Ten inventors and 40 students passed through another long and exhausting Sci-Tech Entrepreneurship Bootcamp at INSEAD last weekend. We start with a speed dating session on Friday afternoon between the student teams and external innovation projects and once paired up – typically 3-4 MBAs and 1 mad scientist per love-match – the newly formed teams start pounding out the core elements of workable business models.
Friday and Saturday evenings run to midnight or later, as each of the mock startups work through an endless series of assignments around value proposition, product design and evolution, IP and patent considerations, and customer discovery and market strategy, … and realizing that in this iterative process each business model decision impacts earlier assumptions, they return to the white board to reassess and redesign where necessary. Sunday is reserved for estimating cash needs to get their dreams across the finish line and how these will be funded, then on to presentations to investor judges. We finish by early evening, awards announced, photos taken, a big group hug, and everyone leaves exhilarated, tired, and ready for a serious cocktail.
The innovations under development through the weekend camp varied widely, from programmable antibiotics to hybrid tractors, autonomous robots to fiber composite wheels for aircraft. Through the course of a weekend my students – who lead the charge on the business model creation – tend to pass through Magill’s 5 stages of bootcamp emotion:
- Absorption, of what is often a complex and confusing underlying science.
- Exasperation, at first attempts at developing a sound and workable business model around it.
- Traction, when their growing understanding of the innovation’s capabilities and limitations coalesces with their knowledge of basic business planning.
- Exhilaration (or deflation), when the true market potential of their project starts to emerge.
- Realization, that the real work of validating all of the weekend assumptions and correcting course is just beginning.
I’m never disappointed by the flexibility, efficiency, and level of accomplishment on display by the business students and visiting scientists during these entrepreneurship bootcamps. Their ability to work together through the science, the business, and deciding what’s next, and often in some unpredictable mix of primary languages, is incredibly impressive and inspiring.
In early December I’ll give another 3 day workshop, what I call the Intérprize Accelerator, at the University of Aix-Marseille. While the entrepreneurship weekends center on the creation of compelling businesses that flourish and sustain, with an outward focus on external markets, my intérpreneurship sessions emphasize exciting life ambitions that inspire and endure, with an inward focus on personal achievement and self-realization.
The fundamental principals of both camps are largely similar: what is your project’s true value, what assets do you bring to its realization and where are the holes to be filled, who are your customers and in what format do they consume your project (some participants may want to become best-selling authors or artistic performers, others may want to start cafes or operate wineries, so the variance is as wide as in the recent entrepreneurship camp), is extra financing needed and where do you find it?
What is vastly different, however, is the added emphasis on wellness and balance. Without these things we quickly lose our bearings and the ability to execute effectively. The Intérprize Accelerator involves daily happy hours around concepts of positive psychology, and participants also get a 2-hour experiential session on the merits of meditation and yoga (or whatever your favorite physical outlet tends to be).
Like entrepreneurs, intérpreneurs most often start out passionate about their projects (more passionate possibly, given the deeply personal meaning of these aspirations), which yields to a more enlightened acceptance of the sober challenges involved. They pass through the same 5 stages highlighted above, then launch and optimize their models, or in some cases realize that not all dreams are attainable, at least in the form envisioned. This can be a painful discovery but one better arrived at early than late, after precious time and resources have been committed.
… a note on passion
We tumble hard sometimes, foolishly and obsessively. You meet someone and the world is suddenly brighter and more animated, colors are richer and more expressive, your heart beats faster. Irrational exuberance takes root and you know it, you feel it, but you can’t resist it, talking about her or him, repeating yourself, thinking of them, aching to see them again soon.
When you feel this way about your intérprize project something powerful is happening and you have tapped into something deeply meaningful that demands to be explored and exhausted. There is no option. As with our love lives, it all may come to nothing, but oh what sweet emotion while it lasts, while we still believe.