"Innovation is something else entirely. Many entrepreneurs use an innovation to make an impact, but the hard part, the part that we’re rewarded for, is engaging with the user, the audience, the market. Bringing something to people who didn’t think they wanted it, know about it or initially welcome it, and make a difference.
One reason it’s so difficult to teach entrepreneurship is that we’re not teaching tactics or skills. We’re not teaching spreadsheets or finance or even marketing. No, when we encourage entrepreneurship, we’re actually trying to get people to the place where they care enough and where they are confident enough to stand up and try to make things change.
Don’t tell me what you invented. Tell me about who you changed.”
In our final field trip of the semester, we visited Peter Boyce II (once again!) at General Catalyst Partners in Harvard Square. For some students, this was their first trip to Cambridge and, for everyone, a first look inside a venture capital firm. General Catalyst has invested in an impressive array of consumer, enterprise and commerce technology companies (HubSpot, KAYAK, Airbnb, Snapchat and many more). So our class sought to understand a few basic questions: what is venture capital? How do firms decide to invest? Why do companies fundraise at various stages? After enjoying some gourmet pizza from Otto, the Tufts.io students left General Catalyst with a better understanding of seed funding, Series A vs. Series C, convertible notes, discounts and caps, and valuations. As always, here’s to learning (we’ll let you know when our students raise their first $1MM)!
Elements of a Strong Business Plan by General Catalyst
Convertible Debt in Plain English by Barrett Sheridan
Convertible Notes Explained (quick video) by PandoDaily
Pitching a VC by Mark Suster
With only a couple classes remaining in the semester, we focused our attention on a classic startup debate: should founders drop out of college? You have heard the names—-Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and others—but what are the real implications and choices involved with dropping out of school? We invited Thiel Fellow and Harvard Senior Zach Hamed to join our discussion, as well as David Oates and Ze’ev Klapow of Mummify.it (formerly of Northeastern University). This student-founder panel engaged the class in what it’s really like to drop out of college: initial conversations with parents, talking with investors, living independently. On the other hand, we examined “dropping in,” or maximizing your college experience as a founder while in school through internships, side projects, course credit for real world experience and more. Only two weeks left, stay tuned!
“Should you pay $250K to go to college?” by Jason Calacanis
“Why I’m doing it all wrong” by Dan Shipper
Going All In by Ben Drucker
Once you have your startup idea or MVP, our students asked, how do you get it in customers’ hands? The answer is surprisingly simple, yet difficult to master. Sales and marketing are the underlying tenets of bringing your idea to market. But, sales and marketing have been around for decades—from advertising and brand identity, to cold calls and mail order catalogs. So we challenged our students this week to think of marketing in a new way—without any code, without any money, by telling a story and “wowing” early adopters. This was the basis for our new understanding of sales and marketing, we’ll see how it turns out as students begin work on their final projects. Stay tuned!
Market First, Code Later by Kyle Tibbitts
How to Launch a Startup Without Writing Code by Dharmesh Shah
You’re Selling It Wrong by Dan Shipper
Class Eight: Now that we better understand the basics of startups, it’s time to focus our attention on ideas of our own. This week’s class centered on the frameworks and strategies of evaluating your startup idea. Do you look for a problem, a market opportunity, world-class technology? We challenged our students to think critically about their ideas—from minimum viable products to unbundling popular products. It’s our belief that, given the right frameworks for thinking, startup ideas can become to appear as less magical and more ordinary. In the end, the products we love are the same products we use everyday.
For our second field trip of the semester, we visited the fast-growing team at One Mighty Roar. Located in Downtown Crossing, One Mighty Roar “crafts digital experiences” through (quite literally) any method possible—web, mobile, hardware, you name it. Our class heard from co-founders Sam and Zach Dunn about their humble beginnings. Today, their company is an innovative and booming example of a new product design firm. Our academic focus for the week centered on the so-called “Internet of things,” as we have reached the midway point of the semester.
Sam Dunn demoes the One Mighty Roar sign, with its color scheme controlled remotely by an Arduino.
Zach Dunn talks about the early founding days of the company.