Class of 2014's Technology Entrepreneurship Experience
The morning of Friday October 18 marked the finale to the Technology Entrepreneurship Business Consulting Projects for the Telfer Executive MBA second year cohort. The projects involved developing two business tools – Business Plan and Investors Package – for respective startups along with making a pitch on behalf of the startups to a panel of investors. The intensity of the pitches is similar to those seen on the CBC’s hit TV series Dragon’s Den and the candidates now have true appreciation on how challenging it was to get the pitch right. By working directly with startups, they now have a higher level of understanding of what it takes to be entrepreneurs, what the daily challenges of entrepreneurs are and why it is important to celebrate entrepreneurs’ contribution to the Canadian economy.
The 40 members of the Class of 2014, branded as 40-of-’14, have worked feverishly with founding member of seven different startups over the last six weeks. In addition to their full course load and professional work schedules, the teams only had six weeks to learn about their client's business, develop a business plan and investor’s package while actively engaging with respective entrepreneurs with an aim of presenting a compelling investors’ ‘pitch’ and securing a second meeting with at least one investor.
The industry average is one in one hundred on securing a second meeting with an investor following a pitch. Over the twelve-year history of the Technology Entrepreneurship course, which focuses on the delicate preparation of a structured and focused investor package by Telfer Executive MBA teams, on average is one in three presentations successfully secure a second meeting with at least one investor.
The results of the teams’ hard work were spectacular this year. Six out of the seven teams have secured a second meeting with one or more of the investors. The seventh organization had a different goal in mind. The goal of their project was to socialize a business idea with the investor community in an effort to seek the validity of the idea within the market.
The Executive MBA teams worked with seven entrepreneurs who founded their startups and are now attempting to grow their business with potential capital investment in a very near future. Their business plans were presented to a panel of three experienced technology companies’ investors that have funded a significant number of startups. Five of the startups are from the Ottawa area, with one in Toronto in addition to another from Silicon Valley. The founder of the Silicon Valley startup flew to Ottawa for the pitch given the business value she saw from the engagement with an Executive MBA team.
About the Technology Entrepreneurship Business Consulting Project and Course
Telfer Executive MBA Executive Director and Professor of the course, Sophia Leong, delivers the Technology Entrepreneurship course alongside the business consulting project requirements. The course and project encourage a strong emphasis on experiential learning within a working environment similar to an entrepreneur’s lifestyle, where time and money are precious resources when attempting to gain funding on a business idea.
Throughout the six-week course, Professor Leong coaches the teams through the creation of the business plan and investor’s package and invited key guest speakers into the classroom to provide guidance and insights into the entrepreneurial world. The course culminated with candidates presenting, on behalf of entrepreneurs and startups, an investor package to a panel of local venture capitalists who decide on the fundability of the project.
The Technology Entrepreneurship Business Consulting Project is one of the six key projects within the Telfer Executive MBA’s Signature Series of Six Business Consulting Projects that are integrated within the Program’s curriculum. Each project requires the candidate to work as a business consultant with client organizations to address real business challenges and opportunities within a short time frame.
In Their Own Words: The Candidate Perspective
Valerie Dinis, pitched on behalf of a startup with her peer Dave Turenne, provided the following perspective on the six week discovery of an entrepreneurial lifestyle:
“The past six weeks working with our clients gave us a brief perspective of entrepreneurship. The last 48-hours before the pitch allowed us to work side-by-side with our founding team and get the true sense of the life that entrepreneurs lead. After our first dry-run, team Seven Seas and the founding team spent hours drawing up storyboards, finalizing the content for the pitch and solidifying all the hard-work that had gone into the preparation for the Friday morning pitch. On Thursday we were still preparing, 24-hours until go time. We could sense the anticipation from our clients before we were brought into the boardroom in front of the investors, and team Seven Seas did not want to let our clients down. We did one last dry-run of the revised pitch to our clients 30-minutes before our allotted time with the investors and the founding team rewarded us with smiles of approval that our hard-work (and little sleep) had paid off. It was time to go into the den! Our team was overwhelmed and enthused with the outcome of our pitch and the feedback received from the investors. But most of all, we were happy to have brought some value to this company and are excited to see their success in the years to come!"
Jonathan Wiseman, who presented on behalf of one of the entrepreneurs last week, provides his personal reflection on his time working on the Technology Entrepreneurship Business Consulting Project:
“Personally, the Investor's Pitch is a major highlight of the Telfer Executive MBA to date. Consulting to an active start-up company and having the opportunity to live and breathe in the world as an entrepreneur does, although it was stressful at times, was an amazing experience for my team and I. The final 48 hours leading up to the pitch transformed us in to a high-performing unit who successfully managed challenging, but insightful, feedback from our professor and our client. This allowed us to deliver a high-quality final product, and tell a story that generated significant interest among two of the three investors we presented to on Friday morning"
Danielle Matthews, speaks about the amount of responsibility and preparation required by her team in creating the twenty minute pitch:
“The Technology Entrepreneurship Business Consulting Project was new territory for most of our team. We really grew throughout the six weeks of the course and were able to tie in our first-year learnings to our respective areas of expertise. There was much responsibility associated with presenting a company to a panel of Venture Capitalists: we needed to understand our client’s business as if it were our own, we needed to understand the vision and direction of company, and we needed to be prepared for any situation that could arise during the Investor Pitch. This required building a strong relationship with our client and alignment in the development of the Business Plan and Investor Pitch. In the end, delivering the best pitch possible was nothing short of exciting and exhilarating. We are very thankful for the opportunity to have worked and partnered with a startup company and present their dream to a panel of potential investors. This was certainly one of the highlights of the program!"