Entrepreneurial success is driven by passion, execution and leadership but at the core of a great business is identifying the right problem to solve and creating a viable solution and model that truly addresses customers’ need or empowers an unmet desire. While business ideas are “a dime a dozen”, building a viable business model on the right idea is invaluable but is hard to find. In both start-up entrepreneurship and corporate intrapreneurship, pursuing wrong ideas or models waste precious time, resources, and energy.
Entrepreneurial Discovery is the class to help you experience a proven collection of approaches that will serve as the foundational approach to building a viable business. It is not expected that you and your team to collectively build your next startup in ten weeks (but it has happened before) but rather for you to actively encounter the needed processes so you later apply these methods to your next (or first) venture-backed company when you will have more calendar and time to focus on your business. This course provides impassioned innovators with the tools needed to identify and then iteratively refine the right business idea into a viable business model that is relevant, differentiated and sustainable.
Using customer-centric and evidence-based processes, class participants will work in assigned teams to actively explore real-world opportunities. Each class team will choose their problem space, conduct research, perform user-centered analysis and studies, as well as derive insights from customer interactions. Teams will then use stakeholders’ feedback to conceptualize and refine multiple ways to address the needs in their respective problem area. Leveraging these insights, the team will rapidly refine the problem and iterate potential solutions. They will then commit to one solution upon which they will develop an initial business model to project their business approach for this solution. They will then identify the business’ team, funding and timing needs and summarize such in some core messaging materials. The course’s final deliverable is for each team to share an overview of their solution while they also demonstrate a detailed and nuanced understanding of the journey traveled as they clarified and refined their business idea (with related business model). However, this class does not require that each team develop a viable business plan that should be taken forward. The class goal is to build the foundation upon which a viable business plan can be created. Importantly, understanding why an idea should not be pursued is also a valuable and important learning experience that will be considered a successful outcome of the course.
Let’s be clear: This is not a passive class! As entrepreneur turned educator and author Steve Blank states, “To turn hypotheses into facts, founders need to get out of the building and test them in front of customers.” As such, our class participants will attend class sessions to explore important elements of this process including problem framing, “needs-finding” research techniques, opportunity identification, prototyping, and customer development. However, students are expected to spend time outside of class conducting research, meeting with stakeholders and actively exploring alternatives while enhancing their business idea through active refinement. This class is a lab because it will require you to constructively identify problems or opportunities worth solving, frame your assumptions, refine your hypothesis with insights from your potential stakeholders and re-frame the opportunity as if you were in a science class. Just as successful entrepreneurs learn from the industry, customers and stakeholders while defining and running their business, you will do the same in this class!
This class will include a combination of lectures, team presentations, discussions, and in-class exercises. Class time will be highly interactive with students willing to actively participate and share insights and solutions. Students are expected to participate only in their registered section. As members of a lab class, students will work in teams to conduct interviews, perform observations, and work closely with industry experts and stakeholders. Group work is essential to the design process and will be extensive in this course. Participants should expect to meet with their assigned group multiple times outside of the classroom and should anticipate investing a minimum of seven hours per week.
By the end of the course, you will have acquired reusable business innovation skills and tools to:
- discover problem areas worth exploring,
- discriminate between strong and weak business ideas,
- refine possible business ideas by iteratively exploring solutions,
- enhance these ideas with customer and market feedback,
- outline a viable business model on a Business Model Canvas,
- rapidly test, iterate and execute on your defined business model, and
- effectively communicate the needs for growing your business.
Entrepreneurial Discovery is an interactive class that this quarter is currently planned to be taught solely in class with no remote option. Due to the group nature of this course, you will only be able to drop the class before the first class begins.
As expressed by one of the Autumn 2021 students in last year’s feedback forms, ““It was by far the most interesting class I had this quarter, I really enjoyed it. Throughout the quarter I felt how deeply Prof. Tebbe and the TAs cared about the students. Just the ability to ping pong thoughts and questions so easily was super valuable. I came into class hoping to have better insights how should I approach thinking about startups through the lenses of VC and had a double win - not only do I have a better understanding how I should evaluate a startup, I also received a tool box as how to think about information presented to me, how to approach problems, how to analyze consumers. I think learning how to think is the most valuable thing a class can provide you!””