Term Project Outline

Stage 1: Startup

During this stage the team is getting used to each other, and there are lots of discussions to focus the vision and align around it. You will be brainstorming and documenting your preliminary insights and efforts and getting real world feedback.

Have a kickoff meeting to get to know each other. Decide how you will make decisions and who should be team lead. Decide how you will communicate, what expectations everyone has about time commitment, responsiveness, etc. Work on alignment of your vision.

The team should set up Trello. Make all team members be collaborators, and invite Pito and the TAs as read-only so we can read your content. Use Trello for project coordination. In Trello, have a prioritized “backlog” of stories to be done, and a “done” of stories that were completed, indicating which student did.

Begin brainstorming and writing down specific problems that you think your product solves. What are the problems your product is being hired to solve? And at the same time, create a list of the customers who will want your product. Keep in mind the distinction between customers (who pay) and users (who benefit). Sometimes they are the same, sometimes not. Sometimes you are creating a two (or multi) sided marketplace, e.g. eBay, where you have customers want to acquire things and customers who want to sell things.

The most important ongoing work will be your hypotheses and the MVPs you run to test them. So create a separate document to maintain your ongoing list. Categorize the hypotheses according to the various types you’ve learned about. You should expect to keep these up to date as you progress through the semester.

And right along with that, start a continuing process of experimentation by getting out of the building. Refer to Taxonomy of MVPs for a reminder of the tools you have in your arsenal. Use as many of them as needed. Guard against subjective “gut level” opinion. However also allow common sense to play a part. No need to test something that everyone agrees is really self evident.

  • Collaboration: Trello space with content as outlined above.

  • Vision: Vision document. Review and revise if necessary.

  • Hypotheses: Priorized and classified by type. Including whether they’ve been tested and what the results were. Obviously you will not have tested all of them yet, and some you may never test.

  • MVPs: Conduct at least 10 Out of the building experiments, of various kinds, using a variety of MVPs. Write them up and comment on the process and how it worked, what hypothesis was, and whether it was proven.

  • Customers: List of customers categories or types, and an explanation of their role in your startup.

Stage 2: Product

During this stage the team will be doing major work fleshing out the product. Keep an eye on your hypotheses and put a high priority on continuing to experiment with the simplest, cheapest MVPS you can come up with. Some hypotheses are proven, some are disproven. You should by now have a solid feel for where your product should be going.

Create a demonstrable mockup or prototype to continue your validation. Depending on the needs you have several options. Sometimes a static screen does the job, sometimes you need a series of screens to allow a test user to actually interact with your prototype. You may elect to go one step further and design a working model. This might take the form of an html/javascript applet, or an iPhone or Android test app. The more real it is the better you can test it by running usability tests.

Remember to consider your hypotheses in doing this. What are you trying to test exactly? What hypothesis or purpose does it serve? Have you validated enough about your approach to justify the working model?

Build a landing page as part of your research into product market fit. Remember that it can be used to test different kinds of hypothes. It is not a “company” or “product” page, but something much smaller and focused. It might be a way to test interest in your product as a whole, or to see whether people respond to certain problem statements, or pricing. The landing page will also help you collect names of people who are interested in continuing to learn more or being contacted again.

We are now also going to focus harder on your value proposition. As we do in class, you will work through the process outlined here: Value Proposition Canvas and actually complete (or answer all the questions of) the “Value Proposition Canvas. This should allow you to also design and refine your Elevator Pitch. If you don’t actually run into the president in an elevator, it’s still very useful to be able to say it by heart during an interview or over a holiday meal at home!

Given the customers you are considering, can you articulate the channels by which you will reach them? You need to think about where those types of users can be found, and what means you have to access them. Initially you will want to talk to them to further validate your concept but at some point you will be looking at asking the to use, download or buy your product.

  • Hypotheses: Add more hypotheses as you come with them, related for example your value proposition or your working model. It should be a living list, with categorized by type, indicating which are tested and how the tests went.

  • MVPs: Conduct at least 10 more “Out of the building” experiments, of various kinds, using a variety of MVPs, including your “working model” and “landing page” (see below.) Comment on the process and how it worked, what hypothesis was, and whether it was proven.

  • Elevator Pitch: You should have a viable Elevator pitch by this stage. Make sure you practice it and could give it to “the president” if you happened to run into her in an elevator.

  • Value Prop: Your completed Value Proposition Canvas, and your conclusions about your product’s value to certain customers, as well as a sense of the channels you can use to reach them.

  • Working Model: This can be a Paper Prototype, a non-working model, a working model, a rendering of the product. Include some explanation or documentation of how you used this in your testing.

  • Landing Page: A simple, deployed landing page designed to quantitatively test certain hypotheses, as well as possibly collecting emails and names of people who want to know more or stay involved. An explanation of how you got people to your page.

Stage 3: Business

During the final three weeks you are adding some basic information to your analysis and you are also drafting and redrafting your final deliverables.

  • Competition: What is out there that attempts to solve the same (or similar) problem for the same (or similar) users? How will you be different from your competition?

  • Pricing: What approach to capturing revenue is right for your product? Who are the users vs. the customers? Is this a two sided market? Who pays? Who gets paid?

  • Revenue: What are all the sources of revenue that you can identify?

  • Growth: What is your engine of growth? What techniques will likely work to achieve growth and make your business sustainable?

  • Costs: Where are the costs in your product? Consider your startup phase and your growth phase. Consider material, service, and especially people costs.

  • Final Report: Write a final report (due on last day of class). Here is a guide to writing the Term Project Final Report

  • Final Presentation: A formal 10 minute presenation, rehearsed and presented on Showcase Day.

  • Single Page Site: A summary of the project, process and results.