Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Hello from Chicago!

My co-founding team is all together in-person this week to work on build out team, decide on our next steps, and work on some conversations that are easier with the extra media richness. We also talked with a lawyer recommended to us for her experience with B-corps, and made a plan to get ready to file in January.

We seriously need to find a great name!

One of our co-founders was had some unforeseen life come up, but many hands made light work as we unloaded a truck into strorage. The silver lining is that not only were we able to provide some unexpected help when it was really needed, but also it gave us some extra time working together.


Of course it started snowing early this morning as I headed into the airport. My plane appears to be still on schedule though, so hopefully all goes well. I am anxious to be home and wrapping up deliverables for the next week.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

It is funny how as an academic you really notice how late Thanksgiving is this year. After this, we only have like 2 weeks left of the semester! Frantic writing and preparing for the Chicago-trip continue. I am feeling spread really thin these days. I also started my networking memo.

Tomorrow for Thanksgiving I will stay off-line and focused on family though. Hopefully it will help me feel recharged to get through the end.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Chicago, Biogen-hosted events & Financial forecasts

Planning continues and my flights are booked for our founding team's first face-to-face meeting at the end of November. Housing plans have fallen through though, so there has  been a bit of scramble there. The feedback about having an agenda really rung true to me, so I got the ball rolling to work out what we wanted to have on the agenda before we get started. That way we can be in agreement about what we need to cover.

In other networking news, a professional contact posted about an event at Biogen on diversity in Life Sciences that I have RSVPed for and am looking forward to:

Hear from The Partnership, Inc. faculty member and career development expert Judy Shen-Filerman "How to Transform from a Technical to a Strategic Thinker”
When: November 20, 2015, 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Where: Biogen, 225 Binney Street, Cambridge, MA
For the financials, I was able to incorporate some of the capital budgeting concepts and models. I am really pleased at the more robust picture this provided, although it doesn't show the cash flow concerns month-to-month. A combination of models provides a more complete picture as well as allowing for sensitivity analysis.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Net Impact

This past week I was in Seattle for the Net Impact Conference. In general it was deeply inspiring to be around so many students and professionals all concerned with the impact that business can make on our world. There were tons of great sessions, but I thought I would share a few that were particularly applicable to this project.

I attended a workshop hosted by 3M on "What Does It Mean to Improve a Life?" In it, each group broke out and worked together to come up with a one sentence answer. One of the points raised by another group member was the sustainable idea of empowerment through giving someone the tools to improve their community. This really rang true for my vision of my project. Yes I want the business to be financially sustainable, but more than that I truly believe that the success of our mission comes down to empowering people in their own communities.

There was also a fantastic workshop called "Goals Matter: Intel's Roadmap to Accelerating Diversity in Tech." In January 2015, Intel's CEO announced the company's goal to reach full representation of women and underrepresented groups in the US workforce by 2020. My group explored the role of academia and pipeline to this process. The extremely diverse group shared first-hand stories of diversity already existing in organizations that is underutilized because of bias about what a candidate for higher roles should look like. Although I started this project thinking about hiring and retention, this has me wondering about what sort of value we could provide in helping organizations realize more value from the employees they have through inclusion as well. Afterwards I spoke to several who were happy to share contact information to continue the conversation.

Later there was a featured panel titled "Demand Diversity and Embrace Innovation," which could not have been more closely aligned with my project interests if I had written it myself. The panel members from Plum Creek, Toyota and Johnson & Johnson Healthcare were themselves representative of a fantastic diversity of visible and invisible identity groups. They also confirmed my intuition about a lack of general awareness in STEM corporations of the therms intersectionality and allyship. Two panel members explicitly responded that they had never heard those terms although the explanation of them fit well with their experience. Just more evidence that choosing the right terminology is essential for communicating to my market the value that we can provide them with.

Finally as part of the closing keynote, we got to hear the 2015 Hult Prize winners IMPCT give their 10 minute pitch that in the end won them $1M to start their business. Not only was it interesting to see how it aligned with the concepts from our class, but their personal journey reemphasized how much failure and being told no was part of their eventual success. Very inspiring!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

WEST mtg follow up

Way back on 9-28-15, Women in the Enterprise of Science and Technology hosted an event on Best Practices for Hiring, Developing, and Retaining Women Leaders in High Tech. I had mentioned that I had planned to attend, but I just realized that I never wrote about the meeting.

Originally my hope was to learn about best practices and resources available, which would provide material to incorporate into our products, network and identify potential competitors already in this market. I was really gratified by the fact that the first speaker opened with the fact that this was not just about women but about all sorts of diversity. In general, there wasn't anything brand new for me content-wise (yay awesome Simmons education), but it was still a great networking opportunity. In particular I was able to talk to several organizational consultants, including one SOM alum, and what it was like to be in that industry. Since then I have had several follow up conversations with contacts from that meeting, and I have nothing but good things to say about the community.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Week 8 Update

Business Plan Writing Update
Last weekend I submitted the first draft of our business plan, which made it really clear which areas my co-founder team has spent a lot of energy on and which we have not gotten to as deeply. In particular I felt like I was doing a lot of extrapolating to write the operations section, which wasn't terrible, but I was aware that these were things that we really need to discuss more. My priority on this for future meetings is job/role descriptions.

Also I am hoping to do some primary market research through surveys, but we still need to finish hashing out what we want to ask in our informational interviews. The good news is that we have so many contacts in our target markets, but there are also many that I do not want to hurt relationships by making wasteful/less than productive use of their time.

Co-founder Update
We had a really productive meeting yesterday that I felt good about. It sounds like we are in good alignment in terms of expectations now. And we reached the decision to go with a B-corp model. Next up I will be revisiting our financial model to work through what that will likely mean for our expected revenue from donations, which will no longer be able to take advantage of matching donations.

Sadly one of the original group who had help us start to sketch out this idea has decided that she needs to be placing her energy elsewhere right now. I really respect her self-awareness and how seriously she considered where she was in her life right now. This brings us down to 3 co-founders, and I am thinking about what sorts of skill sets we will need to acquire from outside this group.

Whats in a Name?
The naming process class material was particularly timely, as name was brought up again in our co-founder meeting. C would really like use the company name to honor the memory of someone, and I am still mulling the branding implications and potential opportunity costs. I don't have a really viable option to offer though. I know I tend to be a functional/descriptive namer. We definitely need a brainstorming session.

One of the pieces from the online lecture that really jumped out to me was the point about creative testing names with actual people from your customer groups/markets. I see how importantly and potentially different this would shape your naming results, but it is something I would not and did not think of doing on my own. I am excited about the idea though.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Users versus Customers

One of the things that is definitely a consideration for our organization will be considering the wants and needs of both customers and users.

Our initial brainstorm for customers included:

  • For-profit STEM company in the US
  • For-profit STEM company outside of the US
  • STEAM organizations (e.g. local, non-profits)
  • Event host organizations in US & UK
  • Event host organizations in non-Anglo locations
  • Educational organizations
  • Individuals invested in social justice
  • Individuals from marginalized groups

I think that for the initial market, it makes sense to focus on the US market and B2B customers. The companies would tend to have more cash flow to invest in workshops like this, but event hosts offer a great opportunity to demonstrate and refine the value of the workshops. I am still thinking about more specifically how to target customers though.

One of the things that has come up in conversation though is how different the motivations and interest from users as to what they would like to get out of the workshops. Thinking about non-customer users, the profiles that we were considering included:

  • Trainers
  • Employees at STEM company that offers one of our workshops
  • Individuals from marginalized groups
  • Individuals invested in social justice