Curriculum: The First Week at LaunchX
By Laurie stach
June 18, 2017
There is nothing more exciting than the beginning of something new. New ideas, new phase of life, new friendships, new careers… LaunchX is the beginning of an amazing entrepreneurial journey for both our fearless students and us here at LaunchX! Who knows what new challenges the student teams will solve? How many heights they we conquer? How many exciting new connections they we make?
As an example, Bill Aulet, Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship joined us for one the welcome lunch, sharing that “Entrepreneurship is a mindset and a skillset”, and telling the students that, “In order to be taught, it just requires an environment in which you can do that. You have to get the spirit and the skills.” In just the four weeks of the LaunchX program, teams will have formed, startup opportunities will be identified, and offerings will be designed and tested with startup logistics being designed and pitched.
We are looking forward for the upcoming session: challenges are exciting! We’ll finish today’s post with words of Annie Zhang, our Marketing Coordinator who spoke to the class today: “I encourage you to grow, I encourage you to jump off the metaphorical cliff and to do something that scares you a little bit, every single day.”
The first day kicks off with an opening speaker, introduction to entrepreneurship, and lots of foundational activities. One of these activities is the marshmallow challenge.
The objective is to elevate the marshmallow as high as possible with household materials. Seems simple, right? As an exercise designed to teach the importance of prototyping and testing assumptions, the Marshmallow Challenge is done by people from all walks of life. From kindergarteners to engineers to business executives, this challenge reveals just how important it is to not only have the right skill set, but also the right complementary team and mindset when approaching these challenges. Test early, test often, challenge your assumptions, and may the highest marshmallow win!
Also in the first day, students students start a mini business! A market simulation challenges students to create product-based companies that they price, differentiate, and sell to their classmates to maximize revenue. They learn the challenges predicting market behavior and understanding financials. This activity provides a valuable reference for the remaining month long entrepreneurial journey.
Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote once said “There’s lots of bad reasons to start a company. But there’s only one good, legitimate reason, and I think you know what it is: it’s to change the world.” Following these the foundational courses on entrepreneurship and simulation activities, students kick into high gear to bring their pre-work creative process brainstorming ideas into small groups of similar interests to further identify opportunities. At LaunchX, we believe that the best opportunities for a team to work on comes from a combination of the team’s interests, unique skills and market opportunity.
Students them perform extensive market research to ensure that they are solving a real need. They interview across lots of different potential types of customers who have the need, and ask open-ended questions to make sure that they are finding a real job to be done, versus forcing a solution. This is the foundation for a good startup.
We encourage feedback for the startups (and students) early and often. Every startup has components that are not known at the outset, so setting up this learning process early is critical for the team and individual success.
- Classroom presentations – An example early in the second week is when students present their specific customer persona to get feedback and ensure they have the proper foundation for their business before continuing.
- Investment simulation – Teams occasionally do a short elevator pitch of their business to their classmates, then all students invest in each others’ businesses, which then allows us to provide teams with feedback on which teams are coming across as impressive or not to their peers. We encourage them to consider why they are doing well or not, including any factors such as the traction, communication style, or audience.
- Mock board feedback – We give each team a panel of mentors with whom they meet weekly and give updates, ask for advice on specific items, and get guidance on how to stay focused and make progress.
Stay tuned for additional highlights of our curriculum!