Venture for All®
New Venture Discovery: From Idea to Launch (Ten Weeks Online)
This “hands-on” applied course focuses on the creation, evaluation, development and launch readiness of a new business or social venture. For each new venture, key issues are addressed in a fashion highly consistent with other formal venture planning processes including: business model development, customer discovery, product-market validation, in-depth industry and market analysis, product or service innovation, brand development and go-to-market strategies, team selection & management, profit models, financing, and legal considerations. Throughout the class students will refine their venture’s business model based on instructor, peer, customer, and investor feedback. Working individually or preferably in teams (of no more than four), students spend the entire term developing an effective and comprehensive plan for a “real” venture concept, with proof of concept including customer-based market validation and early product/service prototypes. Students complete the class with a comprehensive new venture planning document, investor pitch, a minimal viable product, and validated business model. New venture ideas must be something that the student(s) are passionate and are capable of near term execution. In other words, the new venture “must” be doable.
This course deepens the students understanding of entrepreneurship and innovation practices by guiding them through the new venture creation process as applied to an enterprise idea of their choice. Students, through interactive lectures, short cases, guest speakers, and self-directed assignments, learn the core elements of venture creation and planning in a specially sequenced modular format. Each module provides the participant with the knowledge and tools required to develop a comprehensive new venture plan. At each stage, students are exposed to critical terms, tools that support research and decision making, and explanations of how each major planning activity fits into the new venture creation process. During each module, students respond to a series of venture questions and exercises, guiding them through the planning process in a self-directed manner. Students identify and evaluate a venture opportunity, assess the industry and market attractiveness for their venture ideas, form competitive strategies, develop minimum viable products and services, and generate full financial statements. This course allows students to hone such professional skills as creative problem solving, oral and written communication, project management, financial analysis, and effective team leadership. See Tables 1 and 2 for list of topics, focus areas, and associated assignments.
Table 1. Course Modules (1-5), Core Topics, Key Focus Areas, & Assignments
Modules 1-3: Opportunity. Participants are stepped through each element of a formal venture process, including how to evaluate their progress at each major juncture. Participants develop a venture concept summary that details early assumptions about their venture’s proposed business model. Key focus areas include the consumer problem or pain point to be solved, opportunity or need that the venture addresses; defined value proposition for all relevant customers & stakeholders, assessment of preliminary target market in terms of size and segmentation, initial description of proposed product or service; identification of distribution channels the product or service will need to reach the market, and explanation of unique end-user benefit, why a customer will pay for said solution. An overall business model is generated describing the following components: value proposition and rationale for customer and market selection (product-market fit); the scope and channels for products/services offered by your venture; proposed organizational design including key activities, resources, and partnerships; and initial assumptions on revenue streams and cost structures. Participants refine this preliminary business model throughout the class. The early validation of this business model is conducted through an extensive customer discovery process where students engage with target customers to better understand their requirements.
Modules 4-5: Strategy. New venture strategies are developed with an emphasis on competition, globalization and market potential for their new ventures. Participants conduct comprehensive analysis of the competitive landscape, identifying key competitors in their industry sector, and exploring their respective business models. Participants assess the targeted market size and industry, discover how to obtain market feedback and validation on market acceptance, develop product features that align with the stated value proposition, generate pricing assumptions, and, learn how to evaluate the industry or niche in terms of maturity and growth potential. From this analysis, participants identify a sustainable competitive advantage, capitalizing on internal strengths and mitigating any challenges and threats from the external environment.
Table 2. Course Modules (6-10), Core Topics, Key Focus Areas, & Assignments
Modules 6-7: Innovation. Product innovation is explored and participants develop a roadmap for development and market testing. One of the main activities at this juncture is the development of a minimum viable product. Participant teams illustrate the essential features of their product or service through such techniques as concept boarding, sample web pages, and process charts.
Additionally, participants learn the basics of product or service pricing, marketing strategies and promotional tactics with a focus on
product positioning, branding, marketing mix, and the optimal way to price, promote, sell, deliver, and service the customer.
Modules 8-10: Leadership. All the research and decisions come together to support assumptions required to build the overall revenue and profit models for the business. Participants build a preliminary 3-year financial plan based on projected revenues, cost of goods, and anticipated operating costs. Participant venture teams generate a three-year projected income statement and cash flow analysis. Various sources of capital for venture funding are discussed and participants define how much capital is needed and how it will be used. Recruiting and selecting team members for new ventures has its challenges, especially when there are many skills required, but limited resources. This module explores strategies and tactics to bring together the right set of players that will provide the required expertise and core competencies needed to meet the new venture’s value proposition as well as position the company for future growth. Looking for co-founders and partners, managing family relationships, partnering with complimentary organizations will be explored in relation to the participants’ ventures. Core principles of organizational design and culture creation will be discussed. Finally the role that corporate social responsibility can play in achieving financial goals is explored.
Weekly Assignments. Throughout the course, students apply a sequenced series of activities and exercises to support their new venture development. Weekly assignments, based on class topics, are structured to lead founders and teams through the steps required to form a new venture, from initial concept through execution plan. Students submit these assignments weekly and are provided with timely feedback prior to the next assignment so that comments and be incorporated into their work as the project moves forward.
Final Venture Planning Document. Students construct a comprehensive new venture plan that draws mainly from weekly assignments and supplemental research. By working on the document narrative throughout the course, students are able to consider each component of their business model carefully, developing hypotheses and research that validates key assumptions at each step. In the end, the final document can be used in total, or in customized sections, to provide interested parties and investors with information on venture development, launch, and growth potential.
Final Venture Presentation. Students deliver a timed “pitch,” providing an opportunity to share the venture idea with peers, faculty, and investors. Participants receive constructive feedback on various elements of the business models as well as on their presentation skills. The presentation is designed to complement the final venture planning document.
Minimum Viable Product. Students develop a minimum viable product, an early prototype that embodies the essential features of
the product/service that provide the potential solution to the customer problem being solved by the venture.
Course Management Platform
The program is facilitated by the use of Columbia Business Schools course management system, called CANVAS. Faculty use this system to provide participants with class materials, encourage student engagement, and interaction with course content, receive assignment submissions, and create two-way dialogue on venture work. In order to gain the most from the program, students must use laptops and have reliable Internet connectivity and bandwidth to be able to attend synchronous sessions, download program materials, and watch associated videos. Additionally, all synchronous classes or advising session are conducted through Webex or similar videoconference platform.
Top faculty leaders who are experienced, accomplished entrepreneurs and senior executives in their own right teach this program. Each brings to the classroom extensive experience and knowledge for achieving practical results. Please visit our website http://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/ventureforall/ to view their vitae.