Week 1 of the CO.STARTERS program for StarterStudio’s ideation-stage accelerator really sets the foundation of what the nine-week program is all about. Including our beloved Squirrel. More about him in a moment. A little background first.
All the companies in Class 11 completed a formal application(there is typically something like five or six times as many applicants as spots available), potential candidates were interviewed by StarterStudio’s leadership team, mentors or board members, and had to agree that at least one person in a company would be able to come to the weekly sessions of three hours.
About those three hours.
There is typically about 175 minutes of “stuff” to go through each 180-minute session!?! Squirrel, pictured here, is the invention of CO.STARTERS, the originator of the entire program. He (I think it’s a he) remains within arm’s-reach on the tables so that when someone drones on (guilty!) or goes off-topic (um, guilty again), Squirrel can be tossed at a speaker to get them back on track.
It was easy to see in Week 1 that the mere reaching for Squirrel is enough to get someone to pause. Although I have seen him tossed already. We will be proud to pass him on to another facilitator when Class 12 commences sometime in November (stay tuned for details).
At the end of this first week participants should “know the material, know the plan, know the group, and know themselves,” as CO.STARTERS says. They complete a working styles assessment, explore how to build a team to supplement their strengths, and take a hard look at their time and how to manage it.
It’s worth noting that Class 11 has parents with young children to take care of (we need babysitters!), full-time students, managers with more-than-full-time jobs, and some companies further along that have to run the business while working on refining the business.
In Week 1 participants are also introduced to the Canvas (very similar to the famed Business Model Canvas used in tech accelerators around the world) and the 11 key areas to map out as a startup. From who is the customer and the problem being solved to marketing, distribution, and how the company will make money.
It sounds simple, but the reality is change just one thing in the Canvas, a switch in distribution method, the roll out feature-set in a new app, etc., and it may change the entire Canvas and business model a team follows. Post-it Notes are encouraged! Iteration and pivots are part of the journey.
This week and following weeks include visual tools. Not everybody is up for that. I’m a convert to discovery and planning with my very crude drawing skills. Visualizing a Canvas and the “flow” through the 11 sections or mapping out your day on a 24-hour clock can really shift one’s thinking. Colored markers abound.
Fieldwork (not homework!) is also part of every week. Jump starting the Starters, one of their assignments outside of the workshops is to complete a One Page Business Plan. It’s a challenging but cool way to get started thinking about all aspects of a startup.
The ten teams of Class 11 are engaged, passionate about their business ideas, and very supportive of each other. And they are not afraid to throw a squirrel.