Startups & Entrepreneurship Tag Archives - General Assembly Blog

How to Write the Best Problem Statement for Your Startup

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The Lean Startup Methodology changed the way we go about starting businesses. Instead of creating a business plan worthy of a Harvard Business School case study, we go out into the market space that we know and find a real problem. Then, we validate the pain point and see how the market is dealing with, compensating for, or otherwise working around that specific problem. Next, we determine if the market participants are willing to pay for a solution to the problem. If they see value, then we solve the problem.

Of course, it’s never that simple, but that’s the basic process in a nutshell. Atlanta entrepreneur David Cummings recently wrote that this process, from discovering the problem to getting to product market fit, generally takes about two years. Finding a problem is usually fairly clear. Validating the problem takes longer. Finding customers who are willing to pay takes a little longer, and building a product that fits the market takes a long time and usually includes several pivots or small deviations from the original product idea.

At the core of everything involved in creating a startup is the customer pain point. But many times, the best product for solving that problem doesn’t win. Why? Because the makers of that solution are really good at solving said problem, but not good at all at explaining what exactly the problem is or what its root cause consists of. In other words, the entrepreneur who can communicate better usually wins. That is why it is so vitally important to be able to explain the problem you are solving to anyone so that they understand it completely. But how do you do that?

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The 5 Pillars of Your Brand’s Business Model

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A marketing firm in Atlanta, Syrup Marketing, recently wrote a great article about how your brand is the “lead domino,” to quote Tim Ferris. What that means is that, once you create and solidify your brand, everything else tends to fall into place easily. One of those other dominoes that falls into place after you’ve created a fantastic branding strategy is the actual nuts and bolts of your business model.

Any business model is made up of many different moving parts, but they can be boiled down to these five pillars, on which you should build your business.

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Top Personality Traits of Every Successful Startup Founder

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Photo: WOC in Tech

A recent University of Phoenix survey showed that 63% of 20-somethings have a strong desire to start a business. That’s a great first step: desire. But what else does it take to start a business that is sustainable? Since 1999, right around the time many of these 20-somethings were born, I’ve started seven businesses. Five of them failed. In that time, I’ve learned from experience what it takes to be a startup founder. 

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Father of “The Lean Startup” Movement Clarifies His Message: Don’t Bulls— Yourself

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Eric Ries discusses his lean startup methodology at General Assembly in New York City.

“Lean Startup is not a religion,” said Eric Ries, the 37 year-old author of The Lean Startup (2011), which is the handbook for what has become a cult-like movement embraced by entrepreneurs and innovators worldwide.

The core philosophy of the book – and of its practitioners – is to test ideas early and often by getting feedback from potential customers. Before investing very much time and money into a product, the idea is to quickly create an MVP (minimal viable product) and put it in front of potential consumers. This avoids wasting time and money developing products that people may not want.

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How General McChrystal Captures the Magic of Small Teams at Scale

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In today’s fast-moving society, the greatest leaders are those who discard bureaucratic business models in favor of a networked “team of teams,” empowered to make decisions quickly by breaking down communication silos between departments and positions.

This is retired United States Army General Stanley McChrystal’s philosophy, who dedicated more than thirty-four years of service to the U.S. military. His final, and perhaps most notable assignment, was as the commander of all American and coalition forces in Afghanistan from 2003 until he retired in 2010.

Throughout his tenure, General McChrystal worked to develop scalable management practices that enabled the U.S. Army to embody this “team of teams,” which possessed the necessary agility and flexibility to fight in a modern, technologically advanced war environment and beat back Al Qaeda.

Five years into civilian life, General McChrystal applies the leadership skills he learned during his time in the Army to the business world as co-founder of the McChrystal Group, a leadership and management consultancy firm.

We recently had the great honor of speaking to General McChrystal before he came to our headquarters in New York for a keynote discussion on leadership and team building.

This special event was moderated by Scott Kirkpatrick, the President and COO of General Assembly, who spent time as an officer in the United States Coast Guard.

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5 Companies Using Data for Social Impact

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Can data improve the future of our humanity? You better believe it. “Big data” is more than just big businesses. Every day, social impact groups are finding new and creative ways to act upon the information that they’re generating. They’re using data to surface new information, uncover underserved communities, and track performance over time. Here are 5 very different organizations that are using data, in new and creative ways, to improve the lives of people around them:

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Series D and Looking Forward

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General Assembly started as a small project in the heart of NYC—we set out to build a community of entrepreneurs and creators in our city’s burgeoning ecosystem. I’m in awe of the evolution we’ve seen take place—in 5 years we’ve become a global organization, now equipping tens of thousands of students with the skills they need to succeed in the new economy.

At this time of great debate around the future of higher education and workforce development, our worldwide team has succeeded in creating and scaling a model solely focused on bridging education to employment. But we are even more ambitious about our future goals: To make a visible dent in the skills gap, clearly connecting education and employment to show an ROI positive model of higher education, and build our alumni community into one of the most powerful professional networks in the world.

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3 Ways to Get More Meaning from Data

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For many people, data feels like an avalanche of information. No matter how proficient we are with Excel, statistical software, SQL, or Google Analytics, it’s often tough to know where and how to take your first steps. Should you create a chart? Should you try to find a correlation between the trend you’re observing and revenue? How do you know whether your findings are statistically significant—and for that matter, what the heck is statistical significance?

At the end of the day, these questions are less intimidating than they seem. Data is a tool that human beings created for other human beings. As a result, it’s up to you to create your own constraints for analysis. You choose your terms. You choose the questions you want to answer. You choose the techniques that you want to deploy. You’re in control.

Here are three tips to help you wrangle your next report.

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The Simulated Startup: Meet the Innovative Startups Inside Mammoth Companies

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MasterCard employee demonstrates ShopThis! with MasterPass which will allow consumers to buy products directly from Intel’s Virtual Shopping Experience – a fully interactive 3-D virtual fitting room app at MasterCard’s Innovation Showcase event.

“Agile methodology,” “failing fast,” “pivoting”—all concepts commonly used in startups—are increasingly being put to work inside the walls of large, well-established companies. This is because executives at Fortune 500 companies have realized that the natural limitations that face startups—limitations on time and financial resources—can actually be boons, resulting in fresh ideas and fast execution.

So a handful of large public companies, including General Electric (GE) and MasterCard, have created startups within their own mammoth companies. In 2013, GE created FastWorks, an internal startup entity. Its mission was to develop products using the “lean startup” approach, codified by Eric Ries in his book, The Lean Startup. (This means constantly experimenting and regularly getting feedback from customers to avoid building products that customers don’t want.)

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Why Entrepreneurs Should Learn Design Skills

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As an entrepreneur, one of the most important investments I make is in my own learning. Having spent a year running a content marketing consultancy, I’ve learned more than I ever would have imagined about my clients’ pain points, the legalities of growing a new venture, and even accounting.

Across all of these disciplines, I’ve noticed the following the trend — that with the proliferation of data and the pace at which information moves, information is becoming increasingly more difficult to communicate.

For years, I thought that learning to code would give me a competitive edge as a founder. I’ve been self-teaching principles of data science and programming for years, to the extent that I can confidently work with developers. When my CTO Justin joined my team as co-founder, however, I came to a touch realization: I was wasting both of our time by figuring out how to become an “expert programmer.” 

The best way to increase my value as an entrepreneur would be to learn design.

Here’s why. Continue reading