Creating Opportunity – What is the mystery sauce?

May 16, 2012

About three weeks ago, I attended the finale of 3 Day Startup, hosted here at the Bauer College of Business.  3 Day Startup is a program whose goal is to educate students to think like entrepreneurs.   It is hosted at universities and is built on the philosophy that you learn by doing.  To date, and as their website suggests, “over 1,000 students participating in 3 Day Startup events in 6 countries have given rise to 16 companies collectively raising $4 million in investments.”  Students from across campus apply to be part of the program.  Per Hesam Panahi, the faculty member who hosted the event on behalf of the Bauer College, over 120 students applied to participate.  These are students from the colleges of engineering, education and technology, the law school, and of course, Bauer.  Forty-three students were selected to participate, and they came together between Friday and Sunday to convert their ideas into a business plan.  On Sunday, I watched as these students grouped into six teams pitched their ideas to a panel of experts.  You can see photos from the event here.

It was impressive to watch how these students who did not know each other on Friday morning, had bonded over the weekend, discussed, refined and conceptualized their ideas, conducted market research (yes, they went out into the community, interviewed potential customers and even received indications of buyer interest), coded their ideas into applications that could be loaded into mobile devices, and put together five-minute pitches that were evaluated by an expert panel.    The ideas were interesting, and the feedback was encouraging.

It was inspiring to see the power to do something big bringing strangers together.  And better still, they had taken their big ideas and built a customer plan around it so they could monetize the innovation.  As Jim Clifton notes in The Coming Jobs War, “money and good jobs come from the business model, not the innovation.”  Innovative ideas are many, entrepreneurs are few.   It is the passion and the obsession to solve problems that fuels entrepreneurship.  What is the mystery sauce that generates the entrepreneurial mindset?  Talk to me.