This evening (Monday Nov 30) sees the culmination of my 12 week New Business Ventures module in the Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business at the University College of Dublin (UCD).
UCD is Ireland’s largest university, with over 1,480 faculty and 32,000 students. It is located in Dublin, the Irish capital. The university originates in a body founded by Cardinal Newman in 1854.
I have been working with two groups of students, navigating the world of the startup, using Steve Blank’s Lean Launchpad programme. This evening, all that they have learnt and experienced during the ‘customer discovery’ process comes together for their final presentations. Many of the teams spoke with over 100 potential prospects.
“We must make up our minds to be ignorant of much, if we would know anything”Cardinal Newman
It took us entrepreneurs over a hundred years to understand the real meaning of these words. According to decades-old formula, you write a business plan, pitch it to investors, assemble a team, introduce a product and start selling it as hard as you can. And somewhere in this sequence of events, you’ll probably suffer a fatal setback as the odds are not in your favour.
All this changed when Steve Blank wrote the book; “Four Steps to Epiphany” and around about the same time a Swiss PhD student, Alex Osterwalder wrote his dissertation on Business Model Innovation that has changed the way in which we approach the building of a startup. We now follow in the words of the great educator, Cardinal Newman, in that; we start off ‘being ignorant of much’.
We are very fortunate to have the father of the ‘Lean Startup Movement’, Steve Blank, introducing our second session. Steve, “Céad míle fáilte romhat” (“One hundred thousand welcomes before you”), on what I believe is your very first visit to Ireland (albeit virtually).
You can find the Lean Launchpad course outline, PowerPoint presentations and lots of useful material on Steve’s blog. I echo Isaac Newton’s comment; “I can see farther because I am standing on the shoulders of Giants”. Thank you Steve.
There are five discovery skills described in ‘The Innovator’s DNA’ book; Questioning; Observing, Experimenting, Networking and Associating. We have covered all of these skills over the last number of weeks in class, but tomorrow we are putting the Networking skill into action. It is in that context that I’ve invited a small select group from the Dublin startup community to join us tomorrow evening, and we are very grateful for their time.
The thirteen teams presenting over the two sessions tomorrow have gone through a real world, hands-on learning experience to discover what it’s like to actually start a company. This class was not about how to write a business plan. This is not an Investor Day and therefore this is not an ‘Investor Pitch’.
The class combines theory with a ton of hands-on practice. This was to give the students a framework to test the business model of a startup, while creating all of the pressures and demands of the real world in an early-stage startup. The class is designed to give the student the experience of how to work as a team and turn an idea into a company.
“The most difficult thing for me in this class was finding the time to simply just think about the project and discuss it with others. Assignments in other classes tend to follow a “do X to get Y” format, but the assignments for this course were much more open-ended and required space for abstract thought and unstructured conversations”Student Feedback
They practiced evidence-based entrepreneurship, as they learnt how to use a business model to brainstorm each part of a company, and customer development to get out of the classroom and see whether anyone other than themselves would want/use their product. Each block was a new adventure outside the classroom, as they tested each part of their business model and then shared their hard-earned knowledge with the rest of the class.
“This course has since been an invaluable experience. On Day 1, I already realised that Mark and I had fallen into the trap of running straight to a solution without understanding the pain point. Instead we should have been asking ‘what is the problem?”Student Feedback
I would like to extend my thanks to Dr. Andrew Keating for inviting me to teach this entrepreneurship module. I am very fortunate to have Rohan Perera of Lean Disruptor to help me with the elective – thank you Rohan. This was a very intensive, hands-on programme and without his help it would not have been possible to teach this course. Last and not least, a very special thank you to the students from three classes; CEMS, Digital Marketing and Marketing at UCD.
Thank you and I hope you enjoy the evening! We will have some photographs and video clips from the event in my next blog post (Part II).
You can view my welcome slides attached below.