Today I submitted my team’s Entrepreneurship Project (EP), which counts as one elective towards our MBA. The EP is basically a term-long project where you develop a business plan – it doesn’t have to be a startup, but inevitably that’s what most of them are. I came in to the course really looking forward to doing the EP, as I knew I wanted to base it on my start-up so I could test the idea with four clever classmates.
I’ve been very fortunate to recruit a great team – Khalida, Alex, Amita and Jonathan – that really believe in my startup. I’m very grateful to them for the hard work that they’ve put in to developing what is, essentially, “my baby”. In effect, I’ve received the equivalent of quite a few thousand pounds worth of free consultancy and research!
We also had to do a presentation of our business to a panel consisting of local entrepreneurs and business angels. Whilst our presentation was a bit… light, it did pique the interest of one of the judges, who is now helping me as an advisor (and maybe as an investor in the future), which is a great result.
Although the EP has been a useful experience for me, it’s probably fair to question the value of “MBA business plans”. Silicon Valley legend, Steve Blank*, is not a fan of business plan competitions, which are fairly analogous to the EP. I can see his point – with many startups, you’d be better off just developing your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) as soon as possible, and getting your product in to peoples’ hands to test your ideas.
For the vast majority of people on our course, the EP is just an academic exercise. The real point of the EP, from an academic point of view, is just to apply some of the things you have learnt over the previous two terms. For that reason we are pretty much obliged to shoehorn in references to various frameworks such as Porter’s Five Forces at every opportunity.
I think most of the students are in agreement that if we were to pass our EPs on to real investors for investment, the first thing we would do is strip them of most of the “MBA talk”. It would certainly shorten them substantially!
I think the real reason business plan competitions are so popular is that it’s something tangible that a group of students can do together in a relatively short period of time. For many ideas, it’s simply not feasible to build something beyond the reasoning behind the idea, as is mentioned in this blog post about someone who has started a couple of biotech companies after business plan competition.
So what am I doing now the EP is over? Well, I’m stripping out all the MBA talk from my EP as I am in the semi-final of my school’s business plan competition! Huzzah!
*the same Steve Blank we had hoped to meet in Silicon Valley but did not. I would have loved to have discussed this with him in person.