Why Spring Break Sucks

I promised myself I would do this startup experience as if I were one of my students. I struggled with how to handle spring break, which was last week.

Spring BreakI assumed most students would (as I did) check out and not do any work over the break. So that’s what I did. In most cases, it’s good to take a break, to recharge. But I’m not sure that’s the best idea in a class like this. These students struggle enough to stay engaged – partly due to my lack of direction, partly due to their lack of motivation, partly due to many other factors. So giving them cause to check out for a week can be dangerous. I felt frustrated because I couldn’t work on the business. I knew the clock was ticking and opportunity was passing by. And I was frustrated because I imagine that’s not how most of my students felt during the week. They didn’t give a damn. I wouldn’t have. And that’s my faulty – for not creating an experience that keeps them engaged.

What Lies Ahead For This Startup Exercise

We have roughly 6 weeks left in the semester. It’s all about solutions. We begin with Dan Norris’ 7 Day Startup “process”. It’s a little bit simplified for my taste, but it will get these students cranking out a basic solution that will get the ball rolling. The basic idea is that one can do a specific task each day for 7 days, after which they would have launched a “business”.

downloadEach task isn’t complex enough – there could be more steps to complete. But, as I said, it will get things going. Day 1 is focused on getting an idea. I asked in class, and all but a couple students mentioned they had their idea. I hope they do, as that was the point of the beginning of the semester. So, we skip that step, but for those not interested in skipping it, here are some notes/guidelines I adapted:

Day 1: A Bootstrapped Business Idea

Elements of a good idea

  1. Enjoyable daily tasks
  2. Product/founder fit
    1. What skills do you have?
    2. What are you known for?
    3. Where can you provide most value?
  3. Scalable business model
    1. Need to desire to grow business into larger company, otherwise not creating a startup
  4. An asset you can sell
    1. List of paying customers (or email list)
    2. IP, product design, etc.
    3. Website
    4. The team
  5. Large market potential
    1. Build something for large group of people
  6. Tap pain or pleasure differentiators
    1. Make it mean something (good or bad)
  7. Unique lead generation advantage
  8. Ability to launch quickly

Random Thoughts

  • Solve problems where people are already paying for solutions

Daily task: brainstorm ideas and evaluate against this checklist: Copy of Business idea evaluation spreadsheet (public)

7 Day Startup: Day 2

Today is Day 2 – here are some notes/guidelines I adapted:

Day 2: Minimum VIABLE Product

  • Forget automation and focus on what you can do manually
  • Mimic the customer experience as much as possible, as quickly as possible

Questions to answer:

  1. How can you perform a service or offer a product to real customers?
  2. How will you get them to pay you after 7 days?
  3. How close will your MVP be to the final version of your product?
  4. What can you do manually?
  5. What can you do yourself instead of delegating?
  6. How can you make your offer as real as possible for the end customer?

Day 2 Task: Write exactly what you’ll launch on Day 7. What will customer get, what’s included, what’s excluded? What is automated and what will be done manually?

My Day 2 Write-up

I will launch a basic website, where students can submit their basic information and also basic information about what sort of student they want to connect with. They will get a reply email confirmation that their submission has been received, that’s it. I will manually match students up – in many cases I imagine I’ll have to try to track down a good match on a one-by-one basis. Nothing will be automated (other than the reply email confirmation). Simple. Messy. This MVP will not be very similar to the final product because I would like to be able to accomplish the matching in a more automated way. But I know that’s much harder to do than I envision!

Tomorrow’s Day 3 task is to choose a business name. Should be difficult, but fun!

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