CS39820 Technology Entrepreneurship: Week 2

Have you ever thought of starting your own business? Entrepreneurship is popular these days and with all the facilities available through the Internet, starting a business has never been easier. I am doing a module on Technology Entrepreneurship at Aberystwyth University (Mauritius) and post about it weekly. Here is what I learned during the second week:

1. Lectures Summary

Lecture 3: Deciding Scope

This lecture expanded on materials we learned from other modules (like CS22120) and laid down steps which will help us develop our Technology Plan. We also learned what should be included in the Business Proposal Form.

Documentation of Scope System

Our group report will include a Technology Plan. This plan should give a good idea of what we are proposing, how will it will look like and why. It was recommended to use following process to turn our business idea into the core part of our Technology Plan:

1. Rich Picture

Using a visual elaboration of the idea which helps to create a preliminary mental model. It is done by:

  • Placing the idea/product to be explored in the middle
  • Drawing things (stakeholders etc..) connected to the idea/product around it
  • Listing their issues and expectations concerning the idea/product
Example from the slides

This will ensure that we share an understanding of the idea/product and will help us think about the different constraints around it. Optional pictures and link labels will increase clarity and help us focus.

 2. Scenario

Making a use-case diagram supported by narration. This will focus on the main functions describing how they work.

Example from the slides

The scenarios will need to be turned to coherent UI.

3. Storyboard

Doing a walk-through of the product with examples of the different screens and how they link. This is the cheapest way of demonstrating the proposed interface without building it.

Example from the slides

To conduct useful evaluations the solution needs to fit the target platform and the data used needs to be real.

4. Early User Evaluation

Taking potential users through the storyboard and explaining the concepts to get feedback.

To conduct useful evaluations:

  • The size of the elements on the screens needs to be as expected in the final product
  • The test users need to accurately represent the target users
  • The right questions must be asked in the right way

It is also possible to try proposed changes to different groups to see whether it is an improvement. Some improvements might not be possible without building the product.

Minimum Viable Product (part of The Lean Startup process)

When testing assumptions with potential users, the product used should be minimal, thus very easy to build. We can charge for it by stating that it is in beta phase. Users will be more forgiving knowing that they are having early access. The most important things are that we:

  • Listen to user feedback and iterate changes
  • Change only one thing at a time and note the repercussions
  • Compare them with expected results
  • Not to use vanity metrics such as registered users or downloads
  • Focus on active users and engagement

5. Data Flow Diagram

Identifying the hardware and software involved in the scenarios and starting the design of the IT system.

Example from the slides

6. Identification of Risk

Identifying technical challenges and things that we still do not know. This can be due to limitation in hardware/software, inexperience or legal/social/ethical issues. The information gathered is used to reduce the risks involved.

Business Proposal Form

This will be the first document that we will have to submit. It will follow this template and we can submit more than one proposal form if we have not yet agreed on the idea.  It will include team details such as ID and Name and also information about the product such as the title, a description, potential risks/benefits etc..

Deadline: 27th October 2017

Lecture 4: Business Plans

This lecture was about the Business Plan, a major part of our group report and encouraged us to work as a group.

Working as a group

It is very important that we contribute to the team by:

  • Attending meetings
  • Setting weekly goals for each member
  • Completing the tasks
  • Logging what we achieved

If we miss a meeting, we should contact the group as soon as possible and comply with the decision made.

Business Plan

The business plan will be the most important part of our group report. It will be marked on thoroughness, practicality, presentation, credibility and must be able to:

  • Clarify what we intend to do and why
  • Define objectives
  • Provide ways to test if we are doing as intended
  • Show potential investors/partners that we know what we are doing

To elaborate on our business plan, it was recommended to follow this template(Section 1-19). To test it, we can ask ourselves and our surroundings the following questions:

  • Would you be convinced by the plan?
  • What are the weakness in the plan?
  • If you had the money, would you invest in the business?

We can use other templates if we want but we need to include the following sections:

Executive Summary (Section 1)

  • The main message of the business plan
  • What the business is intending to do and how
  • What make us feel it will be successful

It was recommended to do this section in the end and the latter could be used as a basis for our group presentation.

Team details (Section 2-3)

  • Team name, status
  • Information about members
  • Other people involved

Business Idea (Section 4)

  • Summary of Technology Plan

Business Goals (Section 5)

  • Financial targets for year 1 and year 3 to 5
  • How they are set

What the business does and how different (Section 6-7)

  • Combination of points from Technology Plan and Marketing Plan

Legal requirements (Section 8)

  • Business structure
  • Legal matters such as data protection, permits, patents, liability etc

This will be explored in another lecture.

Marketing (Section 9-14)

  • Summary of Marketing Plan

Running the business (Section 15-18)

  • What will be required to run the business given the Technology plan

Operational Risks (Section 19)

  • What can cause problem to the business (over reliance, competition)
  • How likely are they to happen

2. Project achievements

This week Fisayo and Paul were back. We formed the group and planned to do the Belbin test. Fisayo wanted all of us to take it at the same time. However, that could not be done as there were always absentees.

We wanted to make a product that would apply for Mauritius. Fisayo expanded on the food ordering app by suggesting we add support for online payment. He wanted to do an App which would be as easy to use as Tinder. He suggested an app that would tell the user which events are being held within a certain radius.

I suggested we have a look at Product Hunt to have an idea about new products. In addition, I sent links to apps trending on YouTube such as The Swift Life™ and Movies Anywhere in the WhatsApp group chat.

3. Interesting additional things

This week I wanted to find as many new Ideas as possible. I turned to YouTube to watch some videos on how to do it:

  • How To Find Killer App Ideas By Thinking The Right Way
    • This video made me realise that it is very important to focus on market research first
    • We then pick a category and devise a very specific app
    • This will make our app cheaper and we will naturally get traffic if we did good marketing research
  • How To Get Ideas For Building Apps & Software?
    • This video suggested we do not start by trying to think of new things
    • Many artists such as Van Gogh started by copying others
    • We can improve already existing apps with our own features
  • How To Get Infinite Project Ideas?
    • This video stated that we get random ideas all the time, they just need to be recognised
    • We should write then down as we get them
    • We can be inspired by reading (I need to increase my reading speed)
    • We can be inspired with deep thoughts
  • How to build a Billion Dollar app? | George Berkowski | TEDxCityUniversityLondon
    • This TED-talk stated that great ideas can spring from anywhere
    • It gave information on the App industry and the top 13 apps of the time
    • To be successful we can either do something completely new which people might think is impossible or do something 10 times better than the already existing solution
    • It is also important to listen to people’s feedback
    • Using the picture below, George stated we still have the opportunity to create apps for key elements of life
The 67 things common to all human societies. The highlighted ones being those for which an app already exists.

I listened to the SE Daily Episode on Tinder Engineering Management with Bryan Li and learned about the things behind Tinder:

  • It is simple to use
  • It gamifies one of the key elements of life (reminded me of the 67 Human Universals)
  • It reduces conflicts since both of the users have to accept each other before talking
  • For analytics it uses Facebook which is a very popular platform along with its own
  • It batches the data to reduce load on devices
  • It has its own interactions (swipes) but also keeps platform specific elements (share etc..)
  • It has multiple revenue streams (Tinder+ subscription, sales of special actions, Ads)

The episode also talked about:

  • The different revenue streams of LinkedIn namely Ads, business and premium users
  • Prioritising a single revenue stream
  • Measuring the time ads are displayed as it decreases user experience
  • Managing feature requests
  • Setting up a release process

I read about Venture Capital from Wikipedia and Coding VC. I learned that companies like Uber, Airbnb & Xiaomi are highly valued startups where venture capitalists contribute a lot and understood we should do the group presentation and report as if our goal was to pique the interest of a VC.

Total Time Spent

  • Lectures: 2 hours
  • Group Activity: 2 hours
  • Panopto videos: 3 hours
  • Week Submission: 6 hours
  • Additional Explorations: 6 hours

Total: 19 hours

Questions & Thoughts

From my word count we can tell that this week was quite bulky. I got precious information about the submissions. My question this week was:  since we are in Mauritius, are we restricted in deliverables?

I still think that the project will be a success and am looking forward for next week now that all of us are finally here.