Venture Concepts (for workshops, etc.)

This page has a series of sample venture ideas you instructors and students can use for workshops, etc. when participants don’t have an ideas they’re actively working. Each has a series of personas with notional thought bubbles on the left- these are snippets of ideas you might hear if you talk to said persona. On the right is at least one problem scenario, followed by a positioning statement and some notes from the founders on what they think they might do. The idea is to give the user a basic, working understanding of the concept while leaving them the freedom to interpret it over the course of the exercises.

Enable Quiz

This is a synthetic company I use in the book and in various materials around the site. The basic concept is that the company will offer lightweight technical quizzes to HR and hiring managers who want to better screen the technical skill sets of candidates for open positions. Their current positioning statement is:
“For hiring managers who need to evaluate technical talent, Enable Quiz is a talent assessment system that allows for quick and easy assessment of topical understanding in key engineering topics. Unlike formal certifications or ad hoc questions, our product allows for lightweight but consistent assessments of technical talent.”

Here are a few key problem scenarios for the persona Helen the HR Manager (for more, check out Example A in the personas tutorial).

Problem Scenarios/
Current Alternatives Value Propositions
Helen sources and screens engineering candidates for open positions, sending only qualified candidates to the hiring manager. Many of the skill requirements are outside her background. She calls references to get a general sense of their performance on the job. We’ll offer her a new capability for meaningful screening of technical candidates, increasing % of successful hires and lowering Frank the Functional Manager’s workload on recruiting.
Helen writes job descriptions with Frank the Functional (hiring) Manager. In a perfect world, they’d continually improve these based on hiring outcomes and employee job satisfaction. Right now she just gets lists from the Functional Manager and basically passes them through (to job postings, etc.). We’ll offer a best practice of menu of possible skills linked to popular job descriptions. They can then pair each of these with quiz content to assess candidates’ familiarity with target skills.
She’d like to put a company-wide professional development program in place. A few of her peers at bigger companies are doing it and the employees love it. Vendors have come in to see her with various programs but she isn’t sure how to assess what skills the employees and managers would like to develop. Right now she just works with the functional managers if she can convince them to do something on a case-by-case basis. Presenting the quiz application as an entry point for the HR manager to make it easy for the functional manager to assess a starting point for a skills management program might be a good way to deliver on this problem scenario.

Right now, the (made up) founders think the product is a cloud app with the following features:
– ability to create technical quizzes from various ‘banks’ of topical questions
– facilities for administering the quiz and reviewing results
– possible feature to allow HR Manager, etc. to append notes on the candidates

Here are a few things they’ve heard in the field:



This is a synthetic company that’s looking to help startup participants on college campuses better identify and quality each other for participation in new product/new venture creation projects. The basic problem scenario has to do with the issue of the various personas concerned in such a project finding each other-

PROBLEM: The various personas have reasons for wanting to participate in such a project. Teresa the Technician may want a summer activity and to test her new skills on a real life project with the peers she’s used to working with in her classes. Eli the Entrepreneur has a great idea, but he needs help and talent to get it rolling. Vincente the Venture Leader would like to help keep things organized, but needs a ready-made place to do that. He’s new to this. Phil the Professor would like to see his students working on real world problems, but doesn’t know who does what. How do all these people connect to form teams with the right skill sets and general fit? It’s hard.
ALTERNATIVE: Right now most parties are working with their direct social network- friends and friends of friends. But there are thousands more like-minded individuals at the university who might be great teammates.
VALUE PROPOSITION: WeDoThat allows these parties to identify, qualify and easily meet to discuss opportunities.

As such, the company’s positioning statement is:
“For students who want to collaborate with their peers on entrepreneurial projects, WeDoThat is hosted group-ware that enables meaningful participant matching and project management. Unlike putting the thing together ad hoc, our product improves the quality of peer matches and provides directional organization for meaningful project progress.”

Right now, the (imaginary) founders are thinking that the product is hosted groupware whose key services are:
– participant matching
– Venture Design
– project management

They think they’ll make the ‘base’ product free and then charge for larger projects (more people? more items? they’re not sure yet…).

Here are a few outtakes from the field:
We-Do-That-Venture-Idea -panels


My Letter, My Story

I wrote up the notes below based on an idea from Ayori Sellasie (@iayori), the Organizer of Startup Weekend Oakland- Black Male Achievement. The idea is very much in line with the charter of the event, which was to bring together participants from all backgrounds to work on problems related to education, health, sustainability, and restorative justice, to name a few areas.

The basic idea for this app is that our persona ‘Shawn’ has gotten in to some kind of trouble. His association with friends that got into some kind of trouble mean that he got caught up in the whole thing and now has to go in front of a judge and explain himself. The best thing that he can do is lead with a letter about what he wants to do with his life, which is good preparation for the hearing as well. The primary problem scenario is-

PROBLEM: Shawn was mixed up with the wrong kids and he’s accused by association and has to go in front of a judge. He’s much better off with the judge writing a clear letter to the judge about what he wants to do with his future.

ALTERNATIVE: explain himself the best he can; maybe get someone to help him

VALUE PROPOSITION: My Letter, My Story will help him through the process of telling his story.

As such, the positioning statement is:

“For young people who want to define themselves and their future to the judiciary, My-Letter-My-Story is a platform that enables a young person to create and communicate their narrative for their future. Unlike writing a letter by hand, our product directs and supports the narrative towards a clearer, more descriptive, more compelling story.”

Right now, the founders think the product is a mobile app with a web component which features: – ‘mad libs’ type templates and editing for creating letters – simple sharing to collaborators: an email feature to send to people important to the user that can support their goals & plan – presentation output for printing.

Here are a few notes from the field:

My-Letter-My-Story -Panels