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The TechEntrepreneur.info team will be running a series of live programs in the Boston area over the next several months. Take a look at the listing below and, if you are in the area, please consider registering for the events at http://www.mitforumcambridge.org/
July 19, 2012: Is there a business here?
You have an idea for a business—maybe it’s your life-long passion, a project you’ve been working on nights/weekends, or something that just popped into your head. You are wondering whether it is time to quit the “day job” and take your idea to the next level. What do you do next?
That’s a common question. Could your idea truly make a good business—or should you look longer for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create the next Facebook. This session will be directed to the earliest stages of turning your idea, project or passion into a business.
Join us, on Thursday, July 19 (networking: 6:30pm – 7pm; program 7pm-9pm) for a program presented in collaboration with the Berklee College of Music and the ProArts Consortium, and learn how our panelists turned their passions into businesses.
September 27, 2012: State of the Art: Social Media and Business Four Years On...
Your product is finally out, and you could not be happier. Sure sales are slow, but with a bit of marketing, you can surely improve on that. You have been reading about the power of social media in the news. In fact, your first marketing dollars went to buying some AdWords, Facebook advertisements, and presence on LinkedIn.
While you are certain that your competitors are doing the same thing, you think you can gain an advantage on them through even more effective use of social media. It goes without saying that your finances are too limited to hire an outside agency to run a integrated campaign. Thankfully, a few of your team members have a good sense of marketing, and you think you can free them up to implement and manage a new social media strategy.
But, where to begin? Can you safely you stick with Facebook and LinkedIn, or should you add Twitter and blogs to the mix? Either way, how should you allocate your money and your team's time among these? Is there any value to having large numbers of followers—and, come to think of it, how do you gauge the success in social media? What about traditional media: should you stop attending trade shows and running ads in the trade press?
Join us, on Thursday, September 27, 2012, for a program presented at the Innovation District campus of Babson College's F.W. Olin Graduate School, and learn how our panelists have utilized social (and traditional) media to build businesses.
October 25, 2012: Big Data is Not Just for Big Business
Development of your first product is well underway. You have shipped a few early samples to some very happy customers. You have also begun using social media to build buzz and to grow a community of followers. And, your development team is really starting click: they have already begun work on Version 2.0 of the product.
This gives you some time to figure out your emerging company's next moves. You can take up the development's cry for customer feedback, the sales team's need for valid leads, the marketing guru's request for competitive data, the CFO's call for information on customer risk, and your Board's search for a potential buyer.
Or can you? Even if you had the time, where should you look for information to answer all of those questions.
You could not have asked at a better time. It's an embarrassment of riches. Between data you have gathered from your own sales efforts, social media, trade associations, and public sources (using tools like Google Analytics, Nielson, and Forrester Research, among others) you could drown in information.
Join us, Thursday, October 25, on the Tufts University campus, and learn how our panelists got a handle on oceans of data to answer their business's questions and to take them to the next level.
November/December 2012: Does it Matter How My Product Will Look? The Importance of Considering Design in the Early Stages of Product Development
You have started prototyping your new product, and it looks promising. The pieces you were most worried about building are going just fine, and you have figured out how to integrate them into the rest of the package.
You cannot contain your enthusiasm as you discuss your progress with friends, family and, even, the occasional stranger. But whenever you show them the prototype, they seem a little puzzled and invariably mumble something about looking forward to seeing the finished product. You've always dismissed those comments, but now you are starting to wonder.
Maybe you should add some more technical features. That should generate some excitement. On the other hand, there's that artist friend of yours who works in industrial design. She keeps offering to help out, but you've told her that you can't afford to make your product "pretty."
That's where you may be wrong. Design is not just about looks, it is also about usability. Apple, Nespresso, and many other companies are proof of that. Sure, your product will have to serve a useful function, and your prototype shows that it can. But, that alone is not likely to drive the sales you want and deserve.
Join us and learn how our panelists got a head start on fund-raising, marketing and sales by incorporating design into the early stages of product development.
January 2013: Does Revenue Matter?
When it comes to revenue and business models, there is a veritable alphabet soup of options: for-profit, non-profit, open-source, crowd-sourced, freemium, ad-driven, and choose-your-own-price, to name just a few. These models do not just apply to software anymore. They have crept into many markets, from art to music to publishing.
What's a founder to do? Your fledgling company must create product, market and sell it for profit.
Your job is to choose business and revenue models that will get you there. And, you will need to be able to articulate and validate that model, early on, for your team, your investors and your business partners. Oh yeah, don’t forget: you will ultimately need to execute on the model to bring in real dollars—either that, or plan to lose your business. The alphabet soup presents just some of the myriad of possibilities.
But after reading so many stories in the news, lately, you have begun to wonder—does revenue matter? Couldn’t you just build your business, whether it’s software, music, art, publishing or you-name-it, on air.
Some venture capitalists will tell you: don't worry about revenue, just get a million users and a model will emerge. Instagram followed that advice and, in just 19 months, went from a start-up to a $1,000,000,000,0000 acquisition without a single dollar of revenue.
Learn how our panelists grappled with these fundamental issues and settled on business and revenue models that worked?
February 2013: How Do I Protect My Product?
You've just come up with an idea for your new business. Maybe it's a cool technology, an unusual product, a new service offering. You think its something everyone will want and need. And, your friends agree you may be on to something; some have even said they might be willing to go in with you.
But you've been hesitant to tell all, not even to your family members. Are you being overly cautious, or just plain smart?
What's worse is that you know you can't take your idea to market alone. You’ll need a partner or two, and soon to follow will be employees and consultants. Outside investors, too: not just friends and family, whom you can trust, hopefully.
On the one hand, every point of contact is another risk. On the other hand, you need help and money—and you need it soon! Plus, even if you decide to go it on your own, what's to keep a competitor to laying waste to your efforts, especially, after you suffer years of hardship?
Sure, you could talk to your lawyer and get her advice on whether and how to protect your idea—but that will cost you money, and you're not yet sure that your idea merits it.
Haven't other entrepreneurs gone through this same struggle? What did they do? Join us and find out.
March 2013: Should I Get Potential Customers Involved in Product Development?
You have funding, your team is in place, and they are starting to draw up the details of your company's first product.
You could talk to potential customers, but you are hesitant to do that until you have a prototype to show. But, neither you nor your team are really comfortable talking to customers. Perhaps, you can leave that task to your sales team, when they come on board, in nine months.
Hold on... you need to think ahead! The leading cause of failure of startups is the inability to grow a customer base. You could kill two birds with one stone, if you would start building your customer base from Day 1 and engage them into the development process,
That is one of the fundamentals of so-called "lean startups." They integrate product and customer development to validate assumptions early on and to better focus product design, marketing and sales efforts.
Join us for a discussion with entrepreneurs who have successfully used "lean startup" principles to get their businesses off the ground.
April 2013: Can I Fund Development of My Product Without the Help of Investors?
It may not seem glamorous, but it is the way businesses have traditionally been grown: on their own cash. The days when seed and venture capital was there for the asking seem almost like a dream forgotten.
You may be able to talk friends and family into some start-up funding, but you may have to generate some real money on your own in order to crack the market.
Customer-funded development is one possibility. If you develop the right relationship with that first customer, you could end up in a win-win situation that benefits them with just the product they want at a price they could not have hoped for—and that benefits you with a developed product, a referral source and a wide-open market to crack.
There are other possibilities, too. You could “go it slow.” Learn to over-promise (but not by too much!), keep your product quality high and your early customers happy. By adding to your team and building resources at a measured pace, you might find that you can build the perfect business.
Join our panelists in a discussion of how they succeeded — and failed — in raising growing a start-up business without substantial outside investment.
May 2013: How Can I Get Help for Starting My Company?
So your new product is going to change the world. But who are you going to enlist to help make that happen?
Does your buddy from college really have the horsepower to build a prototype for you—one that you can shown to potential customers? Maybe you could shop Craig’s List or one of the local entrepreneurial meetups for a co-founder?
You could try to go it alone. After all, you took that business management class at college. You could outsource the detail work to somebody. But to whom, where, and for how much?
On the other hand, if already you have got funding, finding potential team members is not your biggest challenge. It's separating the wheat from the chaff, since you probably have offers from acquaintances who are eager to help. Which ones should you bring on board as co-founders? As employees? As business partners?
This session will focus on the possibilities for team building, their upsides and their pitfalls. Join our panelists and learn where they looked — and finally ended up — solving the vexing challenge of building a start-up team.
June 2013: Networking Event (MIT Enterprise Forum members only)
Meet with entrepreneurs, potential entrepreneurs, team members and consultants. Here is an opportunity to share your ideas, to network and to build or join your (next) business.