Accelerator Recap: Week 1

In a new series from Executive Director Jordan Burke, we bring you a week-by-week recap of what it's like to go through the UGA Idea Accelerator, an 8 week program from Four Athens, ATDC, and UGA Entrepreneurship. The first week week focuses on developing your hypothesis from your idea, how to design experiments to test that hypothesis, and how to ensure the data you gather promotes validated learning.
Jordan Burke

Have you ever had an idea for a business, but you weren't sure where to start?

Welcome to the club. All first time entrepreneurs have been there, and that's why Four Athens has partnered with ATDC and UGA Entrepreneurship to develop the 8 week UGA Idea Accelerator. The goal is to help teams test the viability of their idea and leave the program with a plan to turn their idea into a company. UGA Entrepreneurship also puts up a $5000 prize to the winner of the pitch competition at the end of the programs, so that's a pretty good goal to work for, too.

In an effort to demystify the process and the rigor of the program, I am bringing a team through the program and will be recapping our successes and failures along the way. With that in mind, let's get right into a recap of week 1;

  • The initial size of the Spring 2018 cohort was about 47 teams. Most teams had at least two founders, giving us the largest spring cohort with 47 teams, and the most populous cohort in the program's history. Each team had 25 seconds or less to say their idea (5 words or less), who their customer is, and where they would find their customer. Most of us got that wrong right off the bat.
  • We met our guides for the 8 week program: Ty Frix from UGA's College of Engineering, Don Chambers, Cali Brutz and Bob Pinckney from UGA Entrepreneurship, and Jim Flannery from ATDC (also a lecturer at UGA Entrepreneurship.
  • The cadence of the program is very strict: we are expected to do 10 customer discovery interviews a week, watch video lectures from Steve Blank's Launch a Startup course, and prepare our customer archetype and business model canvas every week. Each Monday we will do a short, 3 slide presentation on the hypothesis we're testing, the experiment used to test it, and our results and insights.
  • Developing a testable hypothesis is vital to a team's progress this early in the process. Key points: don't ask leading questions, the opposite condition of your hypothesis shouldn't be absurd, nor should your hypothesis be an affirmation, the customer you're testing your hypothesis with should be as specific as possible (ie, small scale coffee roasters with coffees of Latin American origin versus coffee roasters)

We'll follow up next Monday with a recap of Week 2, and I'll talk about how our customer discovery interviews drove changes in our business model canvas and our customer archetype.

Author: Jordan Burke
Executive Director, Four Athens

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