The level of interest in entrepreneurship and startups continues to rise in Tampa Bay with each passing month. Every week we hear about another new startup or startup accelerator program or institute that is launching here. There was also a recent article on the Huffington Post about how we are entering the entrepreneurial age.
This is fantastic to see, but, in my opinion, before you should sign up for an accelabator (definition: the ambiguity created by not knowing if you should call it an accelerator or an incubator), expend some energy on validating the business model, including articulating to potential customers your value proposition.
As I learned from launching one of the first seed stage accelerator programs here in Tampa Bay, many entrepreneurs treat startup accelerators as a bullet on their LinkedIn profile and their behavior is consistent with that of an adolescent in Cub Scouts going after their startup merit badge. The heightened level of interest in launching a business here in Tampa Bay is great. But, those of us who have been passionate about building the entrepreneurial ecosystem want to make sure we are contributing our collective experiences to the next generation of company founders who want to create and keep their companies here in this area.
Last year a group of like-minded people thought there needed to be a program that would help entrepreneurs understand their business model better by testing it with customer contact and providing feedback in an open loop iterative process. Startup Weekend Next
was born from this effort.
Startup Weekend Next is a five-week program that is based on the customer development methodology developed by Steve Blank. Steve Blank is a well-respected Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has built eight startups including several that were major IPOs. It is a partnership between Blank and the organizers of Startup Weekend, Startup America, GAN (Global Accelerator Network), TechStars and Udacity.
This is a great opportunity for teams to learn what is required to interact with customers and refine their value proposition based on experiential learning. I was asked to be the instructor and lead this first incarnation of Startup Weekend Next in Tampa Bay. The first program will begin on Wednesday, April 10th.
Growing Future Entrepreneurs
There is also a great program that is helping to foster experiential entrepreneurial education for Pinellas County High School students, thanks to the efforts of Kurt Long. Long is responsible for the creation of the Next Generation Entrepreneurs
program that is a collaboration between Long’s company, Fair Warning
, and the Pinellas County Education Foundation
"Next Generation Entrepreneurs emphasizes developing technical innovation and creativity in young people by empowering them to build tomorrow's scalable, world-class businesses that create value in the lives of their customers,'' says Long. He and I are kindred spirits when it comes to stressing the importance of being able to articulate your value proposition to your customer.
Entrepreneurial education is very important to the development of the economic engine that creates employment opportunities. Building a company is hard and you have to be able to leverage the pain of the arrows in the back of those that have gone before you to learn from their failures and mistakes to shorten the learning curve when you are trying to get your fledgling company off the ground.
If you are interested in signing up for this five-week intensive program to discover whether your idea for a startup will survive customer contact and merit further development into a real business, you can register here
Marvin Scaff, managing director of Liquidity Engine, is one of the founders of Gazelle Lab in St. Petersburg, a collaborative effort by local entrepreneurs to change the startup culture of the Tampa Bay region into a sustainable ecosystem. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.