Founder Institute Week 1: An idea does not a business make

It’s hard to believe that we’re 2 classes into the session, but here we are.  It’s 12:30a Wednesday and my head is swimming with thoughts generated from 3 extremely insightful presentations, a phenomenal Q&A period, and watching 3 of my peers that the bataan death march known as the Pitch Hotseat.  Someone had suggested that we’re somehow “owed” the wealth of information being shared, due to what we’ve done to get here.  Pfftt.  I’m so giddy with anticipation of the next morsel of knowledge and feedback from our mentors that had it not been for having to catch a train at 10:40 just to make it home by midnight I’d have stayed for the fi_classtrek to a crappy bar to continue the dialogues.

Over the past few days, we’ve been split into 5-member work groups.  The purpose is to make the accountability to the sessions’ assignments and expectations harder to ignore, and increase the peer collaboration that should improve our ability to be successful.  Having been accepted at “President” of our group adds a layer of responsibility too – if my peers fail, it reflects poorly on me.  So there is the expectation that I’m encouraging open & honest critique and adherence to assignment and attendance requirements.

I was pleased to find that we have a class of 20 aspiring entrepreneurs, and realized that this is probably the largest group of likeminded individuals I have been a part of.  Many of them I took the opportunity to meet, knowing that it’s quite possible that a handful of us will one day have “meaningful and businesses”.  Sadly, it’s also likely that ~10 won’t make it to graduation in 4 months.  But that’s what we are all here to learn, right?  Do I have what it takes to be the founder of a technology startup?

Our immediate objective is to find that one idea that will stand the rigors of introspection and inspection strongly enough to turn into a project and then, a business.  Everyone I spoke with seemed to come into this with a pretty strong conviction as to what it is they want to do.  However, when it came to explain or “pitch” that idea, all of us struggled.  For some, it was the inability to be concise and specific; for others, there was a definite need to reconsider their idea because of scope or other weaknesses.  As I mentioned, a few had the opportunity to pitch to Adeo and 2 of our mentors.  They were brutally honest in their feedback, but I know my peers felt privileged to get that kind of direction so early in the process.

Part of the reason I blog this is to reinforce my own memories, but as the hour is getting really late I’ll need to keep this relatively short.  In addition to having Adeo present to speak (his topic “Holy S***, My Idea Sucks” was in the classic style of his I’m growing to love), Kevin Taylor of Obtiva (recently acquired by Groupon) and John Dallas, Jr of HIllview Partners Network both gave very inspirational yet practical talks on the importance of vision and values.  This was followed by an hour of Q&A that, for me, cemented the value of this experience.  I realize that we’re just at the foot of the mountain, and I can’t even see the top from here, but I’m very anxious to get to climbing.

It was also good to receive positive comments from my peers on how I’m evolving the idea behind Mobpiqs.  Well actually, let me take that back.  What I’d hoped for was more criticism.  I hope that they weren’t just being kind, and will give them the benefit of my doubt on that.  Monetization, as well as the breadth & depth to which it can be delivered upon was also encouraging.  So, I’m moving forward with it now, with a focus over the next few days of polishing my pitch, doing some market research, and crafting a short pitch deck.

And that concludes our face-to-face meetings for this week.  My team will have a call later this week to discuss the progress each of us has made and the assignments due the following week.  It will good to hear from them how they’ve assimilated these 2 days into their go-forward plans.

Note: I appreciate all of the comments, thank you.  For those of you who have asked whether I can provide copies of any of the materials provided, I don’t believe that is possible.  However, if there are links to generally available content, and it is germane to what I’m discussing, it’s possible that I may include it here.