The first dinner we spent BBQ’s at Jeff Moore’s house. I invited Danny from Tailwind and the investors from i2e to talk about how the deal came together. I found it pretty compelling to hear how both sides of the deal positioned themselves and what they were trying to get out of it. At the base it’s pretty simple – the company needs cash to grow quickly and the investor wants a return on their capital. Underneath that though, there was some interesting conversation about the traction a company needs to find before taking on investment. And what kind of traction the investor wants to see to reduce the risk before making the investment.
Risk was definitely the word of the evening and it jived very neatly with what the accelerator and lean startup are all about. Entrepreneurship is inherently about taking risks. But that doesn’t mean the entrepreneur should be reckless. Verifying demand and following the money will allow the entrepreneur to build things people want to buy. At some point the company will have to grow and scale and face new challenges, but that comes after product/market fit.
The next class (Class 16), Pat Jones from Petra Industries came in to introduce the students to entrepreneurial account. We started with a fairly boring read to get some of the terms down – Accounting made simple. While the shortest book I can find, it didn’t bring this relatively staid subject to life enough. Pat’s stories from his adventures at Hobby Lobby and Petra provided a much needed boost.
Class 17 was group pitch feedback. The teams came in with their demo day-ready pitches to get feedback from the group.
Our last team dinner, between Class 17 and 18, was the Rehearsal Dinner. Everything was setup to resemble what demo day will look like at CCEW. The teams used the projector that they’ll use on the day of. And Reese Travis, CEO of Orange Leaf Yogurt, came in to give the teams feedback. Here are the pitches:
Our second to last class, Class 18, we looked at financial modeling. Doug Woodward, formerly of Oracle and Microsoft, taught the teams just enough to be dangerous as CEO’s of their organizations. Here’s the spreadsheet he used as an example:
Financial modeling is something I didn’t know anything about, so I particularly enjoyed this class! As a sales and marketing guy, I just think about how to acquire customers and sell them product. The model shows how the business will make money as a whole.
To me, it seems the natural next step after the business model canvas. If we go all the way back to day 1 of the accelerator, the students drew out their business model and then transferred that to the business model canvas. The bmc is perfect for tracking assumptions about the business. And as we went through the accelerator, we validated those assumptions or invalidated them and made new ones. Eventually the business model should be fairly well validated and can be expressed to investors and the internal team in spreadsheet form.
Next week, in the final class, we have lessons learned presentations. The purpose of the presentations is for the teams to reflect on what they learned in the previous nine weeks. And for me to learn what worked when I taught it (because the students found it useful) and what didn’t. The director of the Entrepreneurship program will be sitting in too.
After that, the last stop on this train is Demo Day! The teams will present their pitches and we’ll wrap up with conversations with the audience and lunch. It’s been a wild summer! I’ll be back with two more posts, after lessons learned and demo day, to wrap up my documentation of the summer and what I learned.