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How to Teach MVPs

How to Teach MVPs

MVP is arguably the worst buzzword in entrepreneurship today.

  • It is not a “product”.
  • Nobody can explain what “viable” means.
  • Nobody can explain what “minimum” means.

We hear it every semester – students jumping right to an idea of a completely functional app, or video game, or restaurant / bar. To one day achieve that dream, students need to first understand what is the first Minimum Viable Product (MVP) they should build.

In this exercise, students will design their first MVP by identifying their riskiest business model assumption. They’ll then design the simplest experiment they can to test that riskiest assumption.

Specifically, students will learn:

  • What is an MVP?
  • What is the Riskiest (Business Model) Assumption?
  • How to identify their Riskiest Assumption
  • How to design a test using their first MVP

Before they sink the resources necessary to build that app, or that video game, or open that restaurant / bar, they will understand how to iterate through quick tests to make sure they build a product customers actually want.

MVP Designer Worksheet

What are MVPs?

Provide students this definition of an MVP:

A version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers, with the least effort. – Frank Robinson

The goal here is to emphasize the 4 major components of the definition:

  • Collect the maximum amount
  • Of validated learning
  • About customers
  • With the least effort

Walk students through the components one-by-one:

  • #2 (validated learning) means to run an experiment to validate a hypothesis
  • #3 (about customers) means that when they run experiments, students need to focus those experiments on their customer/business model (not solely on product)
  • For #4 (with the least effort), ask students “Why would it be important for entrepreneurs to run experiments with the least effort possible?”

Answer: to save resources (e.g. time/money), in the event their hypotheses are wrong. That way they can maximize the number of business model iterations they can make.

After this discussion, re-phrase the definition of MVP as:

The easiest way to test your most important business model hypothesis.

Once your students understand the concept of an MVP, the next step is to identify the most important business model hypothesis!

Riskiest Assumption

Ask your students to fill in the blank:

A chain is only as strong as its ___________ link.

In that way, the “weakest” link of a chain is the most important in the chain; it will determine whether or not the chain fails.

Ask students to consider each of the components of the Business Model Canvas as links in a chain. How would they decide which component, or link, is the most important to test?

The component they should test is the one that is most likely to lead to their business model’s failure.

Tell students that there’s a special name for the component of their business model that is most likely to lead to its failure. We call this the “Riskiest Assumption.”

The riskiest assumption is always the most important to test with an MVP.

Students often ask about testing multiple hypotheses (assumptions) at once. Make a strong point that if they tested multiple hypotheses at once, they would find it very difficult to discern which hypothesis they invalidated if a particular experiment fails. In other words, by focusing one one hypothesis at a time, they can be certain whether

For example, if a company were to test their pricing, channel and value proposition assumptions at the same time and the experiment failed to generate the number of sales they expected, it wouldn’t be clear which of the three assumptions was to blame (e.g. wrong channel, wrong value proposition, or wrong price). In this scenario, they would be no closer to building product customers want!

Given the necessity of focusing on the riskiest assumption, if we go back to the definition of an MVP once again, we get the following:

The Minimum Viable Product is the easiest way to test your riskiest business model assumption.

The next step, is for your students to identify their riskiest assumptions.

Finding the Riskiest Assumption

In order to identify their riskiest assumption, students need to rate all of their Business Model Canvas (BMC) components in terms of risk.

To do that, they’ll need to consider two characteristics for each component:

  1. How critical is that hypothesis to the success of their business model?
  2. How confident is the students that hypothesis is valid?

Students can evaluate the components using the Riskiest Assumption Matrix.

riskiest assumption matrix

Students will map each BMC component into one of the four quadrants of the matrix:

  • Lower-Left: Less Critical + Low Confidence. Assumptions that students have little data on but will not drastically affect the success of their business model.
  • Lower-Right: Less Critical + High Confidence. Assumptions that have plenty of supporting data but will not greatly impact their business model.
  • Top-Right: Highly Critical + High Confidence. Business model assumptions that could significantly impact the business model that have been validated.
  • Top-Left: Highly Critical + Low Confidence. Business model assumptions that could significantly impact the business model that have yet to be validated.

The assumptions in this top-left quadrant are the riskiest to the overall business model and students should test first with their MVPs. The closer to the top-left corner of the chart, the more risky the assumption.

Walk students through scoring, and plotting, the components from their BMC by using Customer Segments as an example. Ask students to rate their “Customer Segments” (CS) assumptions based on two criteria, both on a scale from 0 to 10:

  • How critical is this assumption to the success of their BMC? (0 = not at all critical. 10 = extremely critical)

“Critical” here is defined as, “If these hypotheses were proven false, how likely would that lead to the collapse of the overall business model?”

As they think about their score, tell students that while the customer segments component of their business model will always be critical to their business model’s success, meaning it should get a relatively high score, for some business models the CS component is more critical than others.

For example, if a student has several distinct, but highly related customer segments with similar problems (e.g. they can serve dog owners, cat owners, ferret owners, etc.), they might be able to quickly pivot their CS hypothesis if their current assumption gets invalidated. In that way, they may score their CS component as slightly less critical (e.g. 7 – 8) than a business model with a single unique CS (e.g. CIOs for federal agencies) that is more difficult to pivot without changing the entire business model.

Note: the actual scores don’t matter at all so you can tell students to just give them a “gut feel” number. What matters most is how they score the components relative to one another.

Once students have written in their critical score, ask them to score…

  • How confident are they that their CS assumptions are valid? (0 = not at all confident. 10 = extremely confident).

Their Confidence levels should correspond with how much evidence students have that their hypothesis is valid.

As students conduct customer interviews they should develop a moderate to high level of confidence this is the right customer segment for them to solve a problem for.

Ask students to write in their confidence scores for their CS component.

Once they write down their scores, students should plot the Customer Segments component on their Riskiest Assumption Matrix by putting a dot at the appropriate point on the chart, and labeling it with the letters “CS” above the point.

Students need to map all their BMC hypotheses onto the Riskiest Assumption Matrix. Provide them the following guidance to help students calibrate their risks:

  • Value Proposition: highly critical, medium confidence. Arguably the most important set of assumptions in the BMC (i.e. highly critical).
  • Customer Relationships: less critical, any confidence. Relationship models can often be altered as necessary to meet the demands of customers.
  • Channels: highly critical, low confidence. Students won’t be able to sell a solution to customer problems unless they have a means of reaching their customers.
  • Revenue Streams: highly critical, low confidence. Students won’t be able to build sustainable businesses without revenue streams.
  • Cost Structure: moderately critical, medium confidence. Costs are important because they have a direct impact on the financial sustainability of a business model, but costs can often be optimized and reduced over time, moderating the critical nature of these assumptions. Students should be able to collect at least a little validating data on the costs they will incur solving the problem they want to solve.
  • Key Resources: less critical, medium confidence. Key resources are typically assets the student already has access to, or will need to get access to in order to fulfill their value proposition. These are often less risky assumptions because the same activities can be delivered with different resources, if the originally assumed resources are not available. These assumptions typically have medium confidence because the student already knows if they have some of the resources they require.
  • Key Activities: moderately critical, low to medium confidence. Key activities, while pivotal to fulfilling the value proposition, are often flexible as there are a number of ways to solve any given problem, making these assumptions less critical. These assumptions may be well known, but can also be significantly influenced by the revenue streams (high revenue streams can often lead to more quality-oriented key activities).
  • Key Partners: low to moderately critical, low confidence. Key partners represent the external organizations that help deliver on the value proposition. Sometimes they are required, often alternatives can be utilized to deliver their portion of the value proposition if some key partner assumptions are incorrect.

Once students plot their BMC components on their matrix, ask them to identify their riskiest assumptions by locating the dot that is closest to the top-left corner of the canvas.

Students should identify either their Channel or Revenue Stream hypotheses as their most risky. If they don’t, discuss with them and the rest of the class why they should re-evaluate the risk.

Many students will identify that their Value Proposition assumption is their riskiest. Convey that they, like all humans, are incredible problem solvers and that if there’s enough demand to solve a problem (as demonstrated by revenue), you’re convinced they will find a solution to the problem by learning a new skill, or using all the money they get from customers to hire the right people to solve the problem. This confidence should cause the Value Proposition assumption to be less risky than the Channel or Revenue Stream hypotheses, for which they should have very low confidence.

Tell students it’s almost always harder to get people to pay to solve a problem than it is to solve it. Even with a cure for cancer, they would have to navigate the channels and revenue streams required to monetize pharmaceutical treatments.

MVP Storming

Next, your students will learn how to develop MVPs to test their riskiest hypothesis. To start, they’ll brainstorm potential MVPs for a hypothetical riskiest assumption that you give them. It is helpful to show students a few real example MVPs:

  • Dropbox’s “Demo” video was a combination of working code and video editing magic of features they would eventually implement if they validated their riskiest assumption – that enough people cared about the problem to make it worth solving.
  • Airbnb launched an MVP to test demand for rooms to stay at during conferences. One of their earliest MVPs was testing demand for their site at SXSW.

Channel Testing MVPs

Give your students the following scenario:

Let’s say you’ve spoken with working parents and the biggest problem they are trying to solve is that when their kids get sick, it’s stressful because getting their children care takes too long, and the parent loses their entire work day.

You’ve identified that channels are your riskiest assumptions. In particular you’re not sure if you can get enough people to click on your Facebook ads to meet your financial projections (annual reach of 45,000-people with a 5% click through rate (CTR)).

Then ask your students: What MVPs could you create to test these channel assumptions?

Remind students that an MVP is, “The easiest way to test their riskiest business model assumption.”

Discuss students’ answers, eventually letting them know that the easiest way to test this assumption would be to create a simple Facebook text ad targeted at working parents to measure how many people click on the ad.

Revenue Stream MVPs

Alternatively, propose to your students that:

You’ve identified that your riskiest assumption is your revenue stream. In particular that working parents will pay $199/month for access to 3 in-home pediatrician visits each year.

Ask your students what MVP could be created in this case?

Potential Answers:

Pre-Orders: Create a site that collects pre-orders from prospective working parents. The site should mention the price and ideally require a credit card to play the pre-order, but the credit card shouldn’t be charged until the founders are confident they can deliver on their value proposition.

Letters of Intent (LOIs): Collect Letters of Intent (LOIs) – signed, non-binding, documents indicating that the prospective customers will agree to using this service at a given price point.

While LOIs are typically used in business-to-business (B2B) scenarios, you can use this example as a way to introduce LOIs by explaining that they are non-legally binding documents that state a person/organization “intends” to take an action (e.g. buy your product once you build it). While LOIs don’t provide as much validation (i.e. increased confidence) as much as actual sales, an LOI still requires signatures and approval from stakeholders within an organization, which provides much more validation than a simple verbal agreement.

Tell students that asking their customers to sign LOIs is a great way to test their Revenue Stream assumptions if they are selling to other businesses.

Students’ MVP

With these examples in mind, and having previously identified their riskiest assumption, ask students to brainstorm their first MVP. Once they have an idea, ask a few students to present:

  • Their riskiest assumption, and
  • The MVP they’ll create to test it

Lead a discussion so the class can give them feedback to help them hone their MVP ideas.

Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:


Get the “How to Teach MVPs” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “How to Teach MVPs” exercise to walk you, and your students, through the process, step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.

 


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Faster Prep This Fall with ExEC

Faster Prep This Fall with ExEC

Prep your experiential class in days, not weeks!

A Structured Experience

Your students can learn the skills an entrepreneur uses to build something someone wants using our award-winning Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) .

Fall is coming. ExEC has the exercises your students want and the structure you need!

If you’re looking for a structured way to make your class real from day one, that engages your students, try ExEC. We built a blend of digital (for resources and assignments) and real-life learning experiences, and practice what we preach by interviewing our faculty and students, so we are continuously improving the experience for you and for your students.

An Engaging Experience

We’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback from students and faculty, and we have grown from no schools adopting ExEC to over 50 schools adopting it in less than 2 years.

ExEC entrepreneurship curriculum at over 40 Universities including Penn State and the University of Nebraska

Here is what two of our professors had to say after experiencing ExEC in their classes:

Our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum focuses on a few core topics that are essential to entrepreneurs:

Our founding team are entrepreneurs. We’ve spent years interviewing entrepreneurship faculty and students. This combined knowledge led us to build an evolving, award-winning entrepreneurship curriculum that probes topics in-depth that entrepreneurship textbooks gloss over.

We engage students in practicing skills, actively. Class time should be spent learning by doing, with professors guiding students through an experience where they can see the material come to life in a way that is meaningful for them. We built that experience for you, for your students. ExEC enables professors to easily shift from the ineffective sage-on-the-stage model of education to the guide-on-the-side model, because the real teacher with the ExEC curriculum is the students’ experience.

ExEC is the entire learning experience, giving students meaningful content and the tools to turn that content into action.

Engage your Students this Fall

If you want your entrepreneurship classroom buzzing with the nervousness and excitement of active learning, you are not alone.

There’s a community of entrepreneurial professors like you, and they’re using ExEC to bring entrepreneurship to life for their students. Request your preview today to get a jump on your fall courses.

Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

  • “The best class I’ve taken!”  We all want a Dead Poets Society moment in our entrepreneurship class. One professor using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum got hers!
  • Why Textbooks Don’t Work. Textbooks are not an effective way to teach entrepreneurship. Experiences are. Students don’t want to read. They want to do. Engage students with the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.
  • Recommended Tools for Teaching Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship professors need tools to teach skills. These are the best tools students can use to practice entrepreneurship.

Want More Tools To Engage Your Students?

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Design Thinking 101: Design the Ideal Wallet

Design Thinking 101: Design the Ideal Wallet

Inject Design Thinking In Your Class

Whether starting a business, or working within a business to develop new products or services, understanding the design thinking process is a powerful tool to deliver and capture value in the marketplace.

design thinking process

The Wallet Project, from Stanford University’s d.school, is a fast-paced way to introduce your students to design thinking. This is a group activity (from 2 to 100+ participants) in which students rapidly do a full cycle through the design process. The project is broken down into specific steps (of a few minutes each), and students have worksheet packets that guide them. In addition, one or two facilitators (not participating in the project) prompt each step, and add verbal color and instruction. Students pair up, show and tell each other about their wallets, ideate, and make a new solution that is “useful and meaningful” to their partner.

This exercise is great because every student has an artifact (their wallet or purse) that contains so much meaning in it. You can get some really interesting information about someone just by asking about their wallet. This project also tends to yield final solution ideas that are physical, and more easily prototyped.

What Students Learn

Students get the feel of a design approach, gain some shared vocabulary, and get a taste of each design “mode” (empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test). Specifically, students learn:

  • the value of engaging with real people to help them ground their design decisions,
  • that low-resolutions prototypes are useful to learn from (take an iterative approach)
  • to bias toward action (you can make a lot of progress in a little bit of time if you start doing).

Step 1: The Wrong Approach

Tell students:

“Instead of just telling you about design thinking, we want to immediately have you jump right in and experience it for yourself. We are going to do a design project for about the next hour. Ready? Let’s go!”

Give students the “Design the IDEAL Wallet” worksheet and use this timer to count down the 3 minutes.

design the ideal wallet worksheet

Don’t give students any instructions here – just tell them to draw an idea for their ideal wallet. It’s important to remind them that you are not a good artist (whether you are or are not), and that they are not going to be judged at all by their artistic ability.

The intention here is to contrast an abstract problem-centric approach to a human-centered design thinking approach.

Remind students after each minute expires. After the 3 minutes expires, ask students:

“How did that feel?”

They will likely offer some emotions that are not that positive. Highlight those, and tell them “that was a typical problem-solving approach, taking on a given problem, working using your own opinions and experience to guide you, and with a solution in mind to be designed. Let’s try something else – a human-centered design thinking approach.”

Step 2: A Better Approach

Give students the “Your New Mission” worksheet and have them pair up.

your new mission worksheet

Their job is to design something useful for their partner. Tell students the most important part of designing for someone is to gain empathy. Students will do this through having a conversation with their partner.

Tell students that Partner A will have 4 minutes to interview Partner B, then they will switch. Have Partner A walk Partner B through the contents of their wallet. Encourage Partner A to ask questions about when they carry a wallet, why they have particular things in there, and to make notes of things they find interesting or surprising.

Start playing upbeat music (I like Motown) and start the 4 minutes. Partner A asks Partner B to go through Partner B’s wallet. Then they switch and spend 4 minutes in reversed roles.

Step 3: Dig Deeper

After this first set of interviews, encourage students to follow up on things they found interesting or surprising. They should dig for stories, feelings and emotions (around pictures, artifacts, etc.) Encourage students to ask “Why?” often and to let their partner talk.

Students need to understand that the wallet is a distraction, that what is important for them to discover is what is important to their partner. Remind students to make note of any unexpected discoveries and to capture quotes.

Step 4: Reframe the Problem

Give students the “Reframe the Problem” worksheet.

Reframe the problem worksheet

Have each student individually reflect for three minutes on what they learned about their partner. Tell students to synthesize their learning into two groups:

  1. Their partner’s goals and wishes. Students should use verbs to express these. Remind students that these should be needs related to the wallet and life, that they should think about physical and emotional needs. Give them an example of maybe their partner needing to minimize the number of things he carries, or he needs to feel like he is supporting the local community and economy.
  2. Any insights they discovered. Tell them they can leverage insights when creating solutions. Give them an example that they might discover their partner values purchases more when using cash to make it. Another example could be that the partner sees the wallet as a reminder and organizing system, not a carrying device.

Step 5: Take a Stand

This is where students articulate their point-of-view around which they will build solutions. Tell them to select the most compelling need and most interesting insight they gained from their partner. This statement is going to be the foundation for their design work, so encourage them to make it actionable, and exciting. Give them an example like these:

“Janice needs a way to feel she has access to all her stuff and is ready to act. Surprisingly, carrying her purse makes her feel less ready to act, not more.”

or

“Arthur needs a way to socialize with his friends while eating healthy, but he feels he isn’t participating if he isn’t holding a drink.”

Step 6: Sketch to Ideate

Give students the “Ideate” worksheet.

Ideate worksheet

At the top, they write their problem statement. Tell them they are now creating solutions to the challenge they’ve identified. Push them that quantity is better than quality here, that they should go for volume of sketches of ideas. Remind them the goal here is idea generation, not evaluation; challenge them by saying “see if you can come up with at least 7 ideas!”

Keep telling them as each minute passes, and remind them to be visual, to not use words but to use pictures.

It is important to remind them here that they may not be designing a wallet, but that they should create solutions to the problem statement they just created.

Step 7: Share Solutions and Capture Feedback

During this step, partners share their sketches with each other for 4 minutes each. As each partner gives reactions to the sketches, the other partner should take note of any likes and dislikes, and also listen for any new insights. Remind students the goal here is not to validate their ideas, and not to explain or defend their idea. This is an opportunity to learn more about their partner’s feelings and motivations. After four minutes, students switch.

Step 8: Reflect & Generate New Solutions

Give students the “Iterate based on feedback” worksheet.

iterate worksheet

Tell students to take a moment to consider what they learned about their partner and about the solutions they generated. Using all they’ve learned, ask students to sketch a new idea. This idea can be a variation on an idea from before, or could be something entirely new. It is OK if they need to adjust their problem statement to incorporate new insights and needs they discovered in Step 7.

Encourage students to provide as much detail and color around their idea as they can. They should think about how the solution fits into their partner’s life, when and how they might handle or encounter the new solution.

**NOTE: While students are working, grab the prototyping materials.**

design thinking prototyping materials

Step 9: Build!

Give students the “Build and test” worksheet.

build and test worksheet

Tell students the next step is to create a physical prototype of their solution. Explain they should not just make a scale model of their idea.

They should create an experience that their partner can react to.

They need to actually make something their partner can engage and interact with. Students who want to create a service will ask how they can create that. Talk about creating a scenario that allows the partner to experience it – they can use space, act it out, etc.

Push students to be quick, remind them they have only a few minutes.

Step 10: Share Your Solution & Get Feedback

Now one partner will share their prototype and collect feedback, then partners will switch roles. Tell students they are not interested in validating the prototype, but instead are interested in a targeted conversation around the experience, specifically focused on feelings and emotions. Remind students their prototype is not precious, that they cannot cherish it and should let go of it. What is valuable here is the feedback and new insights they will gain from their partner’s interaction with the prototype. Students need to watch how their partner uses and misuses the prototype. They should take note of what their partner liked and didn’t like, what questions and ideas emerged.

Step 11: Group Gather & Debrief

Create a space that all students can gather around – move tables together, clear chairs, etc.

Have everyone put their prototypes in the middle of the gathering space. Ask students

This step is important! A well facilitated reflection has the power to turn this exercise from simply a fun activity to a meaningful experience that could impact the way participants approach innovation in the future. Quickly pull together a few tables that everyone can gather around. Ask students:

  • “Who had a partner who created something that you really like?”
  • “Who sees something they are curious to learn more about?”

When a student is curious about a prototype, ask for the person who created the prototype and engage them in the conversation:

  • “How did talking to your partner inform your design?”
  • “How did testing and getting feedback impact your final design?”
  • “What was the most challenging part of the process for you?”

The key to leading this conversation is to relate the activity to the following takeaways:

  • Human-centered design: Empathy for the person or people you are designing for, and feedback from users, is fundamental to good design.
  • Experimentation and prototyping: Prototyping is an integral part of your innovation process. A bias towards action, toward doing and making over thinking and meeting.
  • Show don’t tell: Communicate your vision in an impactful and meaningful way by creating experiences and interactive visuals.
  • Power of iteration: Learn, try, fail, learn more, try again, fail again, learn more, and so the cycle goes. A person’s fluency with design thinking is a function of cycles, so we challenge participants to go through as many cycles as possible—interview twice, sketch twice, and test with your partner twice. Additionally, iterating solutions many times within a project is key to successful outcomes.

Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:


Get the “Design the Ideal Wallet” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Design the Ideal Wallet” exercise to walk you, and your students, through the process, step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.

 


Get our Next Free Lesson Plan

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Recommended Tools for Teaching Entrepreneurship

Recommended Tools for Teaching Entrepreneurship

“What are the best tools to teach . . .?”

It’s a question we get all the time from entrepreneurship professors. So we thought we would share the tools we recommend to teach your students critical entrepreneurship skills like:

  • Customer Interviewing
  • Prototyping
  • Financial Projection
  • General Productivity

In entrepreneurship education there are always new tools, tips, and tricks to discover and incorporate into your classroom. It’s overwhelming trying to keep up-to-date and know what is useful for your students to practice critical entrepreneurship skills.

As we prototype and refine our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC), we try hundreds of tools to determine what is useful as a learning opportunity, and what is a value for students on a very limited budget. Below are our choices for your students to learn critical skills they need to navigate the entrepreneurship landscape.

We sorted the list of tools we recommend below into categories so you can quickly learn what tools we recommend for different components of your course. We tested out hundreds of options to find the tools that provide the best value in terms of most engagement and provide a free option, at least for a short trial period.

If you have recommendations for tools your students love, please comment below with the tool and why they love it.

Customer Interviewing Tools

As we have discussed many times, customer interviews are the most critical element to validating a business model. Once your students have identified who to interview (early adopters), and where to find these people, motivating students to conduct real interviews can be challenging. As we heard from a professor who switched to using ExEC, students will often not get out of the building to interview customers each week because they are not comfortable interviewing real people.

Just like learning any skill, students need the proper tools to develop the confidence to interview customers so they can effectively validate their business model assumptions.

Here are our recommendations for customer interviewing tools you can incorporate into your classroom so your students feel confident conducting real interviews.

Otter.ai. Otter is a tool students can use to record (audio only), transcribe, and share interviews. With Otter, students can play, edit, organize, and share audio and notes from interviews from any device. This is a great tool for ensuring students do their interviews and enabling professors to review them and provide feedback very efficiently.

Interview Transcription Tools

Kahoot. As we practice what we preach, our ExEC team experiments with how exactly to teach students how to interview customers. This is a very difficult skill to effectively teach, but we think we finally nailed it!

customer interview tools

Our updated method of teaching customer interviews is using ExEC Customer Interviewing Playing Cards with an online collaborative quiz game to show students:

  • What their problem interviewing goals should and should not be, and
  • What questions they should and should not ask

Get familiar with Kahoot; watch this Kahoot demo video, and review the Kahoot questions here. Students love games, so take advantage of that and teach them interviewing through a gaming experience.

Lino. Like any good entrepreneurship professors, we are big fans of post-it notes. I mean, really big fans – we look for every way to use them to generate ideas and organize information. The problem we kept hearing from our professors with post-it notes is that it’s difficult (and expensive) for students to use them across many weeks of interviewing. So we discovered Lino, and we love it!

Think of Lino as an electronic post-it notes canvas. As students record and transcribe each customer interview, they can use Lino to map out their findings, to analyze their interview data, and to identify patterns in their qualitative data. Because it is all electronic, you can incorporate this into your LMS so you can monitor and assess your students’ progress.

Prototyping Tools

No matter what problem your students are working on solving, they need to know how to develop and iterate a prototype. This is such an important skill that in our most recent iteration of ExEC, we encourage our professors to start the semester off with students prototyping. In today’s digital world, and for most of us who do not have a maker space and staff at our disposal, prototyping is a digital affair. We found a variety of tools for prototyping websites and apps.

Website Prototyping Tools.

As we outline in our 60 Minute MVP exercise, building a functioning website with zero technical expertise is not as hard as it seems. With the following tools, any student can build a landing page (a simple, single-page website) that:

  1. Tells their customers the problem they are solving,
  2. Uses a video to demonstrate how they will solve the problem and
  3. Asks for some form of “currency” from their customers to validate demand.

Landing Page Tools. To create a simple landing page, we recommend using Wix or Weebly. Both offer free options, and both require no technical expertise as they are drag-and-drop, template website builders. There are slight differences between the two, for instance Wix offers handy tools such as photo filters and animated texts.

With either option, your students will be engaging customers in no time.

Explainer Video Tools. To engage customers on their landing page, your students should include a quick video that hints how their solution will solve the problem. We found a few tools that make creating explainer videos a breeze. These tools allow students to create engaging animated videos that are professional-looking, with a large selection of media, templates, and animation effects from which to choose.

  • Powtoon. The slide-based format of Powtoon allows students control over how to present information. Here is a much more in-depth review of Powtoon.

teaching video explainer tools

  • Animaker. This tool has one of the largest animation libraries of any comparable platform out there. Here is a much more in-depth review of Animaker.
  • Moovly. This tool contains one of the largest stock media libraries online. Here is a much more in-depth review of Moovly.

App Prototyping Tools.

Our students love ideas for apps, because they are products students constantly use throughout the day. As with websites, tools to build apps seem to be endless. We identified a few tools that students can use to develop interactive app prototypes to test our customer demand and usability. We recommend two categories – low fidelity (wireframing) and high fidelity (polished).

Low Fidelity

High Fidelity

  • inVision  (interactive prototyping tool)
  • Adobe XD (wireframe & design tool)
  • Proto.io (interactive prototyping tool)
  • Sketch (digital design platform)

teaching prototyping tools

We also recommend a few User Interface (UI) Design and User Experience (UX) Design tools.

With all these tools, students can create mockups of what they want their app idea to look and feel like, so potential customers can view and interact with it on mobile devices. Generally speaking, students may find it more difficult to work with Origami and Sketch unless they have more technical expertise.

One other useful tool is Overflow.io, which is slightly different in that it is a design tool focused on enabling user flow diagrams. User flow is the path taken by a prototypical user. Your students can map out screen-by-screen a customer journey from the entry point through a set of steps towards a successful outcome and final action, such as purchasing a product.

Financial Projection Tools

One of the most difficult aspects of entrepreneurship to teach effectively and engagingly is financials. Because students often struggle with the application of financial concepts, professors need a tool that makes financial modeling approachable and creates confidence in students. We could not find such a tool, so we built the Financial Projection Simulator to solve our problem.

teaching finance tools in entrepreneurship

This tool allows students to quickly iterate and identify a potentially viable revenue model in a rigorous way that doesn’t overwhelm them. We incorporated default values in drop down menus and instructions for researching more detailed estimates to create a more approachable way for students to experiment with assumptions in their financial models.

General Productivity Tools

We are champions of experiential education, especially in entrepreneurship. In an experiential course where students must practice idea generation, customer interviewing, prototyping, financial and business modeling, pitching, and selling, students can easily be overwhelmed and lose focus.

As we practice what we preach in building ExEC, we discovered a variety of tools that can keep students organized and engaged.

Customer interviews are the lifeblood of an entrepreneurial endeavor.

It is critical students keep every nuance and nugget of information from their interviews. Reviewing notes is an important way for them to improve their interviewing skills. And past interviews are a treasure trove of validation and potential marketing copy, so being able to capture and transcribe them is essential.

Capturing Interviews. To enhance their learning, students can record video of interviews – or meetings with cofounders, partners, investors, and other stakeholders – using Zoom. Zoom integrates with Otter, so students can very easily create transcripts of any video recordings.

When students watch videos of their interviews, they learn how to decode nonverbal reactions from customers, and also become more self-aware regarding their own nonverbal reactions. This is important because their reactions may sometimes influence the customer’s reactions, so increasing their self-awareness is very important.

Taking Notes. Students should also take notes (or have a friend take notes) while interviewing, to record their thoughts and reactions real-time. We find that taking notes on a computer creates the chatter of typing, which is a big distraction. So, we recommend going (sort of!) old school and writing notes.

One great tool for taking and sharing notes is Rocketbook, which are reusable smart notebooks. These notebooks connect to all the students’ cloud services (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) so they can easily send and organize their notes (if you get the Wave version, you microwave it to reuse it – how cool is that?!?!?)

Providing Context and/or Feedback. If your students (or you) need to provide feedback, Loom or Vidyard are a great way to record short video screen captures so the recipient can follow along, and can replay/revisit to fully digest the feedback. These tools is also great for students to provide context when asking for feedback.

In many situations, it is beneficial for students to be able to quickly set the stage for someone to provide feedback. For instance, when sharing documents, worksheets, notes, or assignments with professors, teammates, or customers, if a student can give some background and also make a clear and specific ask, it makes the feedback process much more efficient. A student can record a screen capture of a document, explain where they’d like feedback, why, and explain the context of the information. This context helps the reviewer provide very targeted and richer feedback.

Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

  • “The best class I’ve taken!”  We all want a Dead Poets Society moment in our entrepreneurship class. One professor using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum got hers!
  • Textbooks Don’t Work. Textbooks are not an effective way to teach entrepreneurship. Experiences are. Students don’t want to read. They want to do. Engage students with the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.
  • Teaching Finance in Entrepreneurship. Finance is a difficult subject to teach in entrepreneurship. Our financial projection simulator is the best way to teach financial projections without overwhelming students.

Want More Tools To Engage Your Students?

We email new experiential entrepreneurship tools, techniques, and lesson plans regularly.

Subscribe here to get our next lesson plan in your inbox!

Join 5,250+ instructors. Get new lesson plans via email.

 

“The Best class I’ve taken”

“The Best class I’ve taken”

Kim Pichot, an entrepreneurship professor at Andrews University, watched a keenly intelligent student become disillusioned, before her eyes.

Kim Pichot
Assistant Professor of Marketing, Andrews University 

She’d taught him during his first year when he was eager to learn, quickly grasped complex topics, and had a perfect GPA. By the time Kim saw him again his senior year, everything had changed.

His demeanor had changed, he’d lost interest in learning, and he was on a quest to leave school, at one point asking her:

“What can I do to graduate? I just need out of here.”

Coincidentally, Kim had wanted to adopt a more experiential approach to her entrepreneurship class, so she decided to try the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC). Her disillusioned student reluctantly started working with ExEC’s structured, real-world experiences, and the result was nothing short of a Dead Poets Society moment:

Why Kim Adopted ExEC

Kim worked for the SBDC and SBI for over 20 years, helping guide and mentor over 300 founders and business owners. Along the way, she founded a consulting business. She brought that experience to entrepreneurship courses at Andrews University, where she was using a textbook, giving a midterm and a final exam, and using the Business Model Canvas, a strategic marketing plan and a business plan.

Kim knew the material wasn’t engaging her students. She wanted to improve her students’ takeaways, so she needed to update her course. Kim wanted to keep the Business Model Canvas and go much deeper with that kind of tool and approach. She doesn’t see the value in exams; they spread out the grading curve a bit, but she doesn’t believe they represent real learning. To her, experiential learning is the only effective method of education.

Kim met the TeachingEntrepreneurship.org team at the annual USASBE conference. She tried a few exercises with her students, and her classroom came alive! When she dug deeper into our award-winning curriculum, Kim thought to herself:

“I can have the type of classroom I really want without killing myself preparing for it.”

Kim was so happy with the experience she wanted to try the full ExEC curriculum on an elective course before using it in the university’s Interdisciplinary Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate (4 courses and a capstone ending with a demo day and real money). Next semester Kim will use ExEC in her elective course and in the Certificate!

This semester was Kim’s first using ExEC. She prepped before each class, barely staying ahead of the students. Her semester was a process of evaluating and responding based on how the students reacted to the curriculum, and the value they are getting from it. She saw students engaged in learning, developing personally meaningful concepts. At the end of each module, she thought “WOW!”

How Students Transformed

The class is a junior and senior elective, so Kim’s students are mostly taking a business minor, management major, or marketing major. The students took the course because they thought it would be an easy grade; as Kim related:

“The hardest part of this entrepreneurship class is that students are not coming in with a desire to start a business. It’s an elective.”

Students did not expect to spend time outside class working as a group, interviewing actual people, building real value. They expected the typical listen – learn – reflect/regurgitate routine. The students were in for a shock!

As Kim walked students through ExEC one step at a time, they understood the progression, the benefit they were gaining, and the skill set they were developing. Kim’s classroom became a hub of high energy every time they gathered. Music played, ideas flew around, experiments developed, feedback exchanged . . . the learning was real!

When the class got to the point of designing a landing page through the 60 Minute MVP exercise, students didn’t think they could do that in one class period. Yet at the end of the class, they all launched landing pages!

Students didn’t believe in themselves going in, and emerged having accomplished something amazing – building and launching an MVP in 60 minutes, with no technical expertise.

One group got 500 sign-ups for their concept. Another group made $300 the last week of class with a digital marketing consulting idea.

Another transformation related to financials. Kim’s previous students felt the financial lessons weren’t realistic. With ExEC, the students realized they could design pessimistic and optimistic projections based on fairly accurate assumptions. They saw how they could scale a product line or a business. Students understood how the number of clients or subscribers impacted real financial projections, and how to calculate the number of purchases necessary to cover costs given a certain percent margin.

The numbers became real! And now with our Financial Projection Simulator, we give professor’s a robust financial modeling tool that leads students through an experimentation process to find a financially sustainable business model.

Kim related that her students see how they can apply the set of entrepreneurial skills they developed in different situations. The physical therapy students commented that they can see pieces of ExEC they can use to introduce something new in the practice that will employ them. Overall, as Kim said:

“The students walk away with a much better, much deeper learning experience.”

How Kim Transformed

Kim began her journey with ExEC as an experiment. Compared to previous classes, Kim’s students using ExEC were more engaged. The business concepts her students developed were more complete, more accurately developed, and more powerfully presented. Her students walked away with more positive takeaways than previous semesters: a valuable skill set, a positive learning experience, an engaging class, and confidence in their abilities. Using ExEC, Kim provided a completely different learning experience to her students, and received a mountain of feedback about this being the best course ever!

“It’s exactly what I wanted this semester to be. I wanted it to be a higher engagement for the traditional student.”

Nothing is ever perfect, and Kim also encountered struggles. She adopted the curriculum at the last minute, so she did not have the luxury of planning in advance. (pssssst, now is the time to start planning for the fall – don’t wait, sign up now!) Many days, Kim arrived at work hours before class and used the time to familiarize herself with the lesson plan and concepts she delivered later that day. The structure of the lesson plans helped her prepare efficiently to deliver an engaging learning experience to her students:

“The way everything was laid out made it very easy for me to pick up and go.”

As with any good professor, Kim thought this group of students had endless potential. During the semester, she realized some were struggling to see the value of some experiences. To tackle this challenge, Kim began spending time each class session intentionally relating each assignment and activity to students’ career paths. This opened students to the possibility of the skills helping them create value in their specific career path, even if that path didn’t include entrepreneurship. As Kim related, students realized they mastered a lot of tools and skills they can use in their future to stand out.

“I don’t think there is a single student walking out of that classroom feeling like they wasted their time.”

Which brings us back to Kim’s intelligent, disillusioned student, and her Dead Poets moment.

When she adopted ExEC, Kim saw him perk up and get excited about learning again. At the end of the semester, she asked for written feedback, and this student asked Kim if he could provide his feedback orally (btw, tons teachers dream of a student doing this – we are all totally jealous!) He stood in front of the class and said:

“This one is by far the best class I’ve ever taken at this University!”

The rest of the class chimed in agreeing with the sentiment. Our goal is to ignite classrooms around the world with the same excitement and joy of learning!

If you have problems with students

  • Not engaging, just going through the motions of another class
  • Not understanding financial projections
  • Not believing in their potential to learn applicable skills

request a preview of our ExEC curriculum here.

teaching entrepreneurship

Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

  • Textbooks Don’t Work. Textbooks are not an effective way to teach entrepreneurship. Experiences are. Students don’t want to read. They want to do. Engage students with the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.
  • Teaching Finance in Entrepreneurship. Finance is a difficult subject to teach in entrepreneurship. Our financial projection simulator is the best way to teach financial projections without overwhelming students.
  • Student Engagement Workshop. In this hour-long session, you will learn 4 techniques to engage all your students – those who are there to learn, and those who are there to pass!

Want More Tools To Engage Your Students?

We email new experiential entrepreneurship tools, techniques, and lesson plans regularly.

Subscribe here to get our next lesson plan in your inbox!

Join 5,250+ instructors. Get new lesson plans via email.

 

Join the Revolution – Teach Entrepreneurship With ExEC This Fall

Join the Revolution – Teach Entrepreneurship With ExEC This Fall

You’re exhausted and looking forward to a break – it’s the end of the semester. We get that.

Before you turn to summer research and vacation plans, I urge you to think about your fall courses. Bookstores want to know what resources you’re using. Don’t wait until “later this summer” to plan them – you’ll keep delaying it and end up scrambling to tweak your courses a week or two before the semester starts. That’s not fair to you or your students.

Don’t reinvent the wheel, let ExEC take the stress out of your planning, while making your class even more engaging. Sign up now!  

teaching entrepreneurship

We’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback from students and faculty, and we have grown from no schools adopting ExEC to almost 50 schools adopting it in less than 2 years. Join the revolution!

Our professors get really excited:

Dr. Susan Cohen

Assistant Professor of Management, The University of Georgia

Today I fell in love. In love with the problem validation presentation and all of the hard work the students put into (in)validating their customers, channels and problem statements.”

Jonathan York

Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship, Cal Poly State University

“I have to be careful with my compliments or you’ll get a big head, and I’m only one week in, but I am thoroughly impressed and enjoying the course. The structure of ExEC was ideal for allowing me to fill in all of the accumulated wisdom and approaches that I have been using over 10 years.

Our students also speak to their satisfaction with the curriculum, and also to the practicality of the experience:

“I think this course teaches more practical skills which are not available in other courses during college.” – Student, Georgia State University

I really enjoyed how involved the learning in this class was, instead of reading straight from a textbook.” – Student, Susquehanna University

I enjoyed the interactive class that we had as opposed to lecture. It gets everyone involved and awake and gets the juices flowing in your brain. Class was more enjoyable rather than something I had to attend.” – Student, Rowan University

Can You Engage More of your Students?

There is always room to improve our students’ experience. Just like Georgann Jouflas at Colorado Mesa University, now is your chance to rediscover the excitement of teaching entrepreneurship.

She was looking for a curriculum through which her students could learn the skills an entrepreneur uses to build something someone wants. She found that in our award-winning Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC).

Fall is coming. Choose your curriculum now, then enjoy your summer. ExEC is the curriculum your students need.

We’ll explain more about ExEC, but first, remember that we are hosting a FREE virtual workshop to train you on how to engage ALL your students next semester. Head here for details and to register.

Why ExEC?

Last week we talked about why textbooks don’t work. If you’re looking for a structured way to make your class real from day one, that engage your students without using textbooks, try ExEC. We built a blend of digital (for resources and assignments) and real-life learning experiences, and practice what we preach by interviewing our faculty and students, so we are continuously improving the experience for you and for your students.

Learn more about our curriculum from this review in Academy of Management Learning & Education.

Our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum focuses on a few core topics that are essential to entrepreneurs:

Our founding team are entrepreneurs. We’ve spent years interviewing entrepreneurship faculty and students. This combined knowledge led us to build an evolving, award-winning entrepreneurship curriculum that probes topics in-depth that entrepreneurship textbooks gloss over.

teaching finance in entrepreneurship

When we cover a topic, such as financial modeling, we don’t stop at providing context and information. In this case, we lead students through an experimentation process so they can discover a financially sustainable business model. Along the way, they discover the most important elements of a rigorous financial projection.

We also include curated Resource Guides for dozens of topics we do not cover. We continuously update our Resource Guides just as we do the exercises and lesson plans. This is quite valuable for students, who have lifetime access to ExEC, as they navigate their entrepreneurial path post-college and find the need for this information. Professors and students can take a much deeper dive into a variety of topics such as:

  • Types of Entrepreneurship
  • Financials
  • Team Formation
  • Legal Issues

It’s important that students have this information at their fingertips. But this information should not be the core of any entrepreneurship course. The experience should be!

Structured Experiential Learning

Georgann Jouflas, one of our early adopter professors at Colorado Mesa University, mentions:

“I love the Teaching Entrepreneurship (ExEC) curriculum because it has that background reading information, easily accessible, easily assignable. But I love the experiential part of it.”

We engage students in practicing skills, actively. Class time should be spent learning by doing, with professors guiding students through an experience where they can see the material come to life in a way that is meaningful for them. We built that experience for you, for your students. ExEC enables professors to easily shift from the ineffective sage-on-the-stage model of education to the guide-on-the-side model, because the real teacher with the ExEC curriculum is the students’ experience.

As Mike Dominik, one of our early adopter professors at Rowan University, mentions, he values the practical nature of the curriculum, and that we keep it relevant:

We built ExEC as a progression of deep learning activities to encourage an understanding of information through active problem-solving and iterative skill development. This curriculum sits upon a strong foundation of the work of David Kolb and colleagues that shows that students learn best through experience. It also harkens way back to a timeless quote from Xun Kuang in the 3rd Century B.C.E.:

“Tell me and I forget,

teach me and I may remember,

engage me and I learn.”

As Georgann Jouflas explained, she wanted to teach her students how to discover their passion and how to solve problems, not just work with ideas. Her students needed to deeply engage with understanding the power of hidden assumptions, and how to prototype. A textbook didn’t address her need, but ExEC did!

Textbooks don’t work; they become outdated very quickly, so information students are learning can be irrelevant. Once students purchase a textbook, that is the resource they have – it doesn’t change. The ExEC curriculum is a living, breathing resource; once students purchase ExEC they have lifetime access, so as we update the curriculum to meet the current reality, the resource at students’ disposal stays current.

teaching entrepreneurship

 

ExEC is the entire learning experience, giving students meaningful content and the tools to turn that content into action.

Don’t worry about covering every topic in a particular niche of entrepreneurship. Invite students into an experience.  They will thank you. Don’t take our word for it – check out any of the almost 50 universities using our curriculum. Dr. Chris Welter, who has used ExEC with undergrads and MBAs at Xavier University, says:

“It’s the software I’ve been looking for for 3 or 4 years . . . I really appreciate the ability for students to get their hands dirty.”

Engage your Students this Fall

If you want your entrepreneurship classroom buzzing with the nervousness and excitement of active learning . . .

teaching entrepreneurship engage students

You are not alone.

There’s a community of entrepreneurial professors like you, and they’re using ExEC to bring entrepreneurship to life for their students. Request your preview today to get a jump on your fall courses.

Try the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

Request a preview of ExEC today and make this Fall the most engaging semester of entrepreneurship yet! Our curriculum is full of experiential exercises that will make your students’ learning come alive.

Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

  • Textbooks Don’t Work. Textbooks are not an effective way to teach entrepreneurship. Experiences are. Students don’t want to read. They want to do. Engage students with the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.
  • Teaching Finance in Entrepreneurship. Finance is a difficult subject to teach in entrepreneurship. Our financial projection simulator is the best way to teach financial projections without overwhelming students.
  • Student Engagement Workshop. In this hour-long session, you will learn 4 techniques to engage all your students – those who are there to learn, and those who are there to pass!

Want More Tools To Engage Your Students?

We email new experiential entrepreneurship tools, techniques, and lesson plans regularly.

Subscribe here to get our next lesson plan in your inbox!

Join 5,250+ instructors. Get new lesson plans via email.

 

Why Textbooks Don’t Work

Why Textbooks Don’t Work

It doesn’t matter what you do:

  • Switch to the newest entrepreneurship textbook
  • Quiz students to make sure they read the material before class
  • Incorporate popular industry books like Disciplined Entrepreneurship or Lean Startup

You’ll fall short of the engagement your students deserve.

Whether you compile a summary of resources from around the Web, or you use a structured experiential curriculum like ExEC . . .

whatever you do, don’t use a textbook to teach entrepreneurship! You’re short changing yourself and your students.

In this article, we’ll discuss the top 3 reasons why textbooks don’t teach entrepreneurship:

  1. Textbooks don’t teach skills.
  2. Learning by doing is more effective than reading and regurgitating.
  3. Students don’t read textbooks.

But first, remember that we are hosting a FREE virtual workshop to train you on how to engage ALL your students next semester. Head here for details and to register. This workshop will be very participatory, so please make sure your camera and microphone are working, and test your computer for Zoom here.

Textbooks Don’t Teach Skills

Students can’t learn entrepreneurship by reading about it. Entrepreneurship textbooks provide a general blanket of information about entrepreneurship, but don’t engage students in entrepreneurship. They cover 15, 16, 17 or more topics loosely related to entrepreneurship. This creates a density problem that inhibits effective learning and engagement.

Textbooks drown students in facts and figures, but don’t guide students to action.

Here is what a typical entrepreneurship textbook table of contents covers:

  • Perspective & Context
  • Ideation and Opportunity Identification/Recognition/Evaluation
  • Business Modeling and/or Business Planning
  • Funding
  • Launching a Venture
  • Growing/Scaling a Venture

Entrepreneurship textbooks are effective at overwhelming students with information. They are mostly ineffective at enabling students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and skill set through application and practice.

Textbooks are not ineffective because of the people who write them. I know and admire many of the authors, and I know they are dynamic teachers. Textbooks are ineffective because they try to do too much; if you want to give your students a general overview of what entrepreneurship is, then a textbook is for you.

If you want your students practicing the skills of entrepreneurship, then a textbook won’t work.

Research Shows That Learning By Doing is More Effective Than Reading

What does engage students is experience that build skills. Where textbooks fail and ExEC succeeds is in delivering experiential learning, defined as:

“learning from experience or learning by doing. Experiential education first immerses learners in an experience and then encourages reflection about the experience to develop new skills, new attitudes, or new ways of thinking.”  (Lewis and Williams, 1994: 5)

Research shows that in a variety of disciplines, from sciences to humanities to business and especially in entrepreneurship, experiential learning leads to better student engagement and therefore outcomes.

student engagement

As David Goobler, author of Pedagogy Unbound, observes:

“We have to go beyond the idea that the perfect presentation of the relevant facts will be enough to help the majority of our students learn. Such pedagogy (whether or not we call it lecturing) will work for some students. But for most students, we need to shift our focus from what it is we say to what it is they do.”

Students Don’t Read Textbooks

What students don’t do is read textbooks; research shows that students assigned readings complete only 20-30% of them. A variety of factors contribute to students’ struggle with reading – school-life balance, lack of motivation, and more importantly, lack of comprehension. One study shows that only 46% of students in a particular course read assignments, and of those, only 55% demonstrated a basic comprehension of the reading.

Students don’t want to read. They want to do. Do you want to engage your students this fall?

Next year, no textbooks! Students don’t read the textbooks, they are not engaging, and they don’t teach the necessary skills. Whether you assemble your own collection of exercises from around the web, or you use a structured curriculum like ExEC, next year, get the most out of your students and your class by ditching the textbook and go experiential!

Try the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum

Request a preview of ExEC today and make this Fall the most engaging semester of entrepreneurship yet! Our curriculum is full of experiential exercises that will make your students’ learning come alive.

TeachingEntrepreneurship.org’s Greatest Hits

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

  • Teaching Finance in Entrepreneurship. Finance is a difficult subject to teach in entrepreneurship. Our financial projection simulator is the best way to teach financial projections without overwhelming students.
  • Our Top 5 Lesson Plans. Top teaching entrepreneurship lesson plans – covering idea generation, customer interviewing, prototyping, and problem validation.
  • Entrepreneurship Syllabus. Engaging entrepreneurship syllabi are difficult to build. We surveyed 4,000+ educators, and created five engaging entrepreneurship syllabus templates

Want More Tools To Engage Your Students?

We email new experiential entrepreneurship tools, techniques, and lesson plans regularly.

Subscribe here to get our next lesson plan in your inbox!

Join 5,250+ instructors. Get new lesson plans via email.

 

Student Engagement Workshop

Student Engagement Workshop

How do you reach all students, not just the ones who are eager to learn?

Learn how in our free Student Engagement Virtual Workshop on May 22.

We don’t want your students checked out, staring at their phones, or looking at your slides with blank stares.

We want them asking questions, sitting up straight, participating in activities.

After winning USASBE’s Excellence in Entrepreneurship Exercises competition, a few professors asked how we approached student engagement.  We thought it was a good opportunity to share our “Show, Don’t Tell” approach to experiential learning that has entrepreneurship students engaged at universities around the world!

If you teach entrepreneurship and want to learn tips and techniques to engage all your students in a rich learning environment that excites and inspires them . . .

. . . then you want to register for the 4 Steps to Increase Student Engagement Virtual Workshop!

Our award-winning entrepreneurship educators will give you the tools to:

  1. Create discussion and competition opportunities your students will love
  2. Create experiences that will inspire deep curiosity
  3. Invite students into deeper discussions
  4. Make things real for your students with real stories of success and failure

Engage All Your Students!

After the positive impact of our ExEC entrepreneurship curriculum’s across dozens of universities, we’re so excited to share our approach to student engagement with you.

See you at our virtual workshop – be sure to register for free here! Remember, even if you can’t join us live we’ll have recordings available for those who register.

Teaching Finance in Entrepreneurship

Teaching Finance in Entrepreneurship

“When the P&L’s come out, students check out.” – Doan Winkel

We all face this problem when teaching the financial aspect of entrepreneurship. Students aren’t comfortable with the unknown, and often struggle with understanding the application of math or financial topics. This is a huge problem because financial modeling is such a crucial part of identifying and validating the business models students are working on.

So how do we balance creating a robust financial projection for a business model without overwhelming students?

Introducing the first version of ExEC’s Financial Projection Simulator (imagine fireworks going off in the background with AC/DC playing bagpipes and shooting flaming confetti!!!)

teaching finance in entrepreneurship

Incorporating feedback as we develop engaging lesson plans, we’ve added a fun way for students to experiment with their financial model to our comprehensive curriculum.

The Financial Projection Simulator leads students through an experimentation process so they can find a financially sustainable business model. Along the way, they discover the most important elements of a rigorous financial projection:

  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Cost of Customer Acquisition
  • Cost of employee salaries (including benefits & taxes)
  • Initial capital investments
  • Unit costs
  • Legal fees
  • Etc.

Here is a quick overview of the simulator in action:

With a combination of default values in drop down menus and instructions for researching more detailed estimates, pilot students have reported this is a more approachable way to experiment with assumptions in their financial models. The simulator, “feels more like a game than a spreadsheet”, where they can quickly see the impact of their assumptions on the success of their business.

At each step along the way, we provide short, easy-to-understand tutorial videos so students understand what to input.

teaching finance in entrepreneurship

The format invites them to more deeply engage in learning about financial models.

No TAM-Based Estimates

ExEC’s financial simulator is also unique because it takes a strictly bottom-up approach to financial projections. Instead of largely inaccurate top-down/TAM estimates (e.g. “This industry is X billions of dollars and if we get Y% of it we’ll be rich”), which don’t take into account real-world difficulties and costs of customer acquisition, ExEC’s financial modeling is purely bottom-up (e.g. “Which channels will you use to acquire customers, what do you hypothesize your conversion rates will be, and how much will that cost?”) to give students a reality check on how viable their business model is.

Here’s more detail on how we approach this, and other areas of financial projections.

Revenue

As mentioned above, instead of wildly inaccurate revenue numbers based on a TAM / SAM approach, ExEC students estimate revenue based on the product price and how many times per year a customer will purchase that product. This leads to much more accurate evaluation of a business model, and an approachable way for students to get started. As we heard from a pilot  student:

“Even though it’s difficult to make our business profitable, this tool gave us ideas of concrete changes we could make in order to make it possible.” – UC Berkeley Student

Expenses

We offer an extensive set of expenses for students to consider, all of which have suggested default values, as well as instructions on how to calculate more detailed estimates to tailor those values to their business model. We’ve found this combination of default values, with pointers for more information, to make financial modeling much more approachable – allowing students to ease their way in and experiment with different combinations, without overwhelming them.

We’ve tried to make the simulator as comprehensive as possible without becoming anxiety-producing, so your students can feel confident their projections are sound.

Cost of Customer Acquisition

Students are often unsure the best channels to acquire customers, and how costly those channels are. They will want to default to social media channels, but they often do not understand the investment it requires to effectively leverage these platforms. We provide significant guidance so they understand what CAC is and the costs of various channels.

We have done extensive research to offer accurate estimates for CAC from the most likely channels students will choose. These drop-down menus offer students two benefits:

  • They don’t get overwhelmed having to calculate complicated customer acquisition costs
  • They work with realistic estimates so the conclusions about viability are more realistic

teaching finance in entrepreneurship

Of course students can also calculate and enter their own Cost of Customer acquisition estimates into the tool to get a more accurate sense of their marketing expenses.

Employee Salaries

Here we offer an expandable menu that includes accurate salary estimates for a wide variety of the most necessary jobs for a startup.

The tool also automatically calculates benefits and tax information, which are two very important aspects students often forget that have tremendous impact on a financial model.

Real Estate Costs

As with every section, the simulator  provides considerable guidance students can use to research particular markets and categories. Our goal is for students to understand the variety of financial inputs but also to understand where those estimates come from.

In every section of the simulator, we provide suggestions for ballpark costs, and also expandable menus with more detailed information and links to resources in case students want to dive deeper into a particular area.

teaching finance in entrepreneurship

The ExEC financial simulator gives students additional information in a variety of expandable menus, so they learn as they input their assumptions. One student mentioned:

“It makes it extremely easy to calculate various things. Helps you remember things that you may have forgotten.” – Northeastern Student

The power of this simulator is in the simplicity with which students interact with it, and the simplicity of the results. The ExEC Financial Simulator assesses the viability of a student’s business model as either red, yellow, or green. Students can very quickly see where they need to focus! In the example below, the simulator tells us the business model is not viable.

teaching finance in entrepreneurship

After working hard to provide what they think are accurate assumptions, most students will see red the first time they use this. Literally!

teaching finance in entrepreneurship

Students will feel disappointed that their business model is not viable.

How to WOW! Your Students

Bring a student up to the front of the class. Pull up his/her simulator on the projected screen. Walk through this example, live, in a couple minutes to turn a non-viable business model into a viable business model. Show your students in real-time how they can turn their business model from from red to green!

teaching finance in entrepreneurshipteaching finance in entrepreneurship

Students can quickly experiment by changing inputs to figure out how to achieve a viable business model. This leads to a powerful discussion in class about why they changed certain assumptions, and whether the assumptions are accurate.

Within minutes students understand how a variety of factors impact their financial, and therefore business, model! And it is fun!

This simulation lets students experiment with different revenue models very easily. This is important because it allows them to quickly iterate and identify a potentially viable revenue model in a rigorous way that doesn’t overwhelm them.

If you would like to play with the financial projection simulator, request a preview of our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) today!


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Pivoting the Wish Game: The Reality of Entrepreneurship

Pivoting the Wish Game: The Reality of Entrepreneurship

“Can I take this class again?”

The student wasn’t asking because she enjoyed the class so much. She was asking because she realized she missed the opportunity. This is confirmation that I am creating a powerful experience for my students. And confirmation that I need to do a better job introducing it.

As we near the end of the semester, I see changes in my Wish Game course experiment. It began as a grand vision, with a ton of anxious excitement from me and my students.

It is morphing into a transformational experience for students.

Let’s catch up on the wishes and experience over the past month. I learned a few valuable lessons over these weeks:

  • I can give student too much agency (I need to provide closer guidance)
  • Singular focus on granting wishes all semester is probably too much; balance is better
  • Students prefer safety
  • Maybe wishes for others would be a better learning experience than personal wishes

Granting Wishes

A few weeks back, as is our pattern, we were granting two wishes per week. This particular week the two wishes were:

  • Take the money that would be spent on a wish to a casino and let it ride on blackjack.
  • Be on stage with Skrillex and Marshmello at Ultra Music Festival in Miami.

The first was extremely straightforward. As students interviewed the grantee for this one, they tried to encourage her to pick a more challenging wish, but she stood her ground. She loves the energy and excitement of the casino. The group granting her wish handed her $150 cash the night of class and she and two classmates headed to the casino. She reported back that she taught her classmates about blackjack and roulette, and ended up winning a few bucks along the way.

Image result for blackjack creative commons

This wish presented no problem in terms of execution. It did, however, present problems within the group. There was some conflict about whether to grant the wish the grantee asked for, or to go bigger and get creative. I have been encouraging the students to think big, to take a risk. But in this case, because the grantee so adamantly stated she just wanted cash to go to the casino, the group delivered the wish. Through customer interviewing, the students understood the grantee’s desire for the emotional experience of a casino trip, and they granted it.

The other wish that week was for a student to be on stage with Skrillex and Marshmello at Ultra Music Festival in Miami. This wish was technically possible because that festival was happening in the future from the week they were granting this wish. The students got right to work interviewing the grantee to understand why he wanted this wish.

As I always do, I encouraged students to use their network to actually accomplish this wish.

I pointed out that one John Carroll alum, who was just on campus speaking not long ago, was a very successful DJ – Mick Batyske. I gave the students his cell number and encouraged them to reach out as he would likely have some connections to the festival organizers and/or Skrillex and Marshmello. They did not reach out!

The group decided pretty quickly it was too expensive – airfare, lodging, festival tickets, etc. As far as I could tell from conversations I overheard and from reflections I read, they did not consider or act on the possibility of asking for donations or hustling up some alternative solutions. They quickly moved from the big plan (deliver the actual wish) to a skeleton of the wish. This group ended up putting on a Marshmello “show” at one student’s house – they created some ambiance with music, lights, had pizza to eat. They also got the grantee a Marshmello hat.

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What Went Wrong

I pound at students that their network is much larger and easier to activate than they think. Coworkers, John Carroll alum, high school friends, family connections, hometown connections, and the list goes on. I get disappointed watching students spend 30 minutes in class brainstorming how to execute delivering a wish. They don’t spend much time strategizing how to activate their network.

This week I realized (duh!!) I should model that for them.

I committed that during the last group of wishes I would pick one wish and grant it myself, showing them how it could be done. I hope this lights a fire as they realize what could have been, and encourages them to take the risk, to dive in the next time an opportunity presents itself.

Next Wishes

The next wishes proved some interesting lessons for myself and the students.

  • Travel to Ireland.
  • Have Chipotle for life.

For the trip to Ireland, the group quickly learned that the grantee doesn’t have a passport, and is very anxious about flying (having never flown before). They quickly ruled out actually sending him to Ireland that week 🙂

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Through their interviews, they learned about his connection to Ireland, his dreams of what a trip there would entail, and highlights that would be meaningful to him. After a week of planning, they did their best to recreate the feel of Ireland in a room through decorations, music, and scenery. They also provided the grantee some gifts to commemorate his “trip” – a wool blanket, some Guinness, an Irish stone. The grantee was beaming as they showed a Photoshopped slideshow in class of his “trip” to the magical Irish destinations he dreamed of going.

The next wish was considerably more difficult – the student wanted Chipotle for life! Some students discussed what “for life” means – I can’t blame them for looking for the easy path. Eventually, the group coalesced around trying to actually grant the wish. They asked me about approaching the President of John Carroll to send a letter to the CEO of Chipotle. I advised them that would not be very realistic, especially within a week.

The students did reach out to another member of the leadership team at John Carroll to send a note to the Chipotle CEO. The response was a fantastic learning lesson for us all:

Thanks for reaching out.  I am not inclined to get involved in this activity as I don’t see any realistic role that I could play.  I don’t know the full context of your assignment but I would offer the following observations.
  1. The Ignatian characteristic of men and women with and for others, is meant to be directed at the poor and marginalized in our society, so not applicable in this context.
  2. Asking Chipotle executives for free food for an MBA student doesn’t appear to be a very compelling rationale on the face of it.  What is in it for them or their company?  If you are going to make this pitch, you’d better be creating value for them.  Would you make this a viral video, etc.?
During debrief, we had a rich discussion about Jesuit values, about privilege and philanthropy, about right and wrong, and many other related topics. It opened my eyes to the potential danger in this exercise, in terms of encouraging students to be very selfish and to expend resources on seemingly frivolous gifts.
We as a class decided after much discussion that the exercise was not about the selfishness of wishes, but about the generosity of granting wishes.

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I encouraged students to think small to go big with this wish. I often hold myself back from offering suggestions. As my frustration with their inability to go big grew, I couldn’t hold back this time.

I encouraged them to figure out the Chipotle meal the grantee likes (let’s say it costs $6), and how many weeks he will be alive (let’s say 2,500). I then suggested each member of the group ask 10 people to each buy one $6 Chipotle gift card, and to ask those people to each ask 10 people to buy one, and so on. If they each started with 10, that would immediately be 140, and if each of those got 10 more people, that would be 1,400, and so on. Ultimately, they reported it didn’t work because their friends didn’t want to contribute money. Ultimately, they didn’t sell it. Instead, they bought him a $150 Chipotle gift card.

This wish provided a great learning opportunity on a much deeper level, but also a reminder that the students are still struggling to get uncomfortable and really push their boundaries of what is possible.

Adjusting the Pace

Students brought up that if they had two weeks to do wishes, they could deliver more impactful experiences. In their minds, time was the most valuable resource, which they were lacking. After some very rich discussion about evaluating and leveraging resources, we decided that each of the two groups (14 students in each) would deliver wishes every other week. The caveat was that each group had to deliver two wishes every other week so that each student got a wish during the semester.

Fun Note: Students argues that since wishes were due every other week, they should only have to turn in reflection papers every other week. When I told them those papers every other week would be worth double (so the total course points stayed the same) they balked. I explained that everyone benefited under this because they had to write 1/2 as much for the same grade and I had to grade 1/2 as much. But they chose to keep writing the reflection papers each week.

A New Pace of Wishes

We jumped into this new pace of granting four wishes every other week. The next wishes were:

  • Dive with great white sharks
  • Meet Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns quarterback and 1st pick in the 2018 NFL Draft)
  • Play a round of golf at Augusta National Golf Club with Tiger Woods
  • Drive a Jaguar F-Type 2016

These wishes seemed to me to be quite challenging. The students seemed invigorated because they had more time to plan and execute – I hoped that meant they would be able to deliver a more impactful wish experience.

Each group of ~14 split into two groups of ~7 and started interviewing grantees and planning for wish granting. For the shark diving wish, the group found out that the grantee had a trip planned with her husband to Thailand in the summer. They found a company near where they would be in Thailand that offered swim-with-the-sharks package, although not with Great Whites.

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The group gave the grantee enough cash for her and her husband to purchase a package, and gave it to her in a bag that included suntan lotion, a snorkeling mask, and an underwater disposable camera. It was a very thoughtful presentation, and the grantee expressed sincere gratitude about their thoughtfulness to enhance her trip with her husband. She promised to send pictures with the sharks!

Meeting Baker Mayfield was going to be tough, because since it is the football off-season, he is not in Cleveland at the time. However, two students had connections to Baker through friends, so I was excited that they may be able to pull something off.

Image result for baker mayfield

I’m always doing what I can to create a safe space for them to go big. In this case, I would wander by the group brainstorming and say things like “he could use a private jet to come back” or “maybe the Browns will fly [the wish grantee] out as a PR stunt”. Ultimately, the students didn’t reach out to Baker, but just handed the grantee an authentic Baker Mayfield jersey. I was disappointed that they seemingly mailed it in.

During the debrief we discussed how they could have been more persistent with their network, and how it’s OK to do that as long as it’s respectful and transparent.

The next wish to be granted was to play round of golf at Augusta National Golf Club with Tiger Woods. This wish approached the realm of impossible more than any other, and the students quickly knew it. This is one of the biggest celebrities on the planet, and this is the most exclusive golf course in the world. And the Master’s was fast approaching.

Image result for amen corner augusta

The students quickly decided it wasn’t going to happen, so they set about with Plan B. In interviewing the grantee, they discovered his passion for playing golf, and for learning from people he plays with, from watching videos and live golf. They realized the two elements of this desire were to play an exclusive golf course and to play with someone who was really, really, really good.

Their Plan B wasn’t half bad. They purchased a framed picture of a famous hole at Augusta National Golf Club, and gave the grantee a t-shirt with Tiger Woods’ mugshot printed on it. They used their connections to get him and a friend a round of golf at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

The last wish from this batch was to drive a Jaguar F-Type 2016. The team tried contacting rental agencies, but could not find any in the area that had this particular car.

They next contacted Jaguar dealerships, but they won’t allow test drives of this car without a hefty fee. One student found this car for rent about an hour away on Turo.com (I never heard of this site, but it’s an incredible marketplace!). After much discussion with the owner, they realized he required at least a 2-day rental, and with all the fees it would have been close to $700. Additionally, they discovered the driver needed to be 25 (for insurance purposes) which the grantee wasn’t. One student offered to drive to rent it and chauffeur the grantee around, but the expense was just too high. When it came time to present the grantee’s wish in class, the group had nothing. They explained their process and apologized for failing. It was awkward, and a shame the grantee left without anything.

This experience enabled a deep discussion about failing. The students didn’t feel good about being the only group to not deliver some form of the wish. The grantee was gracious, but I could tell he was disappointed. We discussed how failure happens all the time, and is a learning opportunity. The group learned that part of their failure was waiting until the last minute; they iterated through many plans, but because they waited until the last minute, they ran out of time and were unable to do anything.

Another Batch of Wishes

The next batch of four wishes were

  • Visit the Amalfi coast in Italy
  • Get $3,000 for a Jeep for job in Uganda (this grantee had raised $6,000 already and needed $3,000 more to purchase the Jeep)
  • Play a round of golf with Charles Howell III
  • To learn to ski and own a cafè

The groups attacked the wishes with their usual gusto. They sat down to interview the grantees to understand the motivation for the wish. The class seemed energized – perhaps it was better to give them longer to grant the wish!

For the Amalfi coast the group discovered the grantee was going to be in Italy this summer with family. Taking a creative approach, they planned out a few days in the Amalfi coast region for the grantee and a guest and presented her with a detailed agenda and enough cash to cover the cost of all the activities.

They planned all the details based on the information they gathered from interviewing the grantee – job well done!

The group granting the wish to get $3,000 for a Jeep for the grantee’s job in Uganda faced an uphill battle. $3,000 in two weeks isn’t easy. They immediately decided on doing a GoFundMe campaign – check it out here. They interviewed the grantee, but realized as they started building the campaign that they needed more information and a video. The group struggled with communication issues – they couldn’t get all the information they needed, and had difficulty producing a high quality video. Eventually they launched the campaign, but not until right before the class when they were to present it. They explained that they started the GoFundMe, and would keep it open through the semester, hoping to generate $3,000.

I did not hear much about promotion. The group focused on execution and getting the campaign live, but neglected planning promotion efforts to drive interest in and traffic to the campaign. They could have utilized campus media to spread the opportunity to students, faculty and staff. Social media provides another valuable outlet to share the goal with their network, as well as with JCU alum and other parties who might be interested in supporting. The group shared how surprised they were at how complicated this effort was. We discussed how people see the “skin” of an effort – the website, the landing page, etc. but we don’t realize the work it takes to create that “skin”. The students now understand how much effort goes into designing, launching, and promoting a crowdfunding campaign. Lesson learned!

The next wish was to play a round of golf with golf professional Charles Howell III. Another golf wish! One student in the group working on this wish had a few contacts that he thought could help make introductions to Charles. I did not hear much in the way of interviewing this grantee, as I think this group focused almost immediately on executing actually getting a round of golf set up with Charles.

Image result for charles howell iiiUnfortunately, the group didn’t pull this off – instead, they gave the grantee two rounds of golf at a local exclusive club. I was disappointed in this effort, or lack thereof, and at this group honing in on one idea almost instantly and not being willing to budge from that idea, or developing alternative plans.

I need to do a better job of motivating students to challenge themselves.

For the last wish of this bunch, the group granting the wish wanted to try to grant two. The first was the grantee (who is from the Middle East) wanted to learn to ski. Since the weather turned to spring, this wish wasn’t physically possible at the time, so the group wanted to add a second wish to the docket. The group purchased two passes to ski lessons at a local ski resort for next season and checked off that wish. The second wish was the grantee wanted to own a cafè. The day they granted the wish, in a room next to our classroom, they set up a mock cafe for the grantee to provide coffee and pastries to the students in class. In this way, the grantee got to “run” a cafe for an evening. The grantee was overwhelmed at the generosity of receiving two wishes – this feeling is what the experience is all about!

Last Batch of Wishes

As we near the end of the semester, we have one last batch of wishes to be granted:

  • Visit New York City
  • Do goat yoga
  • Get a Brooks Brothers custom suit
  • Be a billionaire

I am personally taking the wish of visiting New York City, and have challenged the class to outdo me this time! I want to show them how I, as one person who is nobody special, can use creativity and my network to actually grant the reality of a wish.

Image result for new york city

I acknowledge that traveling to New York City from Cleveland is easier to manage than traveling to Ireland or the Amalfi coast of Italy. But the lesson here is the process of ideation, leveraging resources, and iterating. I’m already off and running with activating my network to make this dream come true – this student is from Tanzania and has some very personal and deep reasons for wanting to visit some places in New York City. While interviewing this grantee, I became so motivated to create this impact for her – I can’t wait to report back on how it all went. And on whether the class took my challenge!

Want To Follow Doan’s Journey?

We will run one last blog post wrapping up Doan’s journey through his semester-long Wish Game Course this Spring.

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