Startups in the Design Thinking Ecosystem


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Responds to...

  • What are the key dimensions that can be used to describe the Design Thinking startups ecosystem?
  • To which kind of Design Thinking approach the startups mostly refer?
  • What are the main relevant startups associated to the different specific phases related to the specific kind of Design Thinking?
  • Which kind of industries that startups mostly cover?


Design Thinking startups ecosystem counts 150 startups, of those 86 born in USA and 41 in Europe. Overall, these startups have received 908 million dollars in funding (average funding of 7 million dollars). 84 startups have more than 10 employees. Among these startups, two have more than 100 employees. Almost all the startups support digitally-enabled service design. Among these 72 startups utilize digital technologies to enhance coordination among dispersed teams of innovation managers, 31 startups enable evidence-based decision making, relying on business intelligence suites and/or data visualization platforms, 11 startups exploit artificial intelligence to automate and/or augment some specific phases of a Design Thinking process.

Relating startups to the four kinds of Design Thinking:

  • 34 offer solutions related to the Creative Problem Solving approach;
  • 32 offer solutions related to the Sprint Execution approach;
  • 66 offer solutions related to the Creative Confidence approach;
  • 18 offer solutions related to the Innovation of Meaning approach.
  • 90 startups support the convergence-based activities. The remaining 60 support divergence. Lastly, 5 pricing strategies are characterizing the ecosystem: Freemium (57 of 150), By Project (40 of 150), By Module (28 of 150), Free (16 of 150) and By Selling (7 of 150).


    1. Geographical diffusion
    2. Funding and organisational structures
    3. Design Thinking approaches
    4. Business models