- Product Definition
- 3 Pitches
- Validation Report
- Prototype and Specs
- Minimum Viable Product
- Business Plan
- Spin-out Plan
The product definition is a short description of your product. Please restrict yourself to four pages in which you answer the following questions:
- What is the problem your product or service is going to solve?
- What types of people or what types of companies suffer from this problem?
- How widespread is this problem? How critical is it that customers solve this problem?
- What is the technology behind your product?
- What is the product?
- What is unique about it?
- How does it work?
- What is your intellectual property strategy? Can and should you obtain a patent?
- Are there technical risks associated with it? (e.g., are you making a home fusion reactor that’s never been built before, or is your product a new type of plastic dog food dish?) If so, how will you mitigate these risks?
- What is the scientific basis for your product? What are the academic endorsements (papers that state this is a problem, professors that agree, etc.)?
- What kind of validating customer are you looking for?
Please note there is no template. Make sure to state team name and product name. Please do not include a title page.
Grading criteria (equally weighted):
- Novelty. The idea should be novel enough or have distinctive features that will make it outstand. Show its unique selling point.
- Feasibility. Whether the idea can be realised and it is feasible from the technical and business points of view. Wishful thinking is a bad sign, as well as unrealistic assumptions and expectations. Your idea needs to lead to a minimum viable product in a couple of months.
- Market availability. Whether you have identified a market segment that exists and are indeed potential buyers of your future product. The extent to which your product can enter that market, reach and convince the clients.
- Product sexiness. To what extent the product is attractive and is likely to produce a wow effect. Useful and novel features are a necessary but not a sufficient condition; The start-up market has matured so much that consumers have become pickier about what early tech they are willing to adopt. Your product must appeal to the client and make them want to buy it.
- Document quality. The document should look professional. So we expect it to be stylish, be free from grammar mistakes, and convey the messages with a solid argumentation.
- Idea maturity. To what extent the idea shows signs that it has undergone extensive generation and filtering, polishing and contrasting. Whether your idea is concrete and touches the ground, in contrast to being vague.
As an entrepreneur you are going to need to master pitches and sales talks. We will give you some hints in class and you will have several opportunities to prove yourself out in the field. Practice, practice, practice!
Three of the pitches are graded. You will deliver them once you have drafted your idea, around midterm and during the end review in front of the Board of Supervisors. See the schedule for the exact dates.
Grading criteria for the pitches (equally weighted):
- Pitch delivery. Whether you speak clearly, use simple but effective language, display the appropriate non-verbal language, tell a good story that resonates with the audience rather than listing facts, have effective visuals or props, show enthusiasm and positive energy, and wrap up the pitch properly.
- Content. Whether you show that there is a problem or opportunity, you explain your value proposition, you indicate the target market and its size, you explain why would anyone buy your product, you are aware of your competition and your competitive advantage, you highlight your leadership team and expertise, you have a memorable killer closing.
- Business idea. In entrepreneurship, pitch judgement is inevitably influenced by how convincing your business idea is. Make sure to be motivating and leave the audience willing to invest in your idea.
These grades will be decided by the course lecturers, who will also take into account input from the audience (e.g. other students, members of the Board of Supervisors).
Entrepreneurship is not about recklessly pursuing a dream, but about taking reasonable actions with a look at the risks and the affordable losses. It is about starting with an idea that might be full of assumptions and wishful thinking but then validating every hypothesis and every alternative. In this assignment you will report on the validation actions that you have conducted during the first half of the course. We will give you advice during the lectures on how to do this.
Potential validation methods that you can apply are the following (the list is not exclusive, so feel free to come up with innovative methods):
- Literature review
- Customer expression of interest
- Focus group
- AB testing
- Market research
- Grounded theory
- Feedback collection during showcasing, a conference or an entrepreneurial event
- Expert assessment
- Peer evaluation
The report can contain results that disprove your initial claims. It is perfectly alright (and common) to discover that you have made false assumptions or overlooked important contextual factors. If that is the case, you should include some arguments on how you can pivot your business idea to make it viable.
Grading criteria (equally weighted):
- Completeness. We expect you to validate the most relevant assumptions behind your business idea. You should find evidences supporting (or refuting) any contextual aspects that are crucial for your business to be successful (e.g. existence of a market, client interest, appropriateness of the envisioned pricing scheme, product differentiation and unique selling point).
- Rigour. The methods you chose to validate an assumption should be appropriate for the type of assumptions being investigated. We will also assess the extent to which you conduct and report your validations following good practices of research, so as to build trust in the results.
- Validity. The degree to which the results are reliable, the threats to their validity is acknowledged and properly discussed, and the overall document contributes to dispel doubts about the business idea and ground it in evidences.
- Document quality. The extent to which the document is free from grammar mistakes and has a proper argumentation. The care in the details, such as properly using figures and tables, traceability and consistency across document elements and sections. The professional look of the document. Do not submit a document that looks like an assignment. Although this document is not intended for external audiences, you should already design it with an appealing aesthetics and look’n’feel and a corporate image that is appropriate to the type of company, product and market.
Prototype and Specs
The objective of this assignment is to present a (partial) technical realisation your product or service to the management and Board of Governors of Netherware and to external parties. The prototype and specs count equally for this assignment.
You are completely free to build the prototype with any technology and tooling as you prefer. Be sure that you can later evolve it towards a minimum viable product that you will demonstrate at the end-review session. Your prototype and minimum viable product are a large part of your final grade, so you can grasp the risks of failure!
- Make sure that the prototype shows that the product is feasible, technically.
- Show that you have developed and thought about your (graphical) user interface.
- Demonstrate the key functionality (selling point of your product).
- Show that you have encountered limitations and technical difficulties and that these can been overcome.
- Mention the coming/planned features for the next 2-3 releases (including the minimum viable product and some other future releases).
It is not possible to show a mock-up for the prototype. Therefore, we will not accept a Powerpoint-based prototype.
You are responsible to set up the infrastructure that is necessary to showcase your prototype (e.g. laptop; desktop machine in the lecture room; remote web-site; peripherals; devices or hardware components; etc.).
Grading criteria (equally weighted):
- Demonstrative of technical feasibility. We want that your prototype makes breakthroughs since the original idea, and that it clearly leaps towards the minimum viable product. Make sure to implement enough characteristics of the product so that the rest of the development is just adding new features, polishing and beautifying it.
- Quality of the prototype. Whether your interfaces already look nice, the software is robust enough for the presentation, the architecture allows for later evolution, and any other indication that the prototype is soundly going in the right direction.
- Amount and importance of implemented features. As we said, we do not want to see mock-ups, but a rough version of your product that starts to make the idea tangible. Make sure to start implementing the most important features
- Presentation. The wrapping is important. So this criteria accounts for how well you present your prototype. As always, you need to believe in your idea and convey your message with clarity and passion. Showcase your prototype in a professional way.
Your functional architecture should follow the standard as presented by Sjaak in this lecture.
Please make sure to indicate also what you have implemented for the prototype using Sjaak’s specifications and what you are still planning to show in the MVP.
Minimum Viable Product
The Minimum Viable Product or first release is the follow-up of your prototype… But now it is a real product! For the first release, your product has to be able to go live today. The main requirements that we are looking for are:
- Metering and billing.
- Implementation of the features that represent the key selling points.
- Innovative solutions.
- Effective reuse of existing technology, such as Mendix or SaaS billing technology.
- Real data from real customers.
The requirements for the prototype assignment still hold as well.
When we say we want you to implement the key features we mean it. If your product idea involves hardcore artificial intelligence, the prototype has to implement these features. So, do not count on showing a few screens of a personalised website and saying that of course the final product will have a recommendation algorithm that still needs to be developed.
In the end-review you will demonstrate your business idea using the minimum viable product. You are responsible to set up the infrastructure that is necessary to showcase your minimum viable product (e.g. laptop; desktop machine in the lecture room; remote web-site; peripherals; devices or hardware components; etc.).
Grading criteria (equally weighted):
- Quality of the MVP. As in the Prototype; see above. But now a whole new level of demanding: if you start selling it right now, your service desk or customer care hotline should not be flooded with bug reports or complaints.
- Amount and importance of implemented features.As in the Prototype; see above. But now a whole new level of demanding: clients should be able to use it right now, by themselves, and get what they paid for.
- Amount and level of realism of data. The extent to which you have populated the MVP with data to showcase it. E.g. no data, fake data, real data from real customers.
- Product sexiness. As in the Product Definition, see above. As in the Prototype; see above. But now a whole new level of demanding: clients should be willing to buy it right now.
The objective of this assignment is to present your ideas, plans, and future scenarios for the arrangement of a company around your product or service. The business plan as of 2016-2017 encompasses the business model, the sales and marketing plan, parts of the validation, and your spin out plan.
Be concise in your writing and focus on your key points. Please find the templates for the business plan used in previous years here. Please note that now all you need to make is a slidedoc.
Grading criteria (equally weighted):
- Punch of the introduction. Whether the document includes a compelling executive summary with engaging arguments that keep the reader interested. The extent to which the introductory sections are suitable for a non technical reader and highlight the most important aspects of the business and product (e.g. product differentiation, etc.).
- Strategy. Whether the document shows that there is indeed a plan. This should include a clear point of departure, SMART and affordable goals, concrete approaches to bridge the gap with the desired target situation (including actions, quilting a network of diverse partners, gathering the necessary knowledge and workforce, etc.)
- Realism of the plan. How convincing the business plan is, in terms of feasibility. Good signs are providing evidence-based arguments. Make sure that your claims are supported by a good rational and evidences; to do this you can build on the outcomes of the validation report. The extent to which you have realistic contingency plans according to the expected evolution of the business and also to react to some potential scenarios (e.g. not reaching the expected amount of sales in the first year, see the financials criteria below).
- Business model. The extent to which the business model is complete and clear, addressing all necessary aspects in sufficient detail. Whether it uses a proper modelling technique in combination with clarifying explanations. Whether it has a good balance between level of detail and brevity.
- Marketing and sales plan. The extent to which the market has been properly researched and the customers have been identified and are reachable. Whether the planned actions to reach the customers and achieve sales are convincing. Whether the competition has been carefully analysed and the unique selling point of the product is well used as a leverage. Whether the pricing scheme is appropriate.
- Financials. Whether the numbers make sense and show that the business will be profitable. We are expecting to see detailed analysis of the cashflow based on the cost structure and revenue streams. Consider several potential scenarios (good and bad) and estimate their impact on your business. Elaborate on your benefits.
- Clarity in the message. The degree to which the initial idea has turned into a solid plan, becoming concrete and free from wishful thinking
- Potential to succeed. Whether the plan builds trust in your business. The extent to which supervisors, partners and investors would accept to put effort, resources and money in your idea.
- Document quality. As in the Validation Report; see above. But now a whole new level of demanding: it is the document that should attract partners and funding!
This section intends to provide guidance to the business model part of the Business Plan deliverable.
Specify a lightweight business model. You can use any kind of modelling method (Board of Innovation, Business Model Canvas has preference, but feel free to use Lean Canvas). Some important aspects should be considered:
- Is the business model ambitious?
- Is the business model well described?
- Has a plan been developed to test the business model?
- Is any proof provided that the business model is realistic?
- Are the dependencies on other organisations highlighted using a software supply network model?
- Do the authors list good references?
- Are there short customer profiles in the business model that can feed the sales plan?
This section intends to provide guidance to the marketing plan part of the Business Plan deliverable.
When planning to develop and commercialise a software product, market awareness is key. One must be aware of the following aspects:
- Your competitors
- Your product price (and pricing schemes)
- Your competitive edge
- Your unique selling point
The marketing plan should include all the above. The main focus must be on how your product (potentially) changes the world. Please also clarify how this product was conceived by out-of-the-box thinking. Finally, be sure to extensively identify competitors and their ability to destroy their competitors.
Please find the marketing template of previous years here. Please note that now all you need to make is a slidedoc.
The product price is a rough indication, but must be based on comparable products. The same holds for your unique selling point and competitive edge. Feel free to use different tables to exemplify.
Please also include an endorsement from your validating customer. This is a customer (i.e. a relevant stakeholder from a company a final consumer) that would be willing to buy the product if it was available today. So go search for someone else besides your close family and friends; instead, talk to banks, shops, random people.
This section intends to provide guidance to the sales plan part of the Business Plan deliverable.
The sales plan for ICT-Entrepreneurship should provide insight into the potential customer. The goal, along with the marketing plan, is to create awareness of your competitors and your unique selling points.
The following items are required in the sales plan:
- Please provide a detailed description of your potential customer. This can be done in the form of a story board, even with a picture of your potential customer.
- Please provide a list of potential partners that serve your potential customer.
- Please provide a list of “I’d call these guys first”, i.e., potential validating customers.
- Please provide a sales strategy (face 2 face, anonymous web site, etc.) What type of salesman could best sell your product or service?
- Please provide a description of how you plan to convince the customer.
- Please provide a “milestone customer”.
- (optional) Please provide some insight into how close you are to one of these customers and how you expect to make this customer a flagship or validating customer
Are you really planning to create a company? Of course you can still use the support of Netherware, but at some point you need to grow independent. You need to define how you plan to become an independent business with your own assets, employees, intellectual property, technology, and products. Produce a 1-page description of this plan.
This deliverable is compulsory and graded, but the grade is either a 0 (if you do not submit it) or a 10 (if you submit it). Just be honest with respect to your real plans.