CS39820 Technology Entrepreneurship: Week 4

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 forth week:

1. Lectures Summary

Lecture 7: Final Hand Ins

This lecture explained how to tackle the different assessments for the module.

Presentations

There will be 2 presentations that will be marked base on this handbook.

For better presentation we were advised to:

  • Check our slides as a team – easier to see errors on someone else’s slides
  • Give our slides a corporate feel – same style, logo etc
  • Have separate notes
  • Choose right size for the images, text etc

We can have one or more presenters and use data projection, handouts etc..

Intermediate Presentation: 10%

This will be our first assessment. (mid November)

We will have 15 (max 20) minutes to present the following:

  1. Roles in our team – who we are and what each of us does
  2. Product: our business idea (explaining its functionality, preferably with screens)
  3. Business plan so far: the kind of company we will be, what we will sell and how we will make money
  4. Marketing plan so far: the market, what we have done to explore it, and what remains to be done
  5. What needs to be done to complete the project
Feedback

After the presentation there will be 15 minutes of questions and feedback. For this session, how we present the content will not be assessed. Each of the points above will yield 2 marks and we will have a verbal feedback. We will receive the final marks and written feedback on the next working day.

Final Presentation: 25%

This will be our fourth and final assessment. (end of January)

We will have 15 minutes to impress and convince 3 or 4 ‘investors’, then there will be 15 minutes of questions and feedback.

This time we were suggested to cover the following:
  • Who we are – Company, Product, Team
  • The Product – What it does / How it is used / Why people will want it
  • The Market – Size / How we will reach it / How we know it
  • The business – Likely income / costs / growth

Reports

There will be 2 reports that will be marked base on this handbook.

Group Final Report: 25%

This will be our second assessment. (mid December)

As mentioned is previous lectures. This will include our:

  • Business Plan
  • Marketing Plan
  • Technology Plan

We will receive feedback mid January so that we get the opportunity to improve our final presentation.

Individual Final Report: 20% + 20% (Individual Development Diary)

This will be our third assessment. (start of January)
It will be a report describing my part and my reflections on the group project.
It should follow this template and have the following qualities:
  • Complete: Answers all of the given sections
  • Concise: No unnecessary material and little repetition of material
  • Clear and understandable: Give a clear picture of what happened (requires no further questions)
  • Analytical: Well-thought-out answers to questions like “What might we/I have done better on the project?”

Lecture 8: More on Marketing

This lecture expanded on Lecture 5. I used the material for this lecture to do last week’s post as the video for it was available. However this week, Jackie made emphasis on the following points:

Marketing

  • Marketing is presenting the product/service in a way and at a price where both the buyer and the seller are happy.
  • Our Market Mix can be used to determine our market position.

Product

  • It is sometimes hard to distinguish a product from a service (e.g. is a haircut a product or a service?)
  • Our emphasis does not need to be on what our product does, but on what the customer needs, as people do not buy products/services but solutions.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

As shown by the picture below, people have needs at different levels. They focus on the higher levels when lower level needs are met.

Picture from the slides.

We can use this information to determine:

  • What should we be selling?
  • What levels should we be targeting in our marketing?

2. Project achievements

This week we had to submit our Idea Proposal Form.

 
On Monday I came to the meeting with the analysis found below. I made it with the help of Dooshan Paddia (Business Student). To my surprise, I was the only one who brought my research:

Even though the grocery app was the one with the least obstacle. The team did not want to do it since we could encounter problems with supermarkets. Also, Arjun told me that there already were sites for small ads.

The team was going with the transport App but Arjun had a new idea. He wanted to make voucher cards that people could buy and use for online transaction without the need of a bank account. The idea did not go far as Fisayo said that “We would need to have bank guarantee for the money on all the cards”. However that gave him inspiration for a student deals platform/privilege cards.

After school that day I went to talk to taxi persons in Rose Hill.I wanted to ask 4 main questions:

  1. If there was an app that notifies you when a client orders a taxi and tells you where he is, would you be interested?
  2. Would you pay for membership on the app (as it can bring your more clients)?
  3. Would you prefer to pay a subscription or per client?
  4. What is your current rate per KM (and taking time into consideration)?

I talked to about 10 of them and the answers did not look promising:

Question 1:

  • Most of them said that they weren’t interested.
  • There are too many taxi persons and to little clients for it to work
  • One of them said that he tried once a few years earlier but it did not work.
  • Another said that he prefers when the person calls so he feels that it is not a prank.
  • Others said that they did not have the proper phone and/or reliable and cheap internet connection for doing so.

Question 2 and 3:

  • Two of the taxi persons said that they would agree to pay
  • The first one said that he would pay per client as he would not want to pay when there is none
    • He added that this would be more useful to new taxi persons, as they would not have built a client base. If he was starting he would use the app, but as he gains more clients he would stop using it.
  • The other said that a fix amount would be fine if it was more profitable.
  • One of those who rejected said that he would lose potential clients on the taxi stand.

Question 4:

  • One said that he tried using taximeter before but it did not work as the clients were worried about the prices. In Mauritius, we bargain on most things and the price for a trip is a verbal agreement between the taxi person and the client.
  • There is also no real rush for time to be considered
  • Another said that the price would need to cover the new phone + internet

I presented my findings to the group using our Whatsapp and we decided not to go with the transport App.

I also saw that there was plenty of competition for classified ads among which:

These offer free posting making it hard to enter the market.

While looking at the slides about the Welsh app, I started to consider what Jackie was suggesting since the beginning: A Creole Learning App. I told that in the group chat. Since the tourist industry is very big in Mauritius and many students told me they would like to learn creole, this might be a great opportunity.

However, Fisayo replied that Creole is very similar to French and foreigners would prefer to learn the latter. As a foreigner and student, he did not want to learn Mauritian Creole. To that, Arjun replied that one person’s opinion does not mean an idea is bad. He knew many people who want to learn Mauritian Creole and communicate with the locals. More research had to be done.

I went on the popular mobile app stores to look for Mauritian Creole Apps. I could not find any working example.

On Tuesday I was absent as I went this event. There, I noticed that at the beginning and end of his/her presentation, some foreign speakers like to tell some words in the local language. Thus they would be potential customers for the Creole Learning App.

 

 
On Wednesday, Kavi and I went to Bagatelle, Mauritius most famous mall. We asked about 10 foreigners if they would be interested in an app that would teach them a bit of creole. Six agreed and said that they would pay for it. This made us confident on the idea.

 

On Thursday we decided to submit two Idea Proposal Form:

  • Creole Learning App: written by me and Arjun
  • Student Deals App: written by the others

 

On Friday Arjun and I worked on the Idea Proposal Form. I gave him the details of the Creole Learning app: it would be like the Welsh App (or Duolingo) but for Mauritian Creole. He wrote the document and sent to Paul for final touches. When the edited version was sent to the group chat, I read it and found that it had much more features than I initially thought.

The app was pitched as a translation app, not a learning one. Paul said that it could do both. I replied that the application needs to do a single thing very well. I suggested the learning part could be our MVP as the translation part would be less feasible.

Paul replied that the translation part is more robust and that it could have both. I stated that in the end, it will either be a translation app with a learning feature or a learning app with a translation feature. So, we let the others decide.

Kavi then replied that translation is very difficult: Even google translate sometimes gets things wrong. I added that people do not want to use an app that they cannot rely on and if an error was encountered, clients might want to be refunded.

A bit later Paul sent the other business proposal. It was on a huge student platform with many different features including discounts. As it was late, I did not ask more questions. We submitted both proposals.

3. Interesting additional things

This week I listened to the Lean Startup Audio book and read this article on the book. I learned a lot of things, here is a very brief overview:

The 5 Principles of Lean Startup

  1. Entrepreneurs are everywhere (not only in garages). Any human institution designed to create new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty includes entrepreneurs. Lean Startup approach can work in any size company and in any industry.
  2. Entrepreneurship is management. A startup is an institution, not just a product. It requires a new kind of management specifically geared to its context of extreme uncertainty.
  3. Validated learning. Startups exist not just to make stuff, make money, or even serve customers. They exist to learn how to build a sustainable business. This learning can be validated scientifically by running frequent experiments that allow entrepreneurs to test each element of their vision.
  4. Build-Measure-Learn. The fundamental activity of a startup is to turn ideas into products, measure how customers respond, and then learn whether to pivot or persevere. We need to choose minimum viable products and cycle quickly between the stages.
  5. Innovation accounting. To improve entrepreneurial outcomes and hold innovators accountable, we need to focus on the boring stuff: how to measure progress, how to set up milestones, and how to prioritise work. This requires a new kind of accounting designed for startups and people to hold them accountable.

Following the Lean Startup principles can be sometimes counter-intuitive but the results show that it works.

Total Time Spent

  • Lectures: 2 hours
  • Group Activity: 8 hours
  • Week Submission: 4 hours
  • Additional Explorations: 5 hours

Total: 19 hours

Questions & Thoughts

This week we finally submitted our ideas. My question was: Will we be using Skype for the presentations?

I think that further research needs to be done to be sure which idea will be the final one. We need to be quick as the presentation is approaching.