3DS Healthcare: Texas Business Foundations Summer Institute

On July 9th, the Texas Business Foundations Summer Institute (TBFSI) at the University of Texas at Austin embedded a healthcare-focused 3 Day Startup into the curriculum with over 50 students.  Participants in the TBFSI program are used to intense days, working from nine to five during eight weeks of their summer vacation. Their interests are quite different from the business, design, and computer science students in most 3DS programs.  With backgrounds ranging from pharmacy and biology to psychology and geoscience, each participant is working towards earning a business certificate that they can pair with their specific science-related expertise.

Day 3 Team Exercise: Students attempting to build the tallest marshmallow tower.

(Day 3) Team Exercise: Students attempt to build the tallest marshmallow tower.

The objective was simple: develop a sustainable healthcare company in 3 days.  Teams began each day with exercises like “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to build teamwork skills and a product innovation exercise involving random household objects that students sold as coffee stirrers to practice storytelling.  Afterwards, students quickly dove deep into developing their solutions to society’s biggest health care concerns such as obesity, autoimmune disease, and EMRs (electronic medical records) lack of standardization.

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Professor Houser (left) and Professor Vindis (right) showing a complete lack of diversity with their matching wardrobe.

Observations

Diversity and Teamwork

With Gallup’s recent release of Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder, progressive entrepreneurial ecosystems across the nation are adding this tool to their arsenal of personality assessments.  These tests provide a valuable framework to explain one’s strengths, weaknesses, and the value one is adding to a team, project, or organization.  For the 3 Day Startup Healthcare Program, participants were broken up into teams based on their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment results and coached to lead with their strengths. Through the (MBTI) method, diversity was evenly spread.  The students could see the value they were adding to their teams.  Joe Gerstandt, a thought leader in diversity and inclusion, says “diversity is a driver of innovation.  When everyone is thinking the same, no one is thinking at all.”  Actively creating situations where teams can work in a more diverse environment will increase creativity and yield a space more conducive to high performance.  In higher education, team building through MBTI and other methods should not be a rarity.  Experiments such as these can develop effective tools to increase self-awareness and how to work in a team.

Competitive Intelligence How-To

It is easier to talk about why collecting information on a market is important rather than to how to actually do it.  Thankfully, Laura Young, Co-Founder of Bizologie, was there to give teams a roadmap of how to find the information they were looking for.  Having a background as a Librarian at the University of Texas and a research analyst at Austin Ventures allowed her to develop a process of competitive landscaping to take the guesswork out of the process.  The list of resources she has created is a great tool for entrepreneurs to kickstart their competitive landscaping.  Understanding the competition is just as important as understanding what one’s company brings to the table.

Triumphant smiles at the end of the program.

Triumphant smiles at the end of the program.

 

Time-Capped Education: Why 3 Days are Better Than 3 Months for College Students.

Time-Capped Education: Why 3 Days are Better Than 3 Months for College Students.

The demand for entrepreneurship education is rapidly growing at universities with almost 90% of students now believing that entrepreneurial skills are “vitally important given the new economy”. [1] With the rise of campus incubators (like those at Duke, UCLA, and Syracuse) and private incubators (like Y Combinator and Techstars), the opportunities for students to pursue ventures while still in college are dramatically increasing.

There are a number of avenues to accelerate your entrepreneurial journey – classes, incubators, etc. There is a strong case to be made for short format entrepreneurship programs as the most effective choice for that journey. After running over 100 3DS programs on 5 continents, our experience shows that entrepreneurial learning happens best in 3 days versus 3 months for college students.

Here’s why.

Time constraints create focus.

Parkinson’s law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” For example, think about the last time you procrastinated a school assignment and maniacally cranked it out the night before. Fighting against the clock (aka clutch time) leads to a state of intense focus and efficiency.

The idea of time-capping projects is not new. Productivity hacks like the Pomodoro Technique advocate for 25 minutes of intense work output interspersed with break intervals. Goal-setting theories like the SMART criteria – making goals Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-related – also preach creating time-bound goals.

The email-marketing powerhouse, Mailchimp, is a great example of a company that manipulates time for productive sprinting. Ben Chestnut, CEO of Mailchimp, encourages his team to consistently crank out new products by having them work in cyclical 1-week stretches of intense focus. The success of Mailchimp stems from the company’s ability to harness one of the most effective creative forces out there: time.

In terms of building a company over the span of a weekend, knowing that your team only has 72 hours intensifies the process of ideation, marketing validation, prototyping, and so on. Not only does this intensity increase focused productivity, it also leads to a heightened level of execution in a simulated high-pressure startup environment.

Short form immersions empower students to move fast and break things…without fear of failure.

Let’s first talk about the importance of failure. Failing is a stigma that’s deeply ingrained in our cultural consciousness. Failure is seen as the polar opposite of success. Success and failure, however, are not dichotomous opposites but rather necessary complements. Failure is embedded in the process of creating something great since, at its core, failure is simply “trial-and-error learning.”

The key to successful failures is to fail quickly and with a purpose. First, failing early (and cheaply) allows teams to avoid the pitfall of escalating commitment – a tendency to keep throwing energy and time behind a failing course of action. Scrapping a bad product you built in two days is cognitively and emotionally easier than scrapping a bad product you’ve been working on for the past two months. Secondly, successful failures have end goals in mind. They disprove or validate assumptions in order to reiterate a product or plan of action.

For short burst formats like 3 Day Startup, students are given permission to fail. Since the level of expectations is different for a 3-day event versus a 3-month program, students can view the exercise as a safe space for entrepreneurial experimentation. The 3DS “laboratory” gives students permission to fail and fail quickly.

Students can commit for 3 days.

Lastly, university students are generally resource-crunched individuals when it comes to time and money. While entrepreneurs obviously have to make professional and personal sacrifices, it’s impractical to ask students to make a long-term commitment to a startup idea without some level of validation. It’s like getting married without a few first dates.

A three day immersion is a manageable short-term commitment that’s less intrusive on the life of a university student. Once startup ideas are validated and show promise, students should take it to the next level and apply for that incubator or accelerator program.

[1] Time’s How Entrepreneurship Can Fix Young America

3DS Participant Spotlight: Dan Otto of 3DS William & Mary

Contributor: Dan Otto is a student at William & Mary and was a participant at 3DS William & Mary.

The question we kept asking ourselves at 11:40 pm, 20 minutes before the due date of 3DS William & Mary application  was, “Is it worth applying?” Looking back, we could almost laugh at ourselves for thinking that.

3 Day Startup (3DS) was an experience that we never expected to have. Initially, we didn’t know if it would be useful to us, but we thought it would be at least a decent opportunity to make some new connections over a weekend. Our startup idea had already been incubating for months prior to 3DS, so we initially thought this was going to be a way to get the opinion of others, and nothing more. In reality, we couldn’t have been more wrong.

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The Zairge team at 3DS William & Mary

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Lead Organizer Spotlight: Meet James Gray from 3DS Austin

James Gray just graduated from The University of Texas at Austin. James is now working on the product and business development team at Sparefoot. He was also the lead organizer of the 10th 3DS Austin in Spring 2013 when he was still a student.

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James says the most rewarding part of organizing the program was to see teams progress from start to finish. He also enjoyed trying new things during the organizing process, hearing input from fellow organizers, and trying to launch a bigger and better program than the previous 3DS Austin he participated in. “It was also really fun. We got to work with some really big sponsors like Intuit,” he says.

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Raising Startup Capital: How to Reach Out to Investors

In addition to the hands-on 3 Day Startup programs we run at universities, we offer a variety of ways to learn more about relevant topics surrounding entrepreneurship when our programs are not in session.

Last month, we partnered with Evan Loomis, Director of Corinthian Health Services, to produce a livestream about raising startup capital. You can view a recording of the session on our website.

Evan was also kind enough to put together a recap of best practices to reach out to investors.

Finding the Best Introduction

First, make sure you have a LinkedIn account. That’s the best way to identify people in your network that know investors.

Being a Good Introducee

For an introducer, an introduction is a dangerous thing. If the introducee misses the meeting, doesn’t do his or her homework, acts rudely, or makes vague or unreasonable requests, it can damage the introducer’s relationships and reputation. Access to someone else’s rolodex is a precious thing. Here are some ways to make sure you don’t take the introduction for granted:

  • Keep all emails as short as possible. Usually, six sentences is the max.
  • Suggest specific times to meet, but be flexible. Put all times in the time zone of the person you’ll be meeting.
  • Be specific about what you are asking for. Never use phrases like, “Can I pick your brain?”
  • Once you meet the investor, remind them who your mutual friend is. Do it quickly and in a way that is complementary. “Our friend Dave speaks very highly of you. He was kind to connect us. It sounds like you guys went to college together.”

Leapfrogging

Everyone knows someone.

Pick five people you know that might be able to help you with your goal and ask if you can bring them coffee for a short conversation. At the end of your meeting, ask, “What two people come to mind that might be helpful here?” Asking for three people is greedy. One is lame. Just ask for two. Give them a minute to think about it and wait for them to name two people. Mention that you’d love an introduction and that you will follow up.

Within a few hours, you should email them a general thank you email and then separate emails for each introduction you need. So, if they offer to introduce you to two people, you’ll send them a total of three emails.

Email 1: General Thank You

Dear [Evan],

Thank you so much for your time and wisdom today. I know you are slammed with [insert something here showing that you are aware and applaud them for their success in what they are doing,] so I’m especially grateful. I’ve been thinking about [insert the one big idea / feedback they gave] since we met; it is a really great way to frame how we are thinking about our business.

Thank you also for the offers to connect me with Jason and Angela. I’ll follow up with separate emails that you can reference to make introductions really easy for you.

Sincerely,
Chris

***Why This is Important: Following up and saying thank you are critical to building a long-term friendship with people you connect with. Make it easy on yourself by preparing your emails ahead of time, so you won’t forget once you’ve shifted your focus to the next contact.

Email 2 and 3:

Dear [Evan],

Thank you so much for meeting with me to discuss our new venture: [insert your company name and tagline here].

Thanks for offering to introduce me to [investors name]. As you mentioned, it sounds like he’d have a lot of insight about [insert the reason they recommended the introduction]. I’d love to connect with him.

Sincerely,

Chris

PS: As background for [investors name], I’ve included a blurb below on [company name] and my background.

About [Company Name]: [150 word description of your company]
About me: [50 words about you]
Optional: [Short pitch deck or executive summary]

***Why This is Important: On your roadshow, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to help you. By creating a separate email to forward along, you get to tell the introducee how to talk about you and all the introducee has to do is hit forward.

3 Day Startup Partners with Stanford’s Epicenter and NCIIA to Launch New Program

During the week of April 13-19, 3 Day Startup partnered with Stanford’s Epicenter and the NCIIA to launch 3DS Springboard across nine universities. 3DS Springboard is an interactive workshop focused on the beginning steps of launching a company or a project through on-campus innovation. Over four 90-minute sessions, students joined the 3DS team and Epicenter University Innovation Fellows on their campuses to start a company, a project, or a movement.

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The Different Shades of Jerk (Customer Barriers)

Joel Hestness is the Cofounder of 3 Day Startup and an Computer Science Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

When I first read Steve Blank’s article, Sometimes It Pays to be a Jerk, about a test he ran to filter students from his startup course, I said to myself, “Huh, that’s an elegant result.” But after some thinking, I realized that 3DS has been implementing participant filters in our programs all along, and we’ve experienced these findings as well.  For a standard 3DS program, we layer in numerous mini-tests that filter out weak or unmotivated participants: interviewing applicants, asking them direct questions about their interests and availability, running pre-program bootcamps, and expecting participants to do some work before their program. These barriers help us cut out the participants that may not be invested enough in the process, which allows us to focus on those who are dedicated to being there.

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