Business Model, Customer Development Celebration | USASBE LAUNCH! |

Received an email the other day about a celebration / competition focusing on business models and customer development. Lots of mentoring and tools will be available for undergraduate participants. Check out the USASBE Launch competition website.

USASBE Launch! is an exciting global student startup competition designed to provoke and reward undergraduate students from any discipline who can

1) design an impactful idea,

2) identify, test and validate business model hypotheses using customer development tools and

3) show traction which measures how well a startup is delivering its business model and how well the target demographic is accepting that business model.

There is no required application process, but students can sign up to receive updates. There are no required fees or purchases, there is no required format or procedures. We will recommend a process and tools, and students can engage as much or as little as they desire. The ultimate goal of student participants should be to start a sustainable business and tell an engaging story . . . plain and simple.

via USASBE LAUNCH! | A New Generation of Possibility.


Cupid’s Cup 2012 | Zombie Races | Food Prep Ed | 3D Sound Production

I attended the 7th Annual Cupid’s Cup Business Competition and watched as 5 teams pitched their businesses. Reed Street Productions, a Zombie race event company (see the video of their pitch below) has booked over $3 million in revenue in less than 2 years. (It must be noted that Cupid’s Cup is a BUSINESS COMPETITION, not a BUSINESS PLAN COMPETITION — all competitors have operating firms — yes their revenues, development, profits, etc can vary widely)

Kevin Plank, Under Armour founder and CEO, underwrites the competition (it is named after the campus flower delivery service he created while an undergrad, walk on football player in College Park) and this year featured Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, UMD President Loh, and some other great visitors. Past winners and participants such as My Fridge Rental, Crooked Monkey, and North Star Games were present. The real participation of alumni entrepreneurs appears to be one of the strengths of University of Maryland, the Smith School of Business, and the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.

Over 600 people were there as Reed Street Productions, the Zombie race company (Run for Your Life!), gave a great pitch — including astounding sales, cash flow, and strategy results and exciting multimedia. They took home the $17,500 first prize and also won the audience choice award. (watch their pitch below)

Tim Berry on the Business Model and Business Plan | Video

Tim Berry offers a video investigating business models and plans. He uses Osterwalder as his business model representative. Nice clear video. From Tim Berry:

What I really don’t like is people saying “don’t do a business plan; do a business model instead.” My favorite definition of the business model is the excellent book Business Model Generation, by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur. And that’s very compatible with business planning. I’ve already incorporated the business model canvas into three business plans I’m working on right now, as a good framework for thinking. To me, the difference between business model and business plan is just the semantics. They are different words for the same thing. It’s a lot like the difference between business plan, strategic plan, operations plan, annual plan, etc: depends on who’s talking at the time.

via Planning Startup Stories —.

10 Lean Startup Machine Tips and Tricks | @TriKro

Cool post, 10 Lean Startup Machine Tips and Tricks by Tristan Kromer at There are actually more than 10 (Tristan admits to not being a great editor).

I was at Lean Startup Machine in New York last weekend. (LSM is a 48 hour excursion into lean startup techniques created by Trevor Owens to push your boundaries and help you learn something about your business model.)

  1. Problems don’t exist. You can’t go out and talk to a problem. Focus relentlessly on people.
  2. Cash in hand beats bullshit on slide. A pretty powerpoint isn’t impressive. Go get a real customer to hand you money.
  3. If your teammates don’t buy in, then test fast and let reality convince them. You’re not going to win by arguing, you’ll just wind up working alone.
  4. If your MVP can’t prove you wrong, then it can’t prove you right either.
  5. Ask questions like a child. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

There are some good thoughts in this post and I am looking forward to learning more about Lean Startup Machine.

via 10 Lean Startup Machine Tips and Tricks by @TriKro.

Michael Horn on Disruptive Innovation in Higher Ed | #SocEntChat | @AshokaU

Gonna try and make this twitter chat from @AshokaU on disruption in higher education. This chat will focus MITx : MITx, One Small Step for MIT; One Giant Leap for Higher Education — hope they go broader in the #socentchat. See you there.

At first, disruptions tend to be primitive, but two key elements allow them to take root and flourish. The first is a technology enabler, which allows the innovation to improve predictably and scale to serve more and more users over time. In the case of higher education, online learning—and its associated components—is the technology enabler.

The second key element is a new business model. A new business model is important because plugging a disruptive innovation into an existing business model never results in transformation of the model; instead, the existing model co-opts the innovation to sustain how it operates. Many online universities started with new business models in place such that they could prioritize the disruption and grow, and now at last we’re seeing MIT come of age and take the next step into this disruptive future as well.

This past December, MIT announced that it would be soon be launching MITx—a learning platform that will provide interactive, online courses that will not only be free for users around the world, but that will also allow users to receive credit for having taken these courses. For a small fee, users will be able to demonstrate mastery and receive credit from MITx, not the traditional MIT program.

This is a wise move. Although our studies have shown that historically it has been difficult for existing institutions to prioritize offerings disruptive to their own model, there have been exceptions. In every case, those exceptions have occurred when the institution created an autonomous business model—often with its own brand—such that the disruption could operate unburdened by the parent organization’s existing processes and priorities. MITx appears poised to do just that, as MIT will likely finally provide its online courses a home in a coherent business model, even as MIT protects its own traditional brand.

via Michael Horn on Disruptive Innovation in Higher Ed: teaser for the #SocEntChat | AshokaU.

When Your Customers Don’t Get It | #LSMPaloAlto

Another interesting example of a team employing some #leanstartup methods to get closer to a real business model. The story of Acceptly from Lean Startup Machine. #lsmPaloAlto

So 7 months and 3 days after they got started, the Acceptly team was heading in a new direction. They were able to make that difficult and painful decision that most startups dread: admitting that futile months of full-time work might have been saved by a weekend of immersion into Lean. “When you talk more before building, you can pivot in 2 hours instead of 2 months.” When I asked Matt what his top three takeaways from LSM were, he sent back an easy-to-remember list:

Talk to customers

Talk to customers

Talk to customers

via When Your Customers Just Don’t Get It.

An Entrepreneurship Education Experiment | Startup Mason | #leanstartup

Two semesters ago I introduced some lean startup ideas/examples in the New Venture Creation class I teach to undergraduates. Many of the students enjoyed the concepts. In mid november 2011 we hosted a Global Entrepreneurship Week event that featured GMU student startup turned INC 500 member ROCS Staffing and also discussed lean startup ideas. The attendance was small, but we learned and measured and found a few folks at the event and through marketing the event  that our GMU community had many entrepreneurial minded people.

Moreover, many found the ideas of Ries, Blank, Osterwalder, and others intriguing. In December we launched StartUp Mason on Facebook and held a few ‘open houses’ or discussions about engaging in a peer to peer learning session with each participant actively attempting to validate an idea and find a sustainable business model. Through the efforts of the great people at Mason, in the emerging DC startup community, and great support from the innovators at the The Foundry we are moving forward.

Things have come together nicely over the past 6 weeks and have our first meeting on Friday February 3, 2012. (If you’d like to follow this lean experiment in entrepreneurship education and action sign up for our newsletter)

I will post updates as this experiment moves forward and our members get out of the building.