In 2014, the global design consultancy Frog formalized a venture arm–a small experimental group called FrogVentures, tasked with helping entrepreneurs launch new products, often in exchange for equity. It was a risky move, especially at a difficult time for many design firms like Frog, as large tech companies hoovered up talent and brought design services in-house. But the gamble paid off. FrogVentures’s portfolio company LQD WiFi, which makes kiosks for cities that deliver free Wi-Fi, emergency alerts, and other information, sold to Verizon in 2016.
Today, FrogVentures supports a range of companies producing everything from smart hardhats to a SodaStream for beer. We sat down with FrogVentures head Ethan Imboden–formerly of the high-design sex toy company Jimmyjane–to learn about the particulars of venture design.