This is the second phase (third blog post) of the Acceleration Project.
See last week’s post for the Application Phase and the first post in this series for an overview of what I’m rambling about here.
In Colorado Springs, teams gather to sharpen their skills, train and win. They analyze their performance, meet with experts and push themselves each day… This is the home of the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Like athletes, entrepreneurs need to focus on building their skills and I believe one of the most productive aspects of the Acceleration Project is the skill-building phase.
At the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan we put student entrepreneurial teams through a set of skill building programs that provide them with some of the tools and experiences necessary to reduce risk, identify opportunities and accelerate their business venture ideas. These same programs can be condensed into a specific phase that can be taught to participants of the Acceleration Project.
Entrepreneurial skill building can be broken down into several sections. The first is business basics. The key in business basics is trying to get everyone using the same language, terminology and tools that the business world uses when forming and growing a business. These skills are critical for success yet alone do not offer the necessary guidance for entrepreneurs to go from an idea to a successful business model.
The second set of skills we teach during the skill-building phase is business model mapping. This is the modern version of a business plan condensed to a single page and drawn visually. The key in this phase is to learn how to concisely document where the entrepreneur is in their current business model thinking and also to stimulate ideas on potential variations and changes that may be necessary (pivots).
As a tool for mapping business models we use the Business Model Canvas by Alex Osterwalder. This approach is quickly becoming the standard in startup business model visualization.
Finally, and perhaps the most important skill that we will be focusing on in this phase is business model searching. This is the process that teams can use when searching for the right business model to yield long-term success for their efforts. For this we have found that the Customer Development process created by Steve Blank is an excellent process to use and one that is also catching fire in startup hubs all around the world.
Steve has managed to document a process that many of us have found indispensable in quickly identifying opportunities, risks and pivots necessary when trying to discover the right business model to execute on.
Bottom line, we know that entrepreneurs, like athletes, need opportunities to perfect their skill and must have easy access to proper tools and resources.
In the Acceleration Project we believe the same should be provided for all participants and that is what the Skill Building phase is all about.
It may not be as glamorous as spending a few months at the U.S. Olympic Training Center but I firmly believe that if you are going for the gold you need every opportunity you can to perfect your skill.
Next phase – acceleration!
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