Term Project

Learning Objectives

The purpose of the Term Project is to give you an open ended, but structured hands-on opportunity to:

  • Apply the principles and concepts of lean startup and product discovery
  • Think clearly about setting real goals for a product or business, whether they are to make lots of money or otherwise put a dent in the universe.
  • Develop and practice the discipline to invest time and effort in only what is most important at any point
  • Refine and distill the results into a great presentation.

Objective and measures of success

Objective Propose a product and persuade yourselves and us that is will be a good business. In other words, that there are customers, that they are willing to pay, and that there's a prospect for growing.

As a team, you will be responsible at the end of the semester to describe this product. This will take the form of a series of well defined Final Deliverables.

Measures of success
  1. Come up with a new (“technological”) product or service, or an adaptation of some other product. It can be something never heard of before, or a refinement or variation, or combination of existing ideas or products. Describe it clearly so it can be understood, makes sense and can be visualized.
  2. Use all the techniques of this course to demonstrate that your product concept solves a real problem that people have and are willing to pay for.
  3. Model the revenue and growth of the business. Propose a business model and a growth model. Include that as well in your market validation when you talk to potential customers and users.
  4. Subject all of the above to all the techniques and concepts of Lean Startup. Formulate hypotheses and go out of the building to test them. Talk to real users not just to your team members. Don’t trust intuition, find actual data.
  5. Perform all this work as a team where everyone contributes. Figure out how you will be effective and make decisions.
  6. Synthesize this and produce the Final Deliverables.

Teams

We will work in teams of 4 students. Each team, by the end of the term, will have defined a new product or service, at least up to a point of being ready to seek funding. See Final Deliverables.

Here’s how team selection works:

  1. All teams will be exactly 4 students, not more or less
  2. You don’t get to select (or ‘hire’) your team!
  3. We put all the products that are canidates on the whiteboard
  4. At some point we ask students to come up and put their initials next to their first and second choice
  5. We will have an open discussion where people might change their minds, changing their first and second choice
  6. Eventually this converges to 8 teams of 4 students each
REMEMBER It this class we will design, mockup, test and measure, but not actually implement the new product.

Tips for choosing a product or service

  • Does not have to be something never before seen
  • You do need to generate evidence that people will be willing to pay for it
  • It should employ technology of some sort
  • Fun and cool doesn’t matter if you can’t show that people need it and are willing to pay
  • Challenge yourself and your teammates
  • Do a little research using your common sense!

Questions to ask yourself

  • How big a problem is this really solving?
  • For who, and do you think those people would be willing to pay for it?
  • How would you get it to them?
  • What kind of price do you think they would be willing to pay?
  • Are you pretty sure this can be productized?
  • What would the Sharktank say of it?

An essay

I was buying something at Einsteins today, and they were short handed. Two people were making sandwiches or something a line formed of people buying coffee or sodas. And I had a thought about finding more product ideas. Look around campus for opportunities and inefficiencies. And think whether with your superior knowledge of students’ everything (habits, interests, money, time, whatever) you could think of some tool, service, application or solution for the other non-student members of the Brandeis community, for example:

  • What could be done to make Einsteins work better? Can we somehow funnel students to place their orders at slow periods? Can we give them a way to forecast when the sudden demand will happen? To know what products will be ordered when? Is there a way to analyze the receipts or output from the POS system to help them? Is there some kind of coupon, discount, off-hour service idea?

  • If you’re an athlete: What does the staff do and how are they not being as efficient as they could be? What is being done by hand, on slips of paper, on index cards, that is causing them to need additional staff? What are the challenges that makes running the athletics at Brandeis more expensive than it could be? How about tournaments? How about organizing teams, or promotion?

  • If you’re an artist (performance or other): same question: is there something relating to how the music department is run? Scheduling of practice rooms? Limited number of instruments? Loaning instruments? Repairing them? Deciding when to acquire new ones? Forecasting what the next set of students coming in will require? Tracking inventory?

You get the idea: look for inefficiencies, and try to think about where there are savings or additional value to be found. If you can free up someone doing something menial they can be doing something more productive. If you can increase the capacity of a resource without actually having to build (by increasing utilization) you are saving.

You have knowledge that others don’t have about what can be done with technology. Something that others might not consider possible, or never had a chance to think about might actually be a major inefficiency that you may be able to solve.

Think about your own domain expertise, your own competitive advantage in terms of knowledge, contacts, information, ability to observe. All those can yield ideas!