Startupbootcamp Cape Town held its inaugural accelerator demo day on Nov 30th. 10 startups from across the continent pitched to investors, corporates, mentors and others. It was incredible to see their customer traction – “At the beginning of the program, six of the 10 startups had no revenue and two did not even have concrete products. Now, every company is generating revenue and has commercial contracts, while two of the startups have also broken even in less than three months” – Disrupt-Africa
I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the panel discussion on ‘Building Better Lives’, hosted by the Babson Entrepreneurship Forum 2017. It was great to share our experience helping students and entrepreneurs launch social ventures and learning from the incredible journeys of Sean McGrail, Co-founder of Paint Nite, and Jonathan Feinman, Founder of Innercity Weightlifting. And a special thanks to our moderator, S. Sinan Erzurumlu, Associate Professor at Babson College.
Learn more about Babson’s flagship entrepreneurship conference and watch panel discussions here:
I attended MIT’s Entrepreneurship Development Program in 2017 where we worked in teams to apply Bill Aulet’s ‘Disciplined Entrepreneurship’ process and pitched our start-ups at the end of a week. I’ve since attended start-up competitions at MIT and Babson and seen some fantastic pitches from undergraduates, graduates and alumni. The winners typically cover the following items:
1. Tell a story to introduce the target customer, pain points and opportunity: Describe the target customer’s persona so that the audience feels connected with this person. The team that did this best at MIT EDP, ‘Wear it Out’, introduced a grandmother, Mary, a 75-year-old widow with high blood pressure, living at her own home in Florida away from her children. The team quickly described Mary to be a proud woman who enjoys watching TV soaps and playing bingo, and doesn’t own a smartphone. They presented her daughter as a 45-year-old married, working woman, with 2 kids in Boston who’s concerned about her mother’s health before going on to present the target addressable market (TAM) for a wearable technology solution. The audience had a clear understanding of the user, customer and opportunity through their story.
Thank you, Brian Halligan, for sharing your insights at #MITEDP 2017. Here are my takeaways:
1. Co-founder selection – 2-3 are ideal:
Find co-founders that share similar values and bring complementary skills / networks. It’s also highly beneficial to have industry representation for the problem you’re trying to solve. The ideal number of co-founders are 2-3 – A higher number of co-founders often results in “uninspired compromise” – compromising on choices only to build consensus, resulting in less effective decision-making.
1. India’s start-up ecosystem has grown considerably in the last decade, with twelve unicorns created (companies valued over $1 billion) and over 700 start-ups founded by entrepreneurs from these companies.
However, the ecosystem faces several challenges – the big venture capital funds haven’t been able to generate liquidity through exits to return profits or even capital to investors, and the mortality rate of start-ups is quite high with less than 3% reaching the Series B funding stage.
1. Innovation = Invention * Commercialization
MIT is a hub of innovation, with about 900 companies launched by students every year. “As of 2006, over 25,000 companies existed that employ over 3 million people with aggregate revenues of approx. $2 trillion. The primary reason for MIT’s success in entrepreneurship is a combination of ‘spirit’ and ‘skills’ – a culture that encourages collaboration and gets students to believe that they can launch a business.” – As explained in the Introduction of ‘Disciplined Entrepreneurship..‘.
At BonBillo, we apply frameworks from ‘Sprint‘, authored by Jake Knapp with John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz from Google ventures, and ‘Disciplined Entrepreneurship‘ by Bill Aulet to go from a larger goal to selecting a specific problem to solve.
We follow the Sprint framework of mapping the larger problem (including the journey of key stakeholders), talking to experts, asking ‘how might we?’ questions (HMWs) and using votes through coloured sticky dots to identify interesting problem areas to focus on.
Once we’ve shortlisted interesting HMWs, we then apply Disciplined Entrepreneurship’s criteria for selecting a Beachhead market to help select the specific problem to solve. The specific area to solve should be economically attractive, accessible to your sales force, allow for competitive differentiation, allow you to offer a complete solution, allow for a strong value proposition, have strategic long-term value and be consistent with your values / interests. We found that using this approach, the teams quickly agreed on the most attractive HMW to pursue.
Here is an example of the journey map and HMW selection from the team working on a social venture to combat human trafficking (sex trafficking).
According to a report ‘Valuing the SDG Prize‘, from AlphaBeta commissioned by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, business opportunities in the implementation of the SDGs in four systems – food and agriculture; cities; energy and materials; and health and well-being – could be worth more than US$12 trillion annually for the private sector in 2030. This represents 10 percent of forecasted global output in that year.
Further, the report identifies 60 opportunities that could generate almost 380 million jobs. This represents more than 10 percent of the forecasted labour force in 2030.
“It is an understatement to say that Suraj Kripalani is passionate about social ventures. Like many participants of MIT Sloan Executive Education programs, he’s interested in making an impact on the world. However, few take that charge quite as seriously as this former finance executive.” – MIT Sloan Executive Education Blog