Columbia Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator
New York // April 19 – 23, 2017
What: Columbia University is uniquely positioned to host the Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator, offering an environment that is vibrant, brilliant and cutting edge. We exist to provide social entrepreneurs with the skills, resources and networks they need in order for their ventures to thrive. We seek to encourage partnerships between schools and institutes, students and alumni of the NYC and international communities to become a center of excellence for social entrepreneurship.
Get Involved: Apply to be an entrepreneur, become a mentor, be a sponsor, or help our Lab team find entrepreneurs. Read on to get involved!
The Design Studio @ Columbia University
The early stages of a startup are marked with questions. Who is my customer? What problems do they have? Do I have a solution to their problems? What are they willing to pay? Will I be able to break even? An entrepreneur’s ability to quickly convert these questions into answers is one of the few characteristics that separates successful startups from failed ones. The problem is that few entrepreneurs know the rapid and systematic approach required to answer these questions. They go too slow, they focus on the wrong things in the wrong order, and they move forward without truly validating a business model.
The Lab & Curriculum
The Business Model Validation Lab is designed to do one thing: provide entrepreneurs with a step-by-step methodology to rapidly and systematically validate their venture’s business model. Entrepreneurs will:
Identify the foundational assumptions that underpin your venture.
Through customer discovery and rapid prototyping validate the foundational assumptions.
Meet with mentors to get feedback and develop next steps.
The curriculum of the Lab oscillates between in-classroom workshop time and in-market customer interaction time.
Starts with orientation and workshop on assumption mapping in the morning. The afternoon is spent interacting with target customers.
Starts with a workshop in the morning on how to rapidly prototype. In the afternoon entrepreneurs will physically build a prototype.
Starts with a workshop on how to build powerful, long-term relationships with mentors, funders, and partners. In the afternoon, entrepreneurs spend time validating cost assumptions.
Mentor Day Part 1! 10-15 mentors will attend the Lab to work directly with entrepreneurs. The afternoon is dedicated to strategic planning.
Mentor Day Part 2! Entrepreneurs will meet with even more mentors after their reflection the previous day. The afternoon builds momentum and concludes the Lab.
By the end of Lab entrepreneurs will have something to show for their work. They will have:
- Learned a repeatable methodology for how to do customer discovery
- Built 2-3 prototypes of a key element of their venture
- Tested prototypes with real customers
- Learned how to build and maintain mentor relationships
- Met and received feedback from 10-12 world-class mentors
- Conducted a break-even analysis of their business and identified the key cost and financial assumptions of their business
- Built out a basic budget and financial model
- Created a 6-month operating plan
This Lab will actively involve a diverse set of mentors. These mentors will be custom-selected after selecting the Lab ventures to assure mentors meet their needs. Interested in mentoring? Email Malgosia.
Director of the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise & former CEO of EcoSecurities Group, the world’s largest carbon credit company.
Adam heads up The Columbia Design Lab to use as a set of tools, methodologies, and resources for turning ideas into action.
More Mentors Yet To Come :: Check Back Soon!
FAQ’s & More About This Program
Application and Selection
- Committed to social and environmental impact with their venture
- Idea-to-early-stage in their venture’s development
- Based at Columbia University’s Design Studio (more on location below)
- For-profit or non-profit
Here’s a bit more on location:
- If I am an entrepreneur not related to Columbia nor in New York. Can I apply for this Lab? If you are outside New York you can still apply. If you can make a compelling case, we might consider your application.
- My venture’s headquarters are here in New York, but my operations are elsewhere. Can I apply? It depends. The Business Model Validation Lab is designed for ventures to interact directly with their target market during the Lab. For example, during the Lab entrepreneurs will go and do “customer discovery” by interviewing people (in-person) in their target market. If you are unable to do this because your venture’s operations are elsewhere, then the Lab will be less valuable to you. In any case, please feel free to reach out us if you have specific questions about this.
- Who their target customer is
- What, exactly, is the problem their target customer has
- What their product/service offering looks like (they haven’t built a prototype yet or have just begun building prototypes) and if it meets the needs of the target customer
Entrepreneurs are too late if:
- They know (with a very high level of confidence and specificity) who their customer is
- They know (with a very high level of confidence and specificity) what problem their customer has
- They know (with a very high level of confidence and specificity) that their solution solves their customer’s problem
- They have a product/service that is in mainstream production
- They have substantial sales
The Lab will feature both time in the classroom (learning principles of how to validate your business model) and time in market with your customers where you will be interviewing them and having them interact with your prototypes. There will also be one entire day dedicated to working with mentors. Throughout the course of the Lab, you will have plenty of time to work and rest. Taking time to digest the material is an important piece of acceleration!
Day 1: Day 1 starts with a brief orientation and workshop in the morning, followed by an afternoon interacting with target customers.
Day 2: Day 2 starts with a workshop in the morning on how to rapidly prototype. In the afternoon, entrepreneurs will physically build a prototype and then go out again to meet with target customers.
Day 3: Day 3 starts with more time interacting with target customers before having an afternoon workshop on how to build powerful relationships with mentors, funders, and partners.
Day 4: Day 4 is a mentor day when 10-15 mentors will attend the Lab to work directly with entrepreneurs.
Day 5: Day 5 begins with a workshop in the morning on how to validate the cost assumptions in each venture before spending the afternoon working on strategic planning. Then the Lab concludes.
Be a Supporter
Click here to email Malgosia to discuss becoming a mentor.
The 2016 Lab
Empowering educators to reimagine learning and actualize change.
Delivery of authentic ethnic meals made by refugees in NYC.
Empowering underserved children to take their learning into their own hands.
We build and sell affordable battery packs, electric vehicles, and EV tech.
Your Charitable Giving Savings Account.
Connecting teens to life changing out-of-school programs.
Up Top Acres
Commercial Rooftop Farming
A virtual college counselor to guide students to (and through) college
An on demand courier service focusing on rural areas of Kenya.
Flip it Forward
Social Dreaming: Build the World You Want to Be a Part of.
..This Could Be You
Here’s who made this possible.
Email Nico to discuss sponsorship opportunities.
Here is the team that made this happen.
Founded a 25 acre farm in Kenya that employed 20 refugees and financed 75 scholarships for secondary education.
Co-founded an immigrant advocacy NGO, a social sector consultancy, has worked in extreme poverty resolution for several international governmental organizations.
Founded a venture creating commercialization channels for victims of violence & led curriculum for an Indonesian impact accelerator.
Management consultant in technology, media and telecommunications.
Lawyer and journalist. She was a co-founder of the National Union for Icelandic Students. She has served the University Council for the University of Iceland.
Previously an Investment Analyst for the International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group) in the Manufacturing, Agribusiness, and Services Department and former Board Member for a BoP Distribution Company in East Africa