Student Journal 1

(Entry #11): Although we did not win, my team feels a great sense of accomplishment for completing the Business Plan competition and having had the chance to compete in the Finals. After a stressful day leading up to the Rlevator Pitches, our team felt confident that we had put together a solid pitch, which portrayed our company’s products and our expansion plan in a positive light. While tensions were high, my team members kept their cool and we worked together to successfully execute the Elevator Pitch, which we learned was good enough to move us into the final competition with four other teams. Upon learning that we had been moved onto the Finals, we were equal parts proud and exhausted, realizing it would mean another day of work to prepare for the final presentation. Despite being tired, we came together as a team to perfect our final slide deck and prepare our speaking parts for the following day. On the day of the Finals, some members of the team were confident in light of our hours of preparation, while others were tremendously nervous because of all that we had riding on the competition. Ultimately, we felt that our final presentation went incredibly well, with everyone dressing and speaking very professionally. It was difficult to hear from the judges that they felt another team did a better job, but positive feedback from Professor Stoller, our mentor, entrepreneur, and classmates, in addition to the knowledge that we had tried our hardest, helped soften the news. In the end, we learned a lot from the class and grew close as a team and friends. It was fun watching our classmates pitch their creative and thorough presentations, and we wish the best to next year’s Business Plan contestants.

 

(Entry #10): Despite having our final report almost entirely assembled several days before the due date, my team came together nearly every day as the deadline approached to continue editing our report and perfecting exhibits and formatting. The day before Friday, the document looked great, and I thought that we might be able to pass it in early, but, as we found, along with many other teams, it took an exhaustive push late into the night to tie together what seemed like thousands of small details to really polish our report into a form that made us happy. By the time we printed it and handed it in, we were all very proud of what we had accomplished, both in terms of the content of our report and its professional presentation. Looking ahead, we’ll have one last push together as a team to prepare for our “elevator pitch” on Wednesday. We’re all excited and hoping for a shot at the finals.

 

(Entry #9): As the deadline for our final report approaches, our team has had to ratchet up the frequency of our meetings and individual work assignments in order to stay on schedule. While we’ve struggled with market research all along (owing to our business being overseas), we’ve had some recent traction on this front that has been encouraging. Specifically, we were able to connect with a couple very senior executives at a large international conglomerate in our industry. Speaking to these experts helped confirm some of our research findings and also raised a few risks that we hadn’t considered. One of the most gratifying developments with our work has been our progress on the financial model and financial statements, which has helped to tie everything together in terms of specific calculations for logistics, planning, and forecasting. As we begin to tighten up our report and exhibits, our mentor has encouraged us to weave a consistent narrative into our business plan, which we hope will help tie the sections together and make for a cohesive final project. We are looking forward to finishing up our work and preparing for our elevator pitches in a couple weeks.(Entry #9): Our field trip to the restaurant was both fun and informative. While the product itself was fairly sleek and seemed to work at a basic level, it clearly still had some bugs. More importantly, the restaurant (an Uno’s outlet), had not fully integrated the product into their waitstaff’s workflow, with the result being that restaurant patrons were given mixed signals over how to use the device to order meals, or even whether they should use it. On the upside, it was fun to play games with the device and we gained valuable insight into some of the obstacles our entrepreneur will face as he seeks to roll his product out across the US and perhaps eventually our target market overseas.

 

(Entry #8) After completing our survey, loading it into a survey tool, and identifying the names of over 120 restaurant and bar/pub owner-operators within our overseas target market, we sent out emails requesting that these individuals take our survey in an effort to gain feedback. While the initial response rate was very disappointing, we are hopeful that we will be able to find alternative ways to gain additional customer insight. To this end, we have begun reaching out to corporate executives and industry insiders to try and gain additional information on the benefits and potential criticisms of our product and service model. While we were unable to obtain pricing of a direct US competitor, we did learn the location of a restaurant that was using the competitor’s products. We decided to take a team field trip to the restaurant on Friday to observe the competitor’s device and get a feel for its capabilities in person. We’re concerned with our ability to adequately price our product and from that develop pro-forma income statements until we have a better understanding of the product’s value to our customers.
(Entry #7) Today we received our Professor’s feedback and grade on our interim Report. Happily, we did very well, and Professor Stoller’s comments were overwhelmingly positive. His critiques of our various sections were all completely valid and will help to guide us as we move forward toward preparing our final report. Examples of criticisms were a lack of measurable goals in our Marketing Plan and detailed industry and the need for additional analysis and conclusions within our detailed competitor and industry research section. We reviewed the feedback with our Mentor, who was pleased with our progress, but helped focus our efforts on next steps. His main concern continues to be our lack of direct contact and feedback from end-users of our product and restaurant/bar owner-operators within the target market. We agreed that we needed to implement our survey and begin reaching out to users as soon as possible.
(Entry #6) As the deadline for the interim Report draws near, our team has been meeting regularly for multiple hours at a time. We have put significant effort into our industry analysis, research of the competitive landscape, market sizing, pricing, and heat map (which helped us decide to enter specifically into the overseas market we’ve ultimately chosen). We met with our mentor, today, and had a two-hour long meeting that was very productive, in which he provided us with his feedback after reading over a rough draft of our interim Report. Generally speaking, our mentor felt that we had still not successfully articulated the need or problem our product was going to solve or even what the exact value of product was. While our team is well aware of the benefits of our product, it was difficult for us to apply a “tag” that helped sum it up due to its novelty and technologically advanced nature. While we have a good deal of work left to make the changes suggested, we feel confident that we’ll be able to turn in a substantive interim Report without having to stay up all night to meet the deadline.
(Entry #5) This week’s class focused on the competitive analysis section of the business plan. We reviewed the a seafood-exchange related business plan, which was written much better than last week’s Pegasus case. The competitive analysis section did a good job of “funneling” the key aspects of the competitive landscape for the reader, starting with macroeconomic details, and concluding with specific differences between the seafood-exchange and its competitors. Professor Stoller pointed out that in addition to starting with large, general issues, and working toward specific differences between your company and the competition, the competitive analysis section should answer the question, “what need or problem does your business address that others can’t?”

After class, we came together as a team to try and arrive at a plan to begin work on our Interim Report. We made the decision to ask our mentor not to attend our meeting in order to focus on our individual assignments and figuring out specific tasks that needed to be accomplished, rather than big picture, strategic thinking. During the meeting, we definitely felt overwhelmed and had a hard time figuring out where to begin. After a while, we agreed that for our project, which focuses on the European implementation of an existing product, it made the most sense to create a method by which we could determine which European country to enter first. We decided to leverage some of the things we learned in our Decision Analysis class along with presentations our classmates had made in prior group projects to create a decision matrix or heat map to inform our market entry decision. To do so, we began brainstorming a variety of attributes that were material to our project, which we could compare across various European countries in order to determine which country was the most appropriate for our product’s introduction. We also sent some questions to our sponsor for clarification, based upon our discussions. A second meeting later in the week allowed us to create a first draft of the heat map and we divided up sections of the business plan to be completed by individual team members.
(Entry #4) Although I was unable to attend today’s MPIII class in person, I was able to watch a video of it thanks to the professor’s use of live classroom recording technology. His lecture focused on critiquing a poorly written business plan (which we had read for homework and critiqued individually) and comparing it to an example of a plan that was much better. The professor also began to go into the importance of each section of the plan, pointing out common mistakes to be avoided. Today we had our first call as a team with our entrepreneur. After our last meeting we had brainstormed with our mentor a few questions we wanted to ask our entrepreneur, but we didn’t really know where to begin. We called into a conference number, began with some brief introductions, and then asked the entrepreneur to give us his expectations for our project along with a brief overview of his business. As he began to speak my team members, our mentor, and I, we were all clearly eager to begin asking our own clarifying questions. While the entrepreneur was slightly long-winded, he was very informal, which helped put us at ease as we began to dive into the complexities of his business model, and tried to gain a better understanding of what he was envisioning for our work. During the call, our mentor did a great job of scrawling questions on paper, which helped guide us to some key issues. After hanging up with the entrepreneur, our team agreed that while we all still had many questions, we had gained more than enough knowledge to begin our work on the project and probably had more information than we knew what to do with. We agreed to meet in a couple days to begin carving up the work and delegating tasks.
(Entry #3) Today our team met for the first time with our mentor, who has significant experience with startup companies and in working with entrepreneurs. We also met our third year law student, who will be assisting us with legal issues as we move forward with the project. As we came together for a group for the first time in earnest we had a few minutes to discuss the project and our topic—everyone felt lucky that we had been awarded our project because we knew other students had also been vying for it. Our law student seemed very nice and although he admitted he had little experience with intellectual property law, which would probably be the most relevant to our project, he did say he also bid on our project and was very excited to be working on it, which was welcome news. Our mentor was very impressive. He seemed very knowledgeable and made himself very available to us on several levels. He offered us some advice, but said he was willing to take as much of an active role in our project as we desired. He said he would be available for consultation or would be willing to sit in on team meetings and actively advise us as we went along. Two of the past teams he has advised have won the competition, so we know we’re in good hands and we have a lot to live up to as a team. At our meeting, we mostly discussed high level tactics and how our team-mentor relationship could play out and we got a feel for each other as teammates and got to know our mentor by discussing our backgrounds one at a time. Before leaving our mentor offered to be available to us each on an individual basis even outside of the bounds of the project with regard to networking and the job search meant a lot to all of us. Team spirits were high by the end of the meeting and the next step would be to have an introductory call with our entrepreneur.
(Entry #2) After class on Wednesday, my team conducted a very informal and brief email survey to identify each member’s top choices. One member of the team put forth a suggested set of bid points for four different projects, ranging from 50 points to 5 points, with a total of 100. Rather than debate at length over the merits of each project, the team chose to simply accept and execute on the suggested bid. After a few days, we heard from Professor Stoller that we had been awarded our second choice and had been successfully placed as a team with no extra students.
(Entry #1) Today we watched the remaining business plan submissions, which concludes the initial phase of our MPIII class. In total, we spent around 7 hours listening to a total of 24 outside and insider presenters pitch their various business ideas. By the conclusion of Wednesday, we had seen a variety of products and services, some of which seemed to be much more well developed and carefully considered by their entrepreneurs than others. Generally speaking, it seems as though most of the class was interested in the same 5-10 ideas, indicating that the bidding process would be competitive for the most popular business plans.