First Ideas and First Users

Last Friday, we registered your startups with Young Enterprise and introduced you to the associated constraints and considerations.  As discussed in class, there will be no competition between teams, we expect high standard business ethics, and finally – your business ideas are subject to business rules…with absolutely no exceptions… Please review these rules again (and again) before Friday class:

Almost a month ago, I set you a challenge:

Screen shot 2015-10-21 at 17.25.56

I understand this challenge was not easy but it was intended to train you for this moment. I imagine you spent the last few days since business registration searching for your business ideas – observing, brainstorming, talking with people, testing your assumptions… Did you?

A few tips to help you:

It will not work if you don’t care about it. If you can’t find a reason to care about it, why would you expect anyone else to care about it?

Last Saturday I visited the Cosmonauts exhibition at the Science Museum, and it is probably the most inspirational exhibition I have ever visited. I expected ‘the story of Russian space travel’ but I did not expect the story of passion, true grit, sacrifice, and innovation that I found. I never knew that the idea of space travel came from a man who as a boy suffered an illness that left him handicapped – he turned his handicap into a life-long project of passion, and inspired generations AND nations…


Ideas work best with passion applied.

(Go see the exhibition!!!!)

Rules of brainstorming – an old favourite:

Ideas are (cheap and) everywhere…

…Execution brings success (or not).

A $1.5M Kickstarter Project Fails, Leaving Most Backers Without Their 3D Printer via @techcrunch

You are a startup. You will start with no more than £1000 startup capital. All team members have an equal share in the business and can only invest as much as the other team members.

Be realistic and honest with yourself. As explained in class, the difference between a team of students and a team of NASA scientists proposing to build a rocket is in the feasibility of the proposal. You should have access to your users (customers). You have until March to turn a profit.

You need to have your first product ready the first Friday in December. You will present your product to a panel of judges (Dragons) in the Dragons’ Den on 11 December and they will give you feedback which you will use to improve your product. For this reason, do not make a large quantity of products just yet…

Understand your capabilities. It allows you to focus on what you can achieve in the time you have available.

The same old obvious solution is not what you want and need. Read up on informational vs transformational knowledge:

and why it matters – for example:

Beware of the enemies:

CB5 CB4 CB3 CB 2 CB 1


Don’t forget about design thinking!

It often happens that students want to forget about design thinking as soon as we turn to their businesses. Remember: design thinking is the difference between the meaningful, user-centred solution and the solution that prescribes/dictates user behaviour.

For example, I had to spend some time in hospital this week and these photos illustrate the reality of the experience. The ceiling is what one sees most of the time spent in hospital.

Hospital ceiling

And this pile of instructions is intended to help one navigate through the journey of the treatment.

DT Hospital

But how can this be done in a human-centred way, keeping the wellbeing of the user as a priority?

One of my favourite examples is still the New Evelina Children’s Hospital in London, built as the antithesis of traditional healthcare design, with a rocket slide in the atrium and with superheros washing the windows:

Or how about this example of patient-centred communication materials for breast cancer detention:

Know your lemons

Worldwide Breast Cancer


On Friday, come to class armed with your ideas. You need more than one idea. One idea at this stage is simply not good enough.

Think about, discuss with your team, and document the following, for each idea:

  1. What is your idea about? What is the driving force behind it? Provide key information about the problem or need you have identified.
  2. Who is this idea for? Who will buy or use your product or service? Your persona – what are their needs, what do they care about and why?
  3. Your solution to the problem/need identified – how does it work?
  4. …then find 8 first users (real people!) your persona represents (2 per team member, so not that scary!) and talk with them about your idea in order to learn (NO SURVEYS, please, thank you)

We will review your ideas and personas work/learning in class and enable you to get deeper into the problem so you can assess the feasibility of the idea for your business.

Bring materials you need to build your first (quick & dirty) prototypes. Pens, paper and post it notes provided, as usual.

See you all Friday!

P.S. A question (leave your answers as comments on this post): what is a start-up? Deadline: Friday 2PM.

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