Business Design Tools is an open collaboration platform designed to bridge the gap between Business and Design by voting, sharing and discussing tools and processes to design more innovative and customer-centric businesses.
I really like this concept! As you said though, every idea is different, every start-up has different needs and the journey varies according to who you are, where you live, which resources you have, etc...
Recently I put together a Mobile Business Entrepreneurship course for teaching entrepreneurship in Africa where I guided entrepreneurs in the process of finding the right idea and make it happen on paper (business plan). It didn't include funding and legislation, but only pure business design. That process is also the same I used to organise the tools on the platform I put together, http://www.businessdesigntools.com .
I believe having a Designer as Founder is key as it not only helps keeping quality and consistency into a project, but also helps saving money (good design is expensive) and helps adapting to changes (start-up needs to be flexible to easily adapt to what customers want or to what is possible to 'build' in a certain time-frame). Also designers always try to innovate and think about ways to improve a product/service (which is also the reason why probably 'designers' should not be the only ‘founders’ as otherwise they will never launch a product on the market!).
At the moment I'm working on my first web start-up, Buddy Bounce, and I can say that, if I wasn’t the Founder, I would have never been able to reach the quality the product have today without asking for investment (and a big one).
To try to make design more affordable, over the past 2 years I also worked as ‘Design Coach’ with a few start-ups that didn’t have design in house. My experience so far showed me that Designers are really important to help start-ups clarifying their mission, getting to know their customers, innovating within their offering (too often start-ups focus on features rather than benefits) and can also help visualising an idea quickly so that it can be tested in front of potential customers. This speed up the validation process too.
I came up with the idea of 'Design Coaching' as I wanted to help start-up understand the value design can have for their businesses without asking them for a massive investment. Unfortunately start-ups usually try to cut on design, thinking that an un-experienced and un-paid intern could do the job without any support (or that they can do the design themselves!). Also, often start-up founders with no design background believe design is just about colouring suff and that research only means 'quantitative market research' (which I consider a waste of money for a start-up), whilst they don't know how valuable qualitative research methods can be for them to understand their customers and spot opportunities in a really short amount of time. Having Designers as ‘coaches’ could help start-up improving their products/services but could also 'teach' them the value and complexity of design (so that they may invest on that as soon as they have the money for it).
If you are interested in my idea of 'Design Coaching' here is my presentation on that topic: http://www.slideshare.net/giuliapiu/piu-guerra-openservicedesign . At the bottom of the deck you could also see an example of how my coaching with a start-up, Meetphool, helped them to transform a web product with no clear purpose, into something that is ‘speaking’ to an audience (and the founder of Meetphool did everything on her own, I only guided her for 3 days!)