This post is a complete guide to the HTRLaunchPad Program. It was created to help prospective mentors understand their role and how it works in the context of the overall program.
Mike Riedlinger, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org , mobile 585 738-4776
Martin Edic, e-mail: email@example.com , mobile 585-727-3119
Todd Nielsen, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, mobile 585-678-1344
James Senall, Mike Riedlinger, Richard Glaser, Alex Zapesochny, Mikael Totterman, Sasha Latypova, Martin Edic and Todd Nielsen
Ellwanger & Barry Building, First Floor, 39 State Street, Rochester, NY 14614
Thank you for your support of the HTR LaunchPad Program and volunteering to assist in developing the next generation of software entrepreneurs in the Rochester area.
HTR LaunchPad is a program for developing new web/mobile app/or enterprise software businesses in the Rochester area. Access to experienced advisors and additional resources for bringing their concepts to the marketplace are key components to the success of the program.
The program includes an intensive 12-week program focused on customer identification, engagement, and business model optimization using agile development techniques based on the “Lean LaunchPad” model developed by Steve Blank at Stanford University and now in use at Berkeley, Columbia, Princeton, Caltech, and at the National Science Foundation. The model is mentor-driven, forces early customer interaction and feedback, and utilizes a structured business model tool to quickly test market opportunities and pivot to alternative models if necessary. In addition, participants will be provided with introductions to legal, accounting, graphic design, and programming service providers throughout the region.
The 12-week program for 2013 will take place from February 22 to May 17 with investor presentations and demo days to be held in Rochester and New York City in June. Nine additional months of support will be provided after the 12-week program through HTR’s Entrepreneur Affiliate program. This provides each LaunchPad participant with access to HTR’s resources including mentors, business advisors, and business support services at the Lennox Technology Enterprise Center in Henrietta.
The HTR LaunchPad program gives each team extensive exposure to mentors, industry experts, seed-stage venture fund managers, and angel investors as well as access to technical resources and potential partners in the new media industry. Up to 10 teams will be selected to participate in the HTR LaunchPad program. There is no fee for those selected to participate in the LaunchPad program, but only those entrepreneurial teams with the best elements for becoming a sustainable venture are selected.
The objectives of the HTR LaunchPad program are to rapidly identify, evaluate, develop, and commercialize high-potential opportunities in the Rochester region, leading to new business formation, growth, and local job creation. For each HTR LaunchPad class, we seek to identify and accelerate ten (10) high-potential opportunities, with an end goal of 4-5 of these companies achieving investment, grant funding, partner arrangements, or revenues at some point during their year-long program. We anticipate running this program annually for three (3) consecutive years, after which time we expect to have demonstrated significant results and value, which will allow us to secure additional funding streams for long-term program sustainability.
Volunteer Workshop Support Opportunities
Two different levels of volunteer support for the program participants in the workshop program will be used in the HTR LaunchPad for 2013:
Mentors—Experienced software entrepreneurs that play an active role in
weekly coaching of a specific team.
Advisors—On-call resources that are available for all program participants
The Mentor Role
As a mentor, you are an extension of the teaching team and share responsibility for the success or failure of the participating team (or teams) that you have chosen to work with. Our experience is that participant teams and mentors that find some affinity for each other on their own tend to work much better than having a match made by the teaching team. Information about each team and each mentor will be available through the HTR LaunchPad blog. High-level information about each team will be presented in the “Mentor & Advisor Briefing” on February 15. Each team will also present their concepts during the first workshop session on February 22.
In the 12-week workshop program your team has to: 1) “get outside the building” and interact directly with perceived customers, partners, and resource providers to test all of the assumptions and hypotheses that they have made about their start-up and 2) get their software/web site/mobile app/new media service up and running –at least as a prototype–with analytics by the end of the fourth week to measure the effects of changes they will be making in the workshop. The goal of the prototype is to test assumptions about minimum feature set, demand creation, virality, stickiness, etc.
Here is what you are signing up for:
- Offering your team strategic guidance and wisdom
- Business model suggestions
- Identify and correct gaps in the team’s business knowledge
- Provide your team with tactical guidance every week
- Review the team’s presentation before they present
- Comment weekly on the team’s Customer Discovery progress blog
- Assist your team in understanding the teaching team’s feedback
- Rolodex help—“Why don’t you call X? Let me connect/introduce you”
- Pushing the team to make 10 to 15 customer/partner/resource contacts per week
- Meeting one-on-one with your team at least twice during the February –May workshop
- Checking in with the teaching team periodically to discuss your team’s progress
The Advisor Role
As an Advisor, you are a workshop resource for your particular domain expertise. Here is what you are signing up for:
Respond to HTR LaunchPad participant e-mails or phone calls within 24 hours
Meet/Skype/blog with one or two teams weekly, as needed
We will have a Mentor and Advisor Briefing Session on Friday, February 15 from 3-5:00pm at the 39 State Street program headquarters facility in Downtown Rochester.
The first workshop class will be held on Friday, February 22 from 1:00 to 5:00pm at 39 State Street
Mentors and Advisors are welcome to attend any and all workshop sessions at 39 State Street as well as the mixers and related events that we are planning during the 12-week period.
Contributions from Mentors and Advisors will be acknowledged at the Demo-day/Investor-day presentations in Rochester and New York City at the culmination of the 12-week workshop session. We would be delighted to have Mentors and Advisors attend these events.
Each week’s workshop session is organized around:
- Participant presentations on their “lessons learned” from getting out of the building and iterating or pivoting their business model
- Comments and suggestions from other teams and teaching team on the lessons learned
- A lecture on one of the 9 building blocks of a business model (see diagram below, taken from Business Model Generation)
- An interactive session related to software technologies or business topics that every start-up entrepreneur needs to know
- Each team will capture their progression in learning by keeping an on-line WordPress blog
The workshop sessions are intended to test the many assumptions that entrepreneurs have about their new venture concepts using a structured process, and the nine building blocks of a business model from the Business Model Canvas. Assumptions in each of the nine blocks will be tested by “getting out of the building” and talking to customers, channel partners, and domain experts to gather real-world data before they invest greater resources in their venture. This is a big challenge to most first-time entrepreneurs. As Mentors, we request that you help them network, teach them how to craft productive e-mails, phone calls, interviews, and customer surveys. Open your Rolodex to whatever level you feel comfortable.
Your role is to help your team learn how to test their hypotheses about their business model.
Example Questions and helpful comments:
- Have you considered X?
- Why don’t you look at company Z and see what their business model is and compare it to yours?
- Here are some names of domain experts in the field; you should talk to them.
Important TIPS for Mentors
Try to avoid specifically telling the team what to do. It is important that the teams learn from these experiences and are able to build on the learning themselves.
Avoid the temptation to go into “Sales mode” vs. customer discovery. The LaunchPad process is different from traditional approaches. The goal is to develop a scalable business model from the entrepreneur’s initial inspiration for the business concept—not to generate the first sales, draft a formal business plan or build 5-year forecasts (that comes later when there is a validated business model with a sufficient number of known variables to create a plan that includes people beyond the founding team in its execution).
We want to enable the participants to build a sustainable business that has a possibility to scale beyond the initial founders. We expect this will take more than 12-weeks to accomplish—so we include 9-months of support from HTR, but on a less intensive basis than the workshop experience.
Applications to the HTR LaunchPad come from software entrepreneurs that have a connection within the nine county area served by HTR. In 2013, the program has funding to support approximately 10 participant teams. Selection of the teams for the program is done by the HTR program manager, teaching team members, and advisory group. Considerations for selection include the presence of at least two team members, evidence of coachability, demonstration of commitment to their business and to the LaunchPad process, and a reasonably good initial concept for the business. The selection group also considers the overall composition of selected teams and interpersonal dynamics that may impact the overall program. We consider those selected to have very good odds of success in the program and for ultimately creating a viable new venture.
In the HTR LaunchPad, all team members are of equal status and are all engaged and responsible for customer discovery and business model development. There are no roles in HTR LaunchPad for CEO, President, Vice President, etc.
Teams must create a working prototype as part of the workshop along with the ability to collect relevant analytical information for those customers that interact with the prototype. The target for initial implementation is at the end of week four. The workshop material refers to this as a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and some resources can be made available within the program to help participants create their MVP. Requests for acquiring assistance, tools, programming, etc. that are needed for an MVP are to be made in writing by the team with a review of the request by at least one mentor or teaching team member. The details for this process will be discussed in the Mentor Briefing.
Each team will create a WordPress blog and keep a running record of their progress, including specific people they have interviewed and the impact on their business model. Mentors are to review the posts by their team at least once weekly and comment in the blog whenever appropriate.
Each team will make a weekly PowerPoint presentation of about 5 minutes in length describing what they tested, who they spoke with, what they learned, and the current state of their business canvas.
Final presentations for the workshop will be assembled by each team for their Demo-day/Investor Day presentations in Rochester and New York. More details about these will be provided near the end of the workshop—and we have several volunteers that will provide presentation coaching at that point.
Non-Disclosure and Intellectual Property Matters
The HTR LaunchPad should be considered an open class—there are no non-disclosures to be signed and no demands of any kind need be made to reveal any trade secrets or proprietary information by any participant. We do expect all participants, mentors, advisors and teaching team members to act ethically and professionally with any information that is provided in the workshop. If there are concerns about intellectual property among the team members at any time, please notify one of the teaching team members immediately so the matter can be resolved.
The two primary texts that will be used in the HTR LaunchPad Program are:
Business Model Generation, by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, and
The Startup Owner’s Manual, by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf
Participants will be supplied with copies of each text and will be given weekly reading assignments.
A few copies of each text will be available for lending to mentors. Mentors have the option to read these texts or have their teams provide them with verbal summaries of relevant information. We do request that the exercises be conducted as specified in the texts. The Lean LaunchPad approach differs markedly from traditional entrepreneurship approaches and we request that Mentors consult with the Teaching Team if there are concerns about the process.
Lean LaunchPad Background Information
The Lean LaunchPad process is a relatively new experiential learning program but it has been used for high visibility groups, including 100 of the National Science Foundation’s top scientists in the United States. The following web-based resources will give you a good background on the process and the experiences of some participants in the academic programs that the HTR LaunchPad is based on:
We Are Not Just Another Software Accelerator
The HTR LaunchPad differs from other programs like YCombinator, TechStars, and FastStart. Unlike these software acceleration programs that are investor-led, have no need to retain the start-ups in their communities, and that take equity from the participants as an entry fee to their program—HTR LaunchPad seeks to build our regional economy through community support of these start-up entrepreneurs, keeping them here in New York State, using resources that are available within our community and the state, and encouraging them to give-back when they are at a point where they can be as generous as so many other entrepreneurs have been in our region.
Mentors, Advisors, and our program donors set the examples for these entrepreneurs. Giving generously of your expertise and assisting them wherever possible will make a better community for all of us. The experiences that participants and mentors will have in the program are important and are the key elements that will make a positive difference in the years ahead.
Once again, we are very grateful for your participation in the HTR LaunchPad and we look forward to working with you on this ambitious program.
The LaunchPad Team:
Mike, Todd and Martin
Workshop Schedule (subject to modification):
- Friday, February 8 Selected Team notifications
- Friday, February 15 Mentor & Advisor “Briefing”/program overview & expectations
- Friday, February 22 12-week program session begins,
- Session 1– Team presentations, Workshop overview, Business Models
- Friday, March 1 Session 2–Customer Development process
- Note: WordPress blogs must be up and current with passwords provided to teaching team and mentors—at a minimum
- Friday, March 8 Session 3 — Value Proposition
- Friday, March 15 Session 4—Customer Segments
- Note: Prototypes must be up & running w/analytics
- Friday, March 22 Session 5—Metrics That Matter
- Friday, April 5 Session 6—Channels
- Friday, April 12 Session 7—Demand Creation
- Friday, April 19 Session 8—Revenue Models
- Friday, April 26 Session 9—Partners
- Friday, May 3 Session 10—Activities and Resources
- Friday, May 10 Session 11—Costs and Metrics That Matter Revisited
- Friday, May 17 Session 12—Lessons Learned
- Friday, May 24 Presentation Practice Day #1
- Friday, May 31 Presentation Practice Day #2
- TBD Week of June 3 Rochester Investor Day/Demo Day Presentations
- TBD Week of June 10 New York City Investor & Demo Day
- June 14-Feb. 14, 2014 Monthly team check-ins on progress