Entrepreneurship for the rest of us!

An extraordinary day last Friday at The Derby Entrepreneurship Center at Tufts watching, listening, reviewing and commenting on the semi-finals for our annual $100K Business Plan Contest.  Just as college basketball ramps up for March Madness, so do we accelerate for the biggest event on the Tufts campus for The Finals on April 5th.

Some hundreds of applications and prior scoring, brought together last Friday:
  • 30 companies across 3 tracks: General Tech, Healthcare & Life Sciences, Social Impact
  • 150+ entrepreneurs from sophomores to seniors to grad students to professors 
  • 100+advisors and judges 
  • 15 companies going forward to the Finals on the 5th 

Tufts $100K 2024 SemiFinalsAlthough I cannot be a judge for reasons of impartiality, the majority of the businesses I know from both my prior and current students, and this year I took special interest in a small handful for a variety of reasons mostly focused on the significant impact I believe that they can make in the areas of society and health, and all but one of those advanced to the Finals.

Of course, I'm still rooted to my core of being a software tech guy, but I'm getting tired of hearing about yet another app for being yet a better app, and, at least for right now, I'm focused on the degree of the impact that can be made on society and especially on impacting healthcare in the shorter term. 

That personal thought process brings me to this phrase I have been using of "Entrepreneurship for the rest of us!" as a core underpinning of the Center. 





My primary takeways from last Friday :

1. Passion wins over tech!.  The tech part is the tech part.  What I know from decades of starting and venture investing in companies is that whatever tech is being developed and promoted today will not be the tech of next year, and there will be countless failures and modifications before there is a viable product that will repeatedly sell.  In the meantime what will be the glue will be the infectious passion of the founders.  For one of the company founders whom I know very well and did not advance to the Finals, there is no question in his direction and my support of him as he continues the drive forward. 

2. The Team counts more than a Founder!  Decades ago when I was on the board and chair at the MIT Enterprise Forum, we did a survey of 500 startups we had seen over the years and determined that 3 represented the optimum number of founders. Lots has changed over the years, and my expectation is that that number would be more like 5 today, but the fact remains it's highly unlikely that a startup is going to be successful based on one person. Just too much to do requiring an insane depth of knowledge in too many facets of conceiving, experimenting, building and funding any business to rely on one entrepreneur.

3. Gotta Sell Something!  Sure, part of this rallying cry is my own constant passion for the science behind the rhythm of Sales and Marketing, but much more importantly is what I saw among the many winners were direct lines of revenue between their products and how it was being both marketed and sold.  Direct to specific personas, either corporate or consumer, and not convoluted partnerships and distribution models. 

4. The Financials will always be wrong!  No matter what degree of financial magic has been applied in the creating of the Up-and-to-the-Right charts that are being explained, unless the financials have been created with a successful part time CFO who has done repeated startups before and is a no-cost advisor, it is much better to (1) state the primary assumptions, (2) focus on the primary expenses of product and GTM decisions, and (3) ask for guidance.  

Overall, just a wonderful way to spend last Friday!!!  Today, I am racing out the door to attend a sales meeting in Boston.  Enjoy the day because the weather this weekend will be wicked!





You can click here for this brand new  "Writing the Winning Sales Plan in 2024"for a few ideas on structure, sales models, process, a number of productivity tools and how to hire.  

BTW, I always have tens of the best associate-level juniors and seniors available for an internship this summer or a full-time job in June.  Plus, I am already looking for new Marketing projects for the fall with a deadline for applications by June 1.  Just give me a call or text 617-504-4222!

Derby Entrepreneurship Center@Tufts.




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