The 2014 Institute has come to a close! It’s hard to believe that we’ve now run our fifth program! Here’s a look at what went down during the last two weeks—with Week 4 focusing on investment readiness and Week 5 turning to strategic planning.
Background: Normally during the Unreasonable Institute, we host Investor Days, three-day sessions at which roughly 100 philanthropic and for-profit funders gather to help our entrepreneurs secure capital. But we’ve realized that the Institute process—in which our mentors challenge our fellows’ core assumptions about their ventures and poke holes in their models—is really one of deconstruction. And that’s hardly the best time to go asking for funding.
Since reconstruction happens in the months immediately following the Institute, we’ve moved our Investor Days to October. Our plan is to host these sessions twice a year and open them up to all Unreasonable alumni, mentors, and funders in our network.
Days 24-26:The team from For Impact, an organization that has helped entrepreneurs and non-profits raise more than $1 billion (and which specializes in fundraising training) trained our entrepreneurs in their methodology. Here are the salient takeaways:
- Impact drives income, not the other way around.
- Just ask. It all comes down to this.
- Never, ever make a decision for a prospect. (In other words, even if you think someone is going to turn you down, ask anyway. Let them tell you “no.” Don’t do it for them.)
- Use visual engagement tools. (Learn to draw what you do.)
- You can read more tips from these workshops in my blog post called “3 Battle-Tested Keys to Fundraising.”
Day 27: Funding readiness checks with investors and successful fundraisers. Seasoned funders and fundraisers grill entrepreneurs about their businesses and let them know whether or not they’d fund them in their current form (and why). These readiness checks highlight what entrepreneurs need to work on by our October Investor Days!
These funding experts included:
- Bill Harrington, Vista Ventures
- Paul Breloff, Accion
- Jim Villanueva, Eleos Foundation
- Jennifer Pryce, Calvert Foundation
- Nicole Ballin, 2013 Unreasonable Alumna who helped her team at UpEnergy raise more than $1 million in equity last year
In addition, our entrepreneurs have been working extensively with Financial Architects, a team of three MBA graduates with experience in financial modeling, trained by former VC and accounting firm founder David Vergoz (also an Unreasonable Mentor). These architects helped the entrepreneurs build their financial models.
Day 28: Unreasonable Drinks. Local funders and mentors met with the entrepreneurs for a Friday night drink event hosted by Boulder-based Applied Trust before having free time over the weekend.
Days 31-33: Strategic Planning with Jane Miller. Unreasonable Institute Interim President Jane Miller led the entrepreneurs through a framework for putting what they had learned from the Institute into action. You can see a quick overview of this framework here.
Days 34: Implementation Day. Entrepreneurs had a day to work in more depth on their strategic plans with the support of Jane, our team, financial architects, and available mentors.
Days 35-37: Fellows Retreat and end of the Institute. We concluded the Institute with a graduation ceremony and three-day retreat, which Jane hosted at her home in the mountains. The entrepreneurs one last chance to bond while hiking and sharing stories over campfires—and watching the World Cup and Wimbledon final!
Come back in two weeks for a post detailing what we learned from the 2014 Institute!