In order to set each of you up for the most success and return on your VVM Accelerator experience we are providing you with advance work so we can roar right into your first weekend bootcamp in February.

Getting Started in January & February Deliverables:  

Fantastic February: It all starts with your problem-solution fit. 
Who are your customers?
What pains/problems do they have? 
How does your solution help?

Core Concepts: Value Propositions & Customer Segments.

Unless otherwise noted, items are due on Friday, February 2nd at 9 AM.  

Be sure to read everything and budget your time accordingly. 

Things listed as "tips" are just that: optional resources you can take advantage of if you wish. We do strongly recommend watching, reading and reviewing these materials as they will help you get the most out of your VVM Accelerator experience. Do this regardless if it is the first time you are encountering these concepts or revisiting these fundamentals to give you a fresh lens on your current state of development. 

This is listed in a detailed step-by-step fashion. Please be sure to review all portions of this page:
GETTING STARTED | FUNDAMENTALSINTERVIEWS | PRESENTATIONS


Getting Started!

  1. Watch What a Weekend Looks Like.

  2. Sign up for a free account for Udacity How To Build a Startup Course. If it is your first time or it has been a long time since you've used Udacity and/or Lean Launch Pad (LLP), we recommend (but do not require) that you watch this course -- Lessons 1-6 (approx. 2.5 hrs) are particularly relevant to this month's homework. [There is some discrepancy re: how these Lessons are numbered. NOTE: Lessons 1 through 6 are named:
    1. Before you Get Started  2. What we Know Now  3&4. Business Models and Customer Development  5. Value Proposition and 6. Customer Segments].


    We'll highlight a few key lessons each month but the entire course is worth watching. If you have time and inclination - feel free to watch them all. Yes, you will see a lot of Steve Blank. Who is Steve Blank? 

  3. LinkedIn - if you do not have one already please create a professional LinkedIn profile and join the VVM LinkedIn Group.  

  4. Meet your peers - If you haven't already, make a short post to the cohort slack channel in this format:
    “Hi, I’m [name] from [company]. 
    About My Company: [tweet-length description of your company].
    About Us: [1 sentence of something fun about you/your team that can lead to conversation]. Think Fun Facts! 

  5. Register for the Startup Accelerator Pizza Party!

  6. Be sure you filled out the Individual Entrance Survey and Company Survey (all surveys are required per the contract). These are due on Friday, January 12th. 

  7. Tech Tips:

a. If you want to watch videos at high (or low) speed, check out these instructions.

b. We often link you to templates that are Google Docs, Sheets, and Presentations. You can’t edit the template (that would be bad for everyone else). To get your own copy just go to FILE > MAKE A COPY and you’ll have your very own!

c. We often give you specific Google Drive folders in which to upload documents. Bookmark these folders (listed below) so you can consistently find & upload to them.


Fundamentals: Tools & Tips

One of the most important tools we use is the Business Model Canvas (BMC). Let’s get you introduced to it so we can start off running in February!

Business Model Canvas

  1. Watch intro video Business Model Canvas Explained, a 10 minute overview of many of the key principles you need to understand to express and show your businesses value and worth. This is the central tool we’ll be using for most of the VVM Accelerator. If you like that video and want to know more, you can view this detailed video on Business Models (45 min).

  2. Create a blank copy of the Business Model Canvas Google Sheet Template or Download an editable .pdf of the Business Model Canvas Template.

  3. Fill in the canvas. It's better to use bullet points, not prose-filled, grammatically correct paragraphs.

Tips:

Need a deeper dive/tool to help focus and articulate your Value Proposition for your BMC and your February presentation? Watch Value Proposition Canvas Explained.

“Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” - Goethe
Understanding and defining your ventures scale of possibility and impact are struggles for many entrepreneurs. Read Steve Blank’s post on scalability. 

“People problems are the leading cause [65%!] of failure in high-potential startups” - Noam Wasserman.
It is never too early to start thinking about team building, communication and forming your company culture. Whether you’re a solo-founder considering bringing on more team members or an already established group, read The Founder’s Dilemmas (yes, all of your founding team members should read it!) and discuss openly. If you think you are too busy - then read this (not as good as the real thing, but better than nothing) 5 min hack.

When troubleshooting a problem and/or when interviewing potential customers about their needs/problems, strongly consider asking ‘Why?’ a few times. This is called 5 Whys and is a proven and powerful technique. 

Resources:

Reminder to look through your GAN membership and benefits for an ever growing list of resources, tools, discounts and opportunities. Join our google hangout for a tour of GAN benefits on January 8th from 12-1 pm. 

Additional curated list of resources for entrepreneurs: 37 Angels, Steve Blank, and the Angel Capital Association


INTERVIEWS

Most Startups fail from a lack of [paying] customers than from a failure of developing a [viable] product or service.  - Steve Blank

We want to make sure you have both - by getting you to actively engage with potential customers, partners and stakeholders from Day 1. Our program centers on “getting out of the building” and learning what the world needs by actually interacting with it and making sure you are not just telling yourself what you want to believe. Every month you will interview dozens of potential customers and/or partners. Many of our startups follow-up month-to-month with people they have already interviewed, so let your customers, potential partners, industry experts/stakeholders know you'll be calling again. In total, you should expect to complete 100+ interviews by the end of the program. Let’s get you ready...

  1. Watch Udacity (Lesson 2.7): Customer Development vs Product Development (3 min)

  2. Watch Udacity (Lesson 4.5) : Hypothesis Testing (2 min)

  3. Watch: Quick intro on how to do customer development interviews (6 min)

  4. Call List/CRM (suggested structure for organizing your customer interviews and more

a. Build a Call List - (could be a simple Google Sheet like this one, or something more advanced like this) to hold your list of possible & completed interviewees. Some of you might already be working within a CRM or be ready want to explore these tools. Be sure to check out several discounts of popular CRMs you have through your GAN PerksWhatever tool that feels best is fine by us, the important thing is to be organized, track your contacts, and document your findings to maximize your efficiency and results.

b. Put potential interviewees into the Call List/CRM. Some tips…

  • Given the number of interviews you need to complete this month, you’ll need to have at least two times (2x) that many potential interviewees. Why? Because not everyone you want to talk to will be available to talk to you by your interviewing deadline. Some won’t be interested in being interviewed.
  • Remember that it takes a lot of time to actually schedule a meeting, often 1-2 weeks! Budget your time accordingly. A tip for getting meetings scheduled quicker is to frame your scheduling request like this “By any chance do you have any time, perhaps during your commute, to chat in the next day or two?” Also, Google Calendar, Calendly, MixMax and many other time saving tools out there are great for making it super-easy for prospects to schedule a meeting with you.
  • If you are new to interviewing, then at the top of your list should be at least 10 friends, family members, or business contacts that you have a solid personal relationship with and who will give you “Lovingly Critical” feedback.
  • Need help generating prospects to call? Consider using Google/LinkedIn to find companies, organizations, clubs, etc. that might have potential customers in them. Use that info, plus some keyword searches on LinkedIn, to find 1st and 2nd degree connections that might be great interviewees. Ask everyone you interview for referrals.

c. Create Your Interview Script. Your interview must be designed to help you validate or invalidate the hypotheses you put on your Value Proposition Canvas and in turn into your Peer Percolate presentation (see below). Feel free to use one of our templates to get you started:

d. Interview at least 30 people and log your results in your Call List. What you learn from these interviews will be the basis of your main presentation. This is the most important part of your pre-work! Teams that do more interviews get more value out of the program. That’s not our opinion, that’s what our alumni tell us!


PRESENTATIONS

  1. Prepare an elevator pitch. It is a 30-second verbal elevator pitch conforming to this template. You’ll use it at the start of the bootcamp to introduce yourself to your peers, in breakouts, and on stage at our Friday night party, so the VVM community can match your idea to your face(s).

  2. Prepare your Peer Percolate Presentation. This is a presentation - with slides - on your company's Value Proposition & Customer Segments. You will deliver this presentation, live, to a subset of your peers on Saturday of the bootcamp weekend. One-third of you, selected at random on the first day of the bootcamp, will also deliver this same presentation (if inclined, you can edit between Saturday’s feedback and Sunday 8 AM final slide deadline) to a panel of judges during our practice judging session on Sunday. 

    A. Peer Percolate Presentation Requirements:
    1. No more than eight minutes long.
    2. The presentation must be in Google Presentation format. It’s free, simple, works on any browser, and removes IT headaches at bootcamps so we can focus on value-added activities. If you are new to Google Presentations you can watch this quick video to learn how to use Google Presentations.
    3. The file name must be named {MyCompanyName}_February. 
    4. The presentation must cover all of the items listed in the February Peer Percolate Presentation Template. For month one, it is strongly recommended (but not required) that you present them in the same order and with roughly the same time allotments as the template as well. Feel free to alter the formatting, look, and feel of the presentation any way you like. Also look for lots of “tips” and links within the template.
    5. You must deliver your final version of your presentation into the February Peer Percolate Presentation folder by Friday, February 2nd @ 8:30 AM.  (Don't worry about sorting it for now, just the general February folder!) Watch this video if you're confused on how to upload!

B. Presentation Tips:

  1. This is month one - the most important thing is to get your ideas in pitch form to communicate as best you can for the bootcamp. We all start somewhere and you will be rocking it by the end of this program. That said, do review our Best Practices for Presentations and at a minimum read Really Bad Powerpoint. Use your pitch time and visuals/slides strategically!
  2. Review the February Scoresheet that will be used to give you feedback and make sure your presentation is addressing these questions. 
  3. Practice this pitch! You will present it live to your peers at the bootcamp weekend. One-third of you,  selected at random on Friday, will also deliver this same presentation to a panel of judges during our practice judging session on Sunday. Come as prepared as you can be.
  4. Your peers and judges will use the February Scoresheet to review your presentation. Please review ahead of time so you consider the criteria upon which you will be scored and can shape your pitch accordingly.
  5. Review your feedback here. 

C. Prepare for MasterMind. Prepare an informal presentation (no slides) for your Sunday MasterMind group that:

  1. Shares the most important goal you wish to complete by the next bootcamp. You can use this template.
  2. Outlines the steps you are planning to take to address it.
  3. Outlines the help you need - asks how the group can help you be accountable to reach this goal?

Questions?  

Optional conference call on January 24 at 12:00 Noon EST for any questions you have.  Please show up on time to get maximum value. We are using FreeConferenceCall.com: Call (515) 739-1227 / AccessCode: 389485. (NOTE: Unfortunately, T Mobile and MetroPCS will incur a charge of 1 cent per minute).

Use the Slack channel (#homework) for any other questions at any time. You can also ping us directly @lea and @dorota.