The Value Behind a Great Workshop

Early in July I was invited by Battery Ventures to attend one of the best workshops I have ever participated in – “Entrepreneurship & New Ventures” conducted by Professor Danny Warshay. I got an opportunity to be part of a group of 30 talented people – CEOs, founders, marketers and consultants. We all had different backgrounds and different life stories, but all we share a common goal: to do things differently and to set our own path. During an intense 2 days we were taken for well-crafted ride of different aspects of entrepreneurship with an emphasis on the VC world.

The chance to share insights around the table and learn from each other’s experience was a unique one. Since Geoffrey has already reviewed much of the content of the workshop in his great post, I’d like to touch briefly on two of the softer takeaways I got from this seminar: crafting the value proposition and the importance of information gathering.

What’s Your Value Proposition?

Your idea is great, really. It’s innovative, one of a kind, but…

  • Who is it good for?
  • Why does the market need it?
  • What are you really selling?

Capturing the essence of the idea and creating real value isn’t easy. We tend many times to run and develop ideas without taking the time to sit down and focus. Funny enough, with some of my projects, this is one of the hardest question for clients to answer and where we end up spending a lot of time together producing great, sometimes surprising, results.

There are many ways to think of the value proposition and to come up with it. I like crafting a sentence or two which answers the main questions above. Danny presented a simple model which includes the Value Proposition (What, Who Why) on the bottom, the business model on top of it (How) and the business strategy as the cherry on top (Where, When). This is a great way not only to focus on the value proposition but also to distill your positioning and differentiate it from the rest.

Don’t forget that your value proposition is not your positioning statement. It’s very easy to confuse the two. Just as an example, recently Danny and I had a great discussion about the need to mention your competition in your value proposition. For example: “Unlike… we…”. This is a great example of the difference between the value proposition and the positioning statement – the latter should probably not trash the competition, but your value proposition should take notice of it for sure. But that’s already enough for a completely different post.

Information Gathering – How much do you know?

A couple of months ago I sat down with a struggling startup I am working with and asked them a simple question: “How would you define the market you’re in?”. The answer was “ummmm…”. They were right. With the data they had at hand, it was a tough question.

As with the value proposition, we often tend to focus on the idea and less on the market. Danny noted an important point – that most companies are OK at processing secondary information (industry researches, web) but it’s indeed the primary information that’s missing. Primary information comes from moving away from the computers, talking to people, to your potential customers.

When I was at modu, we did this – behaved like an anthropologist, studied behaviors and tried to get relevant information from it. We got so much from it and I have to say we had a blast. (Tzachi Weisfeld recently presented some of this in a great presentation at ILPMA.

The most important thing about gathering primary information is that it doesn’t only answer the question of which market you’re in, it can really change the way you do business. We tend to follow in our own paths so much that we neglect to look around us and learn: “examine, discover and validate”. (You can read and listen more about bottom-up research here).

Back to the Workshop

You might ask yourself – so why the #$%@ are you telling us about this workshop, 3 months later? Well, like many other things, even if you feel like you got a lot of value from something at day-one, you sometimes get the most value over time. This is exactly one of those cases.

Thanks to Danny for his consent to share his stuff and provide inputs for this post.

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