Venture Accelerator is an advanced course in entrepreneurship. The curriculum is based on the entrepreneurial concepts and practices detailed in “The Lean Startup”, “Business Model Generation”, and “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development”. Our fully online platform combines easy to understand content, technology tools (such as the online Business Model Canvas and Learning Maps), and other relevant resources in order to provide students or entrepreneurs with an interactive experience that will culminate in a repeatable and scalable Business Model, Executive Summary, and Investor Pitch. Educators or entrepreneurial program managers can customize the course to meet the specific needs of their classroom or program.
Students, entrepreneurs, and educators have access to all material from any Internet connected device and retain access to the material even after the course or program has been completed.
Why would anyone want to enter the tumultuous world of entrepreneurship? Can entrepreneurial skills be taught? In this module we discuss what motivates entrepreneurs, what characteristics seem to differentiate successful entrepreneurs from other people, and how someone can learn to be an entrepreneur.
Then, by using our resources and interactive online tools, students and course participants will explore their own passions, strengths, and values and learn why it is important for their new venture idea to align with those. They will then create or refine their business napkin idea or ideas, one of which they will develop throughout the course into a completed Business Model Canvas.
Module 2: Project Management
We discuss project management early in the course, because creating a business model and launching a business is a huge project and must be managed effectively from day one. A new venture is also made up of a series of smaller projects, each of which must be managed systematically.
The module covers why effective project management is important and what tools and techniques can be used to manage projects, but our main focus is on managing uncertainty by using Learning Maps. With Learning Maps, entrepreneurs state and test their business model hypotheses, validate their assumptions, and adjust each part of their business model based on what they’ve learned. This is the essence of the Business Model Canvas.
Module 3: Innovative Business Models
What is a business model? In this module, we discuss and define the components of a good business model, and how a business model is different than a business strategy. We emphasize that the key purpose of a business model is to define the value that a venture will create for customers.
In this module we also begin to focus on the Business Model Canvas. We define each section of the Canvas and introduce our online Canvas tool. Students or course participants will begin to create Learning Maps for each section of their Canvas by stating their initial hypotheses for each section.
Module 4: Lean Startup Approach
This module covers concepts and practices from the popular book “The Lean Startup” by defining them within the context of applying the Lean Startup approach to the student’s or course participant’s new venture.
We begin by defining the Lean Startup principles, methods, and terms, and then we discuss how those concepts should be applied to the Business Model Canvas. The basis of the Lean Startup approach is validating a Business Model by testing and learning, and students will use our online Learning Maps to apply those processes. We discuss how the information gained from the Learning Maps should lead the entrepreneur to either continue to refine their Business Model and persevere, or to pivot their strategy.
Module 5: Customer Discovery
You can’t create a product and hope that customers want it – you have to discover what it is that customers really want. In this module, we discuss customer discovery in the context of the overall customer development process as defined in the book “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development.”
First, we discuss why customer discovery is important to startups and why it must be done early, and then we cover the discovery process and the terminology of the process in detail. Finally, students will learn how to apply the Customer Discovery process in the real world as well as how it fits into their Business Model Canvas.
Module 6: Market Research
Once you know who your customers are and what they want, you need to know more about them in a broader sense. You need data about the size of the market, how the market behaves, who else is targeting that market, what economic factors affect what the market will buy, and much more.
In this module, students will learn how to put together a market research plan based on specific questions that they will need to answer about their market in order to build an effective business strategy. We will also discuss the two main types of data that they need to find – subjective and objective – and specific primary and secondary sources of both types of data.
Module 7: Business Development
After completing the Customer Discovery process and executing a market research plan, an entrepreneur should be able to put together effective strategies to reach potential customers and turn them into paying customers.
In this module, we discuss how to create effective marketing and sales strategies, both of which begin with a well-defined value proposition. We also discuss how to create a balance within both strategies in order to reach the most customers using the fewest resources.
Module 8: Financial Modeling
When preparing to go to market and/or present to investors, creating sound financial projections is critical. To be realistic, they need to align with the goals and vision of the company,
Projections are based on many assumptions. In this module, we will discuss different methods to build a financial model based on realistic assumptions, including using “Chunks and Buckets” and “Best of Breed” analyses. Students will then apply what they have learned and create their own Financial Projections spreadsheet.
Module 9: The Art of the Pitch
When do you pitch? Always. How, to whom, and why to pitch are other questions that we will answer in this module.
An entrepreneur should always have a pitch ready, but it must be adaptable to each audience that hears it. It needs to have as much or as little detail as the audience needs to hear, and it must communicate “what is in it” for the audience. We will discuss the content and mechanics of the verbal pitch, as well as what associated written materials need to be prepared.
Students will end this module and this course with a completed Investor Pitch and a completed Business Model Canvas, both of which they can continue to use as they take their venture from the classroom to the market.