery and experimentation. We recruit talented teams — usually two for some friendly competition — of designers, business stars, ethnographers and engineers. We give them a sector and a set of tools and let them dive in and create exciting business concepts. Over the course of a 4-month fellowship, these teams go from identifying an unmet need to designing a business ready for investor scrutiny.

Sector selection

We identify a number of exciting market spaces with strong business potential — a compelling human need, high industry fragmentation, very large market — then we let each team choose the sector they will work on over the following four months. Teams take ownership of the project content right from the start.


Simple surveys or desk research aren’t sufficient for truly understanding the human experience. Instead, teams immediately go into the field and conduct dozens of in-depth, ethnographic interviews and observations with the actual people whose lives the sector touches.


Back in the studio, notes from each interview and observation become data points that cover the walls in notes, photos and drawings. The team sifts through and contextualizes this rich information to surface key insights and areas of opportunity that will inform their design ideas.


Based on their insights, inspired teams brainstorm hundreds of potential business ideas. Ideas are played with, combined and dissected as they begin to form into solid concepts. Different lenses are applied — desirability, feasibility — to evaluate and refine as the most robust concepts rise to the top.

Expert review

We assemble a steering committee of senior experts to advise each team. Teams present their findings to the committee of accomplished entrepreneurs, executives, and industry leaders at regular intervals during the project for feedback and guidance.


Teams build prototypes of their best concepts for field testing with users, and form business models to understand key economics. Testing validates ideas and informs the models, and the best performing concepts are refined and developed into final MVPs, tested and presented to the steering committee.

Acceleration (Our company building process), explained

Lean, systematic venture launch and development

From zero to one

Acceleration brings business concepts from Seed into the real world. Just as healthy development during 0-2 years of age are critical for human outcomes, the first 12-24 months of a business determine its identity and fate. A successful Acceleration process means finding product-market fit in the most time and resource efficient way. That takes the right people, processes, and mindsets -- and a little bit of luck.

We're obsessed with learning

Learning needs to be incredibly intentional to achieve product-market fit. We continuously define and redefine the most critical questions of the business, design and execute rigorously the right experiments to learn, and operationalize those learnings into each function of the business. When building real sector businesses, following the Lean Startup methodology is much more complex, but the results of methodical and tight learning cycles are equally, if not more, rewarding.

MVP Product-market fit

We are willing to do non-scalable things for the first batch of paying customers to kickstart the learning process. However, achieving a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) does not mean that we have found Product-Market Fit. Achieving the latter requires us to pay attention to scalable customer acquisition channels, validated customer satisfaction, healthy customer lifetime values, and profitable unit economics.


Life only begins once. Besides the Founders, the DNA of the company is collectively built by the first team of employees. How much the company is defined by mission, courage, creativity, grit, humor and heart, depends on who is part of that team, and how they learn to build together. The speed, rigor, and persistence of learning can only be achieved by a top-performing team.

Show me the money

In the second half of the Acceleration process, we prepare the venture for its first outside round of financing from angel investors. Building the pitch, doing the roadshow, getting market feedback, closing investors -- these all make the company stronger, and serve as an important rite of passage for our Founders.

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"The dream of building a company with huge growth and valuation potential — and that can have a huge social impact — is a reality"

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