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Teaching Entrepreneurship online

For the last three weeks I have been having a raging internal debate.

Can you teach Entrepreneurship online? Forget teaching, can you learn something about starting a business online?

The debate started when Jehan and I first started talking about doing a series similar to the work we have been doing with computational finance on Learning Corporate Finance. I ran a couple of trial videos but wasn’t happy with the results so killed the work we had done in March. Then April somehow became the month of speaking engagements – first for Microsoft/PASHA Catalyst, then NUST and TAN and finally the PASHA – CIPE Young ones round table this Monday morning.

This morning I decided to do a thought experiment. Let’s try doing a structured program similar to the one I have been running for the EMBA and GMBA batches at SP Jain for the last four years. The ground rules are simple

  1. Selection by invitation only based on the work you have done so far on your dream project and your willingness to work even harder on or for it.
  2. Your ability to keep an open mind, take criticism as it is intended and not personally
  3. There is a serious gate fee, well ok semi serious. Somewhere between real and not free. But the most exciting and committed group that I come across gets a free pass. And there is one sponsored seat (read also free) available at my discretion. The rest pay their way.
  4. The first batch starts 10th May 2011 and ends 10th June 2011.
  5. The end result is a power point pitch that you record and upload on YouTube and a short executive summary. On your way to doing both hopefully you will learn more than enough to get started with your dream concepts.
  6. Online class size is limited to 20 groups. Each group can include upto three students.
  7. The format is a combination of online lectures and sessions, reading assignments, projects, phone calls, email exchanges and online chat sessions. For the groups based in Karachi, there is about three hours of one on one, face to face interaction.

You can only enroll if you can’t sleep at night because the promise of your idea keeps you awake. Or you have been sneaking away from work, home and studies to spend as much time as possible getting it closer to commercial reality. Or you have been certified as an oddball committed to changing the world and are having adjustment issues with the real world. There is no jazz within the course if you are not serious about your concept or your cause. It will be simply a waste of your time and mine and the workload will burn you out.

What will we cover in this thirty day period?

  1. To begin with how do you know that your idea is worth it? Are there any tests that you can apply? For commercial potential as well as for your own personal fit?
  2. If you pass (1), is there a scale that allows you to weigh the commercial potential of one concept over another?
  3. So you use (2) to sift through the handful of concepts you have been playing with for the last few months – now what? What kind of a roadmap can you follow that either results in traction or death?
  4. On this roadmap of yours what comes first? Concept, customer, need, price, pain, distribution, sales, packaging, marketing, advertising
  5. Where do you get your list of first 5 prospects? What do you tell them when you go and see them?
  6. How do you decide if a team member will add and contribute value? How do you determine his or her share?
  7. What about employment and services contracts?
  8. Profiles, websites, marketing collateral?
  9. And while we are on this topic, Sales Pitches?
  10. What makes a great sales pitch?
  11. How about numbers? Do I need them? For what?
  12. Where do I start when it comes to financials?
  13. How about investors? When is the right time to ping them? What is the right time to ignore them?

The questions get asked and answered in a series of structured online lectures, exercises and reading assignments. The exercises get reviewed by yours truly and get thrown right back at you with feedback for a second round. The iterative cycles runs for 3 hours a week for 4 weeks for a total of 12 hours of mixed format instructions. This gets supplemented by an online weekly group review (20 minutes) and a fortnightly progress check via email. You get graded every week based on the quality of your submission and the application of concepts taught. The pace is up to you. You cover everything due on one single day or spread it out over the entire week.

Session I – Concept assessment and choice

Session II – Building the story – your first pitch

Session III – The voice of the customer – understanding yours

Session IV – Matching the voice with pain, the pain with product features

Session V – Bringing in the competition

Session VI – Pricing Options

Session VII – Revisiting the pitch

Session VIII – The Roadmap

Session IX – Contracting – Partners, Employees, Customers, Resellers

Session X – The first sale

Session XI – Packaging

Session XII – The final pitch

Session XIII – Financials

Session XIV – Executive Summary

Session XV – How much are you worth?

Session XVI – Wrap up and close closure?

All right, that is all I have for now.

If you are up for the challenge, drop me a line. If you don’t know how to drop me a line, that is your first assignment. Figure out your own way to reach me.

The price tag for the first batch will most likely be between US$ 125 – US$ 150 per group but I haven’t decided as yet. As I said earlier a maximum of 20 groups a minimum of 7 to get going. Course kicks off on Learning Corporate Finance on the 10th of May. Enrollment forms start going out from the 2nd of May 2011.

Who are you –Entrepreneurial Crash Course’ student profile

  1. Someone who has been thinking of starting up a business either full time or on the side for quite some time.  You think it is a great idea but are not sure if it will be a great business or not. Or if you are ready to take this leap of faith at this stage in your life.
  2. You could be in your final year in your under-graduate or graduate program, may have a few years of experience under your belt, may even have tried the road to self employment a few times.
  3. You are very concerned about failure, about disappointing people who care about you and customers. While money is not a consideration you worry about pricing and about identifying customers.
  4. Ideally you are looking for a mentor you can show you the path or a framework to convert the concept you have been thinking about to commercial reality.
  5. You are driven, hard working and self motivated and other than this bit of self doubt about your ability to make things work are reasonably confident about your technical competence and your ability.

About the Instructor

To learn more about Jawwad:

Read reviews about the first edition of Reboot (the Blue Screen of Death).

Download the first 25 pages from the first edition of Reboot (the Blue Screen of Death).

Learn more about Reboot

Jawwad’s slideshare presentation deck

Jawwad’s Facebook Fan Page

Reboot and Jawwad on Green and White

Reboot review in The News

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