Just Do It: Accelerated Startup Exercise

Author
Trish Boyles, Muhlenberg College, tboyles@muhlenberg.edu
NA Name
Just do it: Accelerated startup exercise
Summary
Students work in teams to develop a startup idea that they can launch and begin to operate in one week. After one week, each team gives a presentation about their idea, their implementation, how much they earned and what they learned.
Each team is given an envelope with “startup” funds and asked to develop, launch, and earn money by implementing a business idea within one week. “Startup” funds can vary but need not be more than $5. Students are given no prior information about the assignment before receiving it and are given the following rules:
·      The team is not required to use any startup money,
but may use ONLY the startup funds provided in the envelope.
·      Any products/services conceived of and offered must be legal.
No laws may be broken in any part of the project process.
·      No person or animal can be harmed in any way.
One week later students give a 5-10 minute presentation discussing the following:
·       Description of the startup idea
·       The process of implementing the idea
(including obstacles and how the team overcame them)
·       The outcomes (what the team learned and what the team earned).
Topics
Teamwork, action-orientation, identifying an opportunity,
understanding a target market, bootstrapping
Audience
Undergraduate entrepreneurship or business students
Strengths
Students often think starting a business is some hidden magical process that they are not privy to; this activity shows them that starting a business comes down to making a decision to do it and acting on it.
Students generally encounter things they hadn’t anticipated and either have to adjust their business idea on the fly or give up. Either way, their presentation of what happened leads to great class discussions on everything from flexibility in business plans to faulty assumptions to ways of understanding the wants and needs of the target market.
Offers students a practical understanding of the concepts of “bootstrapping” and the importance of positive cash flow.
Weaknesses
Danger of students perceiving emphasis to be short-term profitability
Limited audience, applied bias
Variants
Create a set of criteria on which the “success” of each team’s business will be evaluated to guide the assignment towards a specific topic or set of topics for class discussion.
Give it a social entrepreneurship spin by having students make progress toward solving a social problem through implementing an idea within one week.