Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Five Useful FREE Tools for Entrepreneurial Innovators

We recently introduced the MIN-Corps Toolbox of resources for technology commercialization and entrepreneurship.  Here are five especially useful tools for entrepreneurial innovators:

  1. Value Proposition Design Canvas – What, exactly, are your potential customers trying to achieve?  What are the pains and gains associated with those “jobs?” The Value Proposition Design Canvas tool, developed by Alex Osterwalder and fully explained in this book, is a structured way to lay it all out. 
  2. Talking to Humans – You don’t know if you have product-market fit unless actually ask potential customers.  But whom do you contact, how do you contact them, and what do you ask? This e-book, by Giff Constable is a down-to-earth, practical guide to customer discovery. 
  3. Canvanizer – Having a great value proposition is just the beginning.  As Alex Osterwalder explained in the Business Model Generation book, you also need to define the overall business model – how you will do business and how you will make money.  This web tool, originally developed by German entrepreneurs for the Nuremberg Startup Weekend, allows geographically dispersed teams to brainstorm their hypotheses for all nine boxes in the business model canvas.
  4. Kauffman Founders School – The Kauffman Foundation is a large ($2 billion) philanthropy that has focused for the past fifty years on two priorities:  education and entrepreneurship.  One of their more visible programs is 1 Million Cups, which is a program for entrepreneurs all over the world to present their startups to their local counterparts for feedback, insights and mutual support.  They also have been building an incredible video archive and blog where experts give specific, practical advice on multiple topics, from financing to recruiting a board of directors to scaling up a venture, and much more.  It’s a great just-in-time resource.
  5. Steve Blank’s Website – The godfather of the Lean LaunchPad movement has an incredibly rich website that shares his disparate interests, insights and activities.  It’s cluttered, but full of useful information – Blank is on a mission and therefore makes materials broadly and freely available.  Especially look at the Slides/Videos tab and the Startup Tools tab.