A Deep Dive for New Ventures
20-24 January 2014
My name is Tom Davie, a recent Anatomy graduate from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. I’ve always had an opportunity-seeking mind but in my final year of University I realised my passion for Entrepreneurial Business. Following graduation, I wanted to further my education in this by doing a Masters in Business. In the summer I found an internship at Taragenyx, based at Glasgow’s unique start-up accelerator ‘Entrepreneurial Spark’. Taragenyx is a medical implant start-up in the orthopaedic and dental space. With my life science background this was a perfect opportunity for me. A rockstar interview later, led to a 10 week internship with Glasgow’s hottest new start up. Although I felt like I was thrown in at the deep end, I must have impressed as I was asked me to stay on and learn in this practical environment rather than going back to university.
3 months down the line and I’m still clinging to the Taragenyx roller-coaster. I’ve pitched to 600+ people, pitched to investors in London and met some of the UK’s leading orthopaedic surgeons.
In January this year, Taragenyx set me my biggest challenge yet by sending me to a week long Bootcamp across the Atlantic at Babson College in Boston, MA. Babson is the leading entrepreneurial college in the world so I was really excited about the opportunity.
In the week prior to leaving both nerves and excitement were already building. The first challenge my Babson tutors set me was to record myself presenting a 3 minute pitch on Taragenyx. I donned my suit and set up a pop up studio in my living room: my tv as my slideshow and my iPad as a camera/teleprompt. Luckily I remembered to remove a lurking soft toy Despicable Me minion from the top right of the shot.
I arrived in a snow blanketed Boston with my two trip companions, Anne and Marianne, Entrepreneurial Spark enablers. The Babson campus was vast and spread out just like you’d imagine from the TV and movies, with ball parks and dorms to boot. We arrived at the Babson Executive Conference Centre the night before the bootcamp begun and met some of our fellow delegates at dinner. The group was diverse, spanning 11 different countries from South America to Indonesia with businesses from idea stage right up to growth.
The facilities were brilliant. Our rooms, the dining facilities and classrooms were all within the conference centre, which we were thankful for as we didn’t have to brave the -17°C temperatures outside! The food was amazing with a 5 star buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There was also a gym, bar and countless refreshment stations located throughout. The gym was under utilised and the less said about the rest the better.
Day 1 – Design Thinking, Pitch Basics
Day 2 – Social Media, Market Assessment, Rich vs King, Building Effective Teams
Day 3 – Competitors, Value Proposition, Business Models
Day 4 – Personal Selling & Customer Acquisition, Entrepreneurial Marketing, Financial Modeling and Raising Capital
Day 5 – Lean Startup and Investor Pitches
The week schedule was fairly intense with pre work for each session and 6 hours of class a day. I got something from each session but I’m going to describe three sessions which I got the most out of:
The first day of Bootcamp started with an engaging, high-energy session with Heidi Neck. It was a workshop based around the concept of Design Thinking.
“Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”
- Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO
We learned in a practical workshop how Tim Brown, the creator of the Design Thinking concept, problem-solved with his team at IDEO (An internationally renowned design firm).
We were taken through the process in a competitive team-based simulation. We began by defining our challenge and learning about extreme cases our target audience purely through observations. This is the empathy part of the process. Following this, the team were then allowed to take these observations and use their own experience to form an insight. Next we had an ideation session with no judgement putting any and all ideas down. The team moved on to prototype phase where we chose a couple of ideas that we thought were best and built up a story around it of how it may work. Finally we would have gone back to our fictional user and tested our ideas. These steps would have all been repeated until we found the best solution.
Unfortunately our team, ‘the bulldogs’, were robbed of design glory by my fellow Scot Anne Ferguson’s team.
On Wednesday Angelo Santinelli, course leader, took us through a session outlining the importance of the Business Model Canvas. The business model canvas is a template which you can use to develop new or existing business models in a visual way. We went through different methods of populating these through methods of research and interviewing techniques. I got most out of the workshop that was on the tail end of this session. The idea was each team were given the scenario that they owned a small failing farm and we had to go away and used our design thinking techniques to fill a canvas. This session brought together a number of concepts we had worked on in the week and really made you think. Disappointingly, my team wanted to go with a farm restaurant for increased income rather than my idea of utilising the land for an elaborate exciting new condo complex.
Later in the week, on Thursday morning we had a session with Tim Marken on Personal Selling & Customer Acquisition. His in your face engaging approach took a bit of getting used to but his passion for the subject really motivated you to learn.
In this session we learned how the best salesman were not your tradition car salesman with a massive ego and are all about the classic ABC (Always Be Closing) mindset. The best sales people are the ones that have a good balance between ego and empathy. They have the ability to listen to what the customer wants but also have the drive and motivation to overcome rejection and continue to hunger for the sale. That selling is all about the customer.
I took a lot away from this session. It made me think about the classic sales example of somebody giving you a pen and asking you to sell it. Previously, I would have started talking about how great the pen was and how much the customer needed it. But sales isn’t about convincing someone of a need. It’s about uncovering it. Learning about the person, listening to their problems, and with the right questioning you may find a time in the customers day to day where your pen may be crucial to them and solve a problem.
Throughout the week we had evening panels with experienced entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists. This was a unique platform giving us the ability to ask any questions we had in a ‘safe environment’. And of course there was a free bar in these sessions which was utilised by all Scots in the room in the traditional manner. It would be rude not to.
The week culminated in an opportunity for delegates to pitch their now-revised 3 minute rocket pitches to the group, staff and Angelo who is an ex-VC. This experience offered expert feedback on our pitches which is rare outside the VCs office. As nervous as I was, I greatly benefited from the experience on a personal confidence level as well as on the content of my pitch.
“Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable”
- Angelo Santinelli
What a week.
Babson Bootcamp was a fantastic experience which I cannot recommend highly enough. Entrepreneurs who want to gain the toolkit to help them start or progress their business, this is the best place you can come. I leave this experience with an enhanced positive mindset and a set of techniques which I can directly input into the day to day of our business.
Above is a picture of Angelo, the course coordinators and all the delegates.
I’d like to thank Angelo and all the team for the experience and Taragenyx for giving me the opportunity.