We are now more than halfway done with the 2014 Unreasonable Institute! This post details what happens in weeks two and three of the Unreasonable Institute (to see what happened in week one, see this post. And, you can always get a sense of our on-goings in the Unreasonable Calendar.)
Days 10-13: Pitch Prep. Entrepreneurs worked with Unreasonable Mentor Erin Weed, a professional speaker for over 12 years who provides coaching to TED speakers. Erin’s primary mission is to help each entrepreneur speak their authentic truth. She uses a three-step process called “Dig, Plant, Grow,” which you can get a high-level overview of here. You can also refer to my previous post, which includes an example of a strong pitch.
Day 14: The Unreasonable Launchpad. After sharpening their storytelling, entrepreneurs took the stage at Macky Auditorium in Boulder in front of a captivated audience of 800 people at the Unreasonable Launchpad. Attendants at the Launchpad committed capital to entrepreneurs, offered distribution rights of healthcare technologies to create new revenue streams, scheduled follow up meetings, and offered intros to relevant experts. We’ll provide a more detailed update as more outcomes become sharable!
Learning Note: The goal of the Unreasonable Launchpad is serendipity. We work hard to curate an incredible community of mentors, funders, and partners who will help our entrepreneurs. But there are so many other community members who also have the skills and passion to support our ventures. The Launchpad is a chance for these members of the community to hear the stories of the entrepreneurs and to commit funding, expertise, or connections to help support them.
In past years, we’ve called the Launchpad “The Climax” and put it at the end of the Institute. We received feedback that the entrepreneurs would like to spend more time with the people they meet at this event, so we shifted it to the beginning of the Institute. This appeared to be a welcome shift. We also timeboxed the amount of preparation entrepreneurs did for the event. In previous years, the entrepreneurs prepared their pitches for weeks, but this year they prepared for only four days. And in our opinion, the quality of their pitches was as good as previous years. This was a huge learning for us and helps us to structure the Institute more effectively. If we can help our entrepreneurs quickly create compelling pitches, then they can get back to work building their companies.
Days 15-16: Unreasonable Mentor Weekend. More than 25 Mentors, both based in Boulder and from across the US, took part in Mentor Weekend, giving mentors and entrepreneurs the chance to:
- “speed date,”
- conduct deep dives in small teams,
- have one-on-one conversations, and
- spend time together in informal settings like a BBQ.
The goal of the weekend is to help entrepreneurs build their “Mentor Teams,” a group of two to four mentors who are committed to working with a venture for at least 6 months. You can see the full program for the weekend as well as the attendees here.
Pictured above, from left to right, are some of the Mentors at Mentor Weekend:
- Libby Cook, founder of Wild Oats and Sunflower Markets, which exited for $1B and $2B respectively;
- Chet Tchozewski (background), Executive Director of Global Greengrants, which has provided over 1500 grants to grassroots groups in over 100 cities
- Daniel Epstein (foreground), Founder & CEO of Unreasonable Group
- Quayle Hodek (background), Founder & CEO of Renewable Choice Energy
- Phil McKinney (foreground), former CTO of Hewlett-Packard
- Eric Glustrom (foreground), Founder of Educate! and Watson University
Days 17-19: A Halftime Break. After a quick training about strategic planning, led by Unreasonable Institute Interim President Jane Miller on Monday morning, entrepreneurs had Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to rest or work after two incredibly intense weeks of programming. The bulk of entrepreneurs and staff rejuvenated on an overnight camping trip in the beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park.
Day 20: Unreasonable Coaching. Refreshed after a break, entrepreneurs returned and were matched to pro-bono, expert executive coaches, courtesy of Renee Freedman. Renee curates a network of hundreds of top-notch executive coaches (with at least five years of coaching experience), whom she matches with our entrepreneurs after learning about the areas in which they can grow as CEOs and leaders. Once matched, these trained and vetted coaches meet weekly with our entrepreneurs to help them address the key challenges they face in managing their teams, dealing with conflict, working through personal shortcomings, and capitalizing on their strengths.
Day 21: Rapid Prototyping with Tom Chi, co-creator of Google Glass. In one of the best workshops of Unreasonable Institute, former head of User Experience at Google X Tom Chi trained entrepreneurs in the techniques he used to prototype Google Glass in one day! Check out a comparable 8-minute workshop he presented at TED-Ed, detailing the techniques.
The key learnings from this session were:
- “Don’t guess, learn.” You can’t think through how a user is going to use your product or service, or whether or not it will be useful. Your job is to put it in their hands as quickly as you can.
- “Make it real enough to feel.” The responsibility of prototyping is to create an experience that is “real enough to feel” for a user. You don’t need complex gadgetry or to have all the answers, you just need to approximate the experience for a user.
- “To maximize learning, minimize the time it takes to try things.” The reason people guess about what features users will appreciate in a product or service is because guessing is normally cheaper than building and testing. But if you can make building and testing fast, suddenly, they become cheaper than guessing. And if Google Glass can be prototyped in a day, why can’t our entrepreneurs prototype their products or services in 30 minutes?
Day 22: Enter the Unreasonable Scrimmage. And indeed, we have an event that challenges our entrepreneurs to do just that.
We gathered 50 members from the Unreasonable community, who held expertise in everything from graphic design, to government relations, to marketing, to accounting to help the entrepreneurs rapid prototype solutions to key challenges in their businesses. Facilitated by Tom Chi and called “The Unreasonable Scrimmage,” the event produced remarkable results including:
- Imprint Movement rebranding to Upright, securing a speaking gig with the United Nations, launching a new website, and completing a proposal for corporate partners.
- OurSay producing an email invitation to city managers to use their services, a rough draft at an RSA-animation style video, a sales pitch, and an event design to help potential customers understand and purchase their product.
- Ustvarjalnik creating a partnership with a Boulder-based high school and launching a program to replicate in Boulder in September!
It was truly an action packed two weeks! You can watch the video below (which we showed at the Unreasonable Launchpad) to get a flavor for what it looked like!
Tune in next week to learn what our entrepreneurs discover about preparing to raise capital!