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Seattle has some great company development programs for Startups. We are missing market and other cities throughout my experience with Startup Weekend, Techstars, Founder Institute and Startup Champions Network and haven't found an accessible program that is focused on Entrepreneur Development so I've decided to launch the @6MonthStartup program.
By accessible, I mean a reasonably priced program with reasonable frequency. Let's face it, if you are a "Starter," you need to spend resources on proving your idea not paying for things you don't need (at least yet!). Also, you shouldn't be leaving your day job until you prove the idea is worth your time and effort.
Entrepreneur Development is all about you and how you think. The process will confirm that you have a solid idea and have talked with enough potential customers to have validated that idea. In most cases, this is before you incorporate, spend any money on trademarks or divvy up any equity. There are some great programs for company and product development - most of those programs also invest in your startup if you have a team, product, and traction.
Who should attend?
Founders or Starters - if you're an aspiring Starter and want to confirm if your idea is worthwhile before you leave you day job. Can you go faster than 6 months? Of course, but it will likely still take you some time to validate your ideas and work through the process - we're here to support you, either way, whether you have just the glimpse of an idea or if you already have product and revenue.
Potential Co-Founders - do you want to join a startup or are you looking for potential co-founders? You'll likely find them here.
Corporate Innovators - if you're looking to put some structure to your corporate goals - plus get to meet potential employees who like innovation.
Students - if you want to learn a process and structure to think about your ideas or the ideas of companies, you might consider joining in the future!
@6MonthStartup program is designed for you. You'll take the next six months to define and refine your idea, understand how to make money and make an informed decision if you should leave your day job or not. The monthly meetup format has content, exercises, time to pitch, feedback from mentors and dinner. You will have monthly homework - the result of that homework will be the key to meeting with mentors at the next session. This is your startup and the pace at which you approach the homework is up to you, however, mentors require that you have a serious idea and you're doing the work to get their time.
Here's an outline of the program:
Month One - Ideation, Research, and Markets
What makes a good idea anyway? Passion is important but not sufficient if you're looking to scale your idea into something that is fundable or can create a lifestyle to support you and your family. There is a lot you can learn about what makes both good and bad ideas - and don't believe the quote, "Ideas don't matter, only execution matters." That implies that you have a good idea in the first place.
Research - How do you do research to see which companies have come before you, where have they had success and/or failure, and what you can learn from it?
How should you think about your target customer and target market? Is it big enough? How will you get to it and do you have the runway to make it successfully?
Note about fundraising. People think they want to raise VC, but only a small % actually do...
Month Two - Customer Development, Competitive and Awkward Co-Founder Discussions
Customer Development is the process of systematically interviewing potential customers for feedback that will inform your product priorities and decisions. When you complete this section, this will be a method you take forward and use in every idea and company that you launch. You will learn to be an expert in Customer Development.
How do you look at the competition - Bezos is right, you should focus on your customer first, and before you start your company you need to know what current features meet or exceed the market’s needs as well as the current pain your customer is feeling.
Awkward Co-Founder Discussions is the talk about commitment, equity and contribution of time and capital that you need to have before you incorporate. It will never get easier to have these discussions.
Month Three - Value Propositions, Testing your Hypothesis, Product Features, and Benefits
Now that you have some customer feedback, you should start to get your Value Propositions clearly laid out. What is the "lead of your story," how do you tell your story and get "the first things" to be the first thing? For Starters, we tend to clutter up all of the current and potential value propositions in our head and it's tough to be clear to our target customer - we'll help with that process
Testing, testing, testing - it's good that you have a hypothesis, but it's just that until you have actual data. We'll outline a process for you to test messaging, advertising and conversion ratios to get DATA to inform your theory.
It's time to begin to identify the features and benefits of your product for both the Launch and the Scale of your startup. Scale and vision are great, but you have to survive long enough to get to scale. Narrowing your focus for launch is key - you only have so much in terms of resources, time, engineering, and capital. Remember, constraints are actually a good thing.
Month Four - Making Money, Revenue Models, Pricing and Product Market Fit
You have the cost to build your product, the cost of selling the product and a need to return a profit to you or your shareholders - many products can be made, but this helps answer the question "should I make it?"
There are 13 tech revenue models - this will confirm how you make money. We'll outline them in order of difficulty. Your startup is unique, but your revenue model isn't unique!
What is Product Market Fit and how do you know you have it? Product market fit is when you have mapped your minimum viable product to the customer needs that you have discovered and you have fulfilled that value promise.
Month Five - MVPs, Product Development & Specifications, Marketing 101
Minimum VIABLE Product or MVP has the emphasis on Viable not minimum! What are you required to ship to provide a useful solution to your customer? What one thing do you want to prove with your MVP? If the product was going to fail, why would it fail?
Product Development and Specifications are what’s required for an engineering team or offshore development company to build your MVP. This will include design. It may be as simple as a powerpoint deck that looks like a mobile app or website and it may be an enterprise software solution.
Marketing 101 - you need to start building a customer list and target customer(s) before you ship your product. This month you'll nail down the basic tasks required even if you've never been schooled in the dark arts of marketing.
Month Six - LAUNCH, Revenue, Scaling Up or Turning Off
Product Launch represents the previous five months of work to get something in front of your customers. Based on the complexity of your product, this may be as simple version 1.0 of a more complex product offering. In any case, you'll have a roadmap to launch and to follow based on customer feedback.
Revenue - will your customers pay for your product? What other key metrics should you be tracking? Don't get lost in vanity metrics, there is a set of Key Metrics that matter for each of the revenue models. You'll need to know how to get traffic to the site, registered users and people who will give you $$ for your product. These are the same metrics that investors will be asking you for when you ask for cash.
Scaling Up or Turning Off is the point of decision - should you pursue this idea and project, should you pivot in another direction with the same market or should you put this idea to rest and go after a new idea?
Ready to join? You can register for the monthly Meetup here or buy your ticket for the program on Eventbrite. All events are 6:30-9:30PM in downtown Seattle at Perkins Coie.
Session 1 - October 18, 2017
Session 2 - November 8, 2017
Session 3 - December 13, 2017
Session 4 - January 10, 2018
Session 5 - February 15, 2018
Session 6 - March 14, 2018
Looking forward to meeting you there!