Missed Opportunities

RolledTenDollarBill-289x300The Big Challenge

Two weeks ago I presented my students a $10 challenge modeled after an exercise John Liddy conducted at Syracuse University. The challenge was I gave each group $10 and instructed them to make as much money (legally) as they could – whichever group made the most would get all the money from all the groups. John’s students turned $50 into $170 in 2 days. I gave my students one week (but it turned into two as I missed one class with the flu). My students missed the opportunity, unfortunately. One group made $64, one group made $26, and the other four groups didn’t do anything (gain or lose). My students turned $50 into $130 in 2 weeks.


The $26 group tried selling hot dogs outside a bar on Valentine’s Day. Due to poor planning, that didn’t happen, so Plan B was selling them at a house party. The $64 group did their own individual projects – one student provided massages, one student tried selling advertising through selfies, one student gambled. The groups that didn’t make any progress reported that the problem was poor (or non-existent) communication. I wonder why the students didn’t seize this opportunity? Lack of confidence? Lack of motivation? Lack of understanding? I’m not sure, but I’ve got to figure out how to get them motivated and believing they can accomplish these sort of challenges. These are such rich learning opportunities – they practice skills necessary to be entrepreneurs, they learn about their abilities, their shortcomings, and the list goes on.


Looking toward spring break coming up, I want the students to begin thinking about solutions. I talked to them a bit about traction, which generally comes from a great book by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. As they cite:

“Traction is basically quantitative evidence of customer demand. So if you’re in enterprise software, [initial traction] may be two or three early customers who are paying a bit; if you’re in consumer software, the bar might be as high as hundreds of thousands of users . . . It’s the Supreme Court definition of porn. You’ll know it when you see it”
– Naval Ravikant, founder of AngelList

I asked students to review the links below that provide information about the basic traction channels for a startup and to send me their thoughts on which channels they will use for their business and why. In addition, we will have an Idea Fair in class on March 5 – as this is the day before Spring Break, this will set the stage for beginning to work on solutions when the return from break.

Traction Channels

1. Viral Marketing: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/viral-marketing
2. Public Relations (PR): http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/public-relations-pr
3. Unconventional PR: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/unconventional-pr
4. Search Engine Marketing (SEM): http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/search-engine-marketing-sem
5. Social and Display Ads: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/social-and-display-ads
6. Offline Ads: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/offline-ads
7. Search Engine Optimization (SEO): http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/search-engine-optimization-seo
8. Content Marketing: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/content-marketing
9. Email Marketing: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/email-marketing
10. Engineering as Marketing: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/engineering-as-marketing
11. Target Market Blogs: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/targeting-blogs
12. Business Development (BD): http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/business-development
13. Sales: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/sales
14. Affiliate Programs: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/affiliate-programs
15. Existing Platforms: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/existing-platforms
16. Trade Shows: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/trade-shows
17. Offline Events: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/offline-events
18. Speaking Engagements: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/speaking-engagements
19. Community Building: http://discuss.tractionbook.com/c/community-building

We’ve covered problem, we’ve covered customer, we’ve covered value proposition. We’re now turning to generating traction for a solution to that problem for those customers. Now the fun really begins! I don’t have the level of engagement I would like with this cohort of students. I’ll keep working on that and hopefully it gets a little stronger as we move into solutions (where they all want to go naturally).

2 thoughts on “Missed Opportunities

  1. Pingback: Now For The Fun Part | Teaching Lean

  2. Pingback: A Problem of Fear, Motivation, Communication, Busyness, or Laziness? | Teaching Lean

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