Introduction

Launch offers an overview of the early stage considerations that a small businesses needs to be aware of when bringing a product or service to market.

This module offers an overview of the early stage that a small businesses needs to consider when bringing a product or service to market. The module is intended to provide a reference framework for small business owners. Every business will follow a slightly different path, but all businesses will need to consider these activities at some time before they enter the market:

• Vision development;
• Customer Discovery and how to do it;
• How to Create a Value Proposition;
• Business Models;
• What Intellectual Property management is;
• The Importance of team development ;
• Leadership; and
• Early Stage Financing basics.

Lesson 1

Vision

This lesson provides an introduction on how a problem faced by customers in the marketplace can help create a lasting mission and vision for your company.

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Understand why great ideas need a vision behind them
  • Define the problem you want to solve and why it is important in the eyes of the customer;
  • Understand why you want to solve a certain problem and how defining the problem will help with your customer identification
  • Understand the importance of creating a vision for your company and
  • Distinguish the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement.

Articles
Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Tools
Roman Pichler’s Product Vision Board
This tool is used to help describe, visualise, and validate your product vision and your product strategy. This includes elements of your competitors, revenue sources, cost factors, and channels.

Lesson 2

Customer Discovery

The purpose of customer discovery is to identify the customer’s problem, from their perspective not yours.

This results in building a solution that integrates their feedback and has the functions or services that addresses their needs. This lesson walks you through the key stages of customer discovery and highlights the importance of using this data to create a strategy for your company and product or service.

By the end of this lesson you should be able to:

  • Define the stages of customer discovery;
  • Understand the types of questions to ask during the discovery stage; and
  • Use the data you have gathered to create future strategic plans.

Articles
Customer Discovery Program by Steve Blank
This program teaches best practices on the first phase of customer discovery – testing a problem and assessing its importance through a series of exercises.

Customer Development Manifesto by Steve Blank
This manifesto lays out principals to keep in mind in the customer development process.

Customer discovery and the Customer Development Model
This article is from MaRS Library and provides a description on how to create a succinct value proposition

Tools
MaRS Customer Interview Tracking Sheet 
This is an Excel spreadsheet that provides a template to track the results of customer interviews as you collect knowledge about their problems and your value.

The Venture Design Framework – Customer Development, Personas, Customer Interviews by Alexander Cowan
The Venture Design framework offers systematic process that helps you focus on understanding the customer through developing personas, understanding their problems, how your product adds value to them and iterating upon this process to fine tune your product-market fit.

Customer Development Labs
This exercise teaches you how to interview customers, including developing appropriate questions to gather the data you need.

Books
The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank

Lesson 3

Value Proposition

As small business market discovery activities start to take shape, one of the most important considerations becomes the determination of the company’s value proposition.
This lesson discusses how to build a strong value proposition that your customers will respond to and how to use the value chain to develop a strong value proposition.

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Define what a value proposition is
  • Understand an entrepreneur’s challenge when creating a value proposition
  • Identify the buying process
  • Utilize a framework for developing your value proposition

Articles
How to Write a Great Value Proposition [Infographic] by Lindsay Kolowich

Tools
Roman Pichler’s Product VisionValue Proposition Canvas by Strategyzer
A simple way to understand your customer’s needs, and design products and services they want. It works in conjunction with the Business Model Canvas.

Business Model Canvas by Strategyzer
A global standard used by millions of people in companies of all sizes. You can use the canvas to describe, design, challenge, and pivot your business model. It works in conjunction with the Value Proposition Canvas.

Crafting Your Value Proposition from the MaRS Library
A workbook that covers more beyond the Value Proposition Canvas, including customer interviews and developing your Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

Lesson 4

Business Model

Business Model This lesson shows the importance of creating a business model that can be clearly linked back to your value proposition. You will need to create and communicate a business model that clearly demonstrates your idea and why someone would want to invest or lend you money to bring it to life.

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Define what a business model is
  • Identify methods for developing your business model
  • Distinguish between a business model and a revenue model
  • Define what a revenue model is
  • Identify challenges with developing a pricing strategy

Articles
Cost-Based Pricing from Boundless.com

Tools
Business Model Canvas by Strategyzer A global standard used by millions of people in companies of all sizes. You can use the canvas to describe, design, challenge, and pivot your business model. It works in conjunction with the Value Proposition Canvas. 

Business Model Design Workbook from the MaRS Library A more detailed approach to developing a Business Model Canvas with further explanation.” Why value-based pricing works best by Mark Stiving How to set and capture a price through the use of value-based pricing techniques.

Lesson 5

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property refers to any creation of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Often people will call intellectual property “IP”.
Intellectual property is protectable by law (e.g. patents, copyright and trademarks), which enable small businesses and / or individuals to earn recognition and / or financial benefit from the idea.

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Understand what intellectual property is
  • Define various types of intellectual property
  • Identify the motivations for developing an intellectual property strategy

Articles
What is Intellectual Property? from the World Intellectual Property Organization

Tools
Identifying Your Intellectual Property from the MaRS Library
This workbook guide focuses on helping your team identify the IP that your company potentially owns. With a clear understanding of your IP inventory, you will be able to leverage the maximum value from your IP assets.

Lesson 6

Team

The people aspect involved in bringing a product or service to market is one of the most critical for developing an idea into a viable business. It is important to ensure small businesses have the skills and human resources needed not only to successfully bring a product or service to market, but also to give investors’ confidence that the business can achieve their goals.

In this lesson we will discuss the importance of building a strong team that can execute on your vision.

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify how to build an effective team
  • Identify important skills of an effective team
  • Define the importance of culture to an organization
  • Distinguish how cash flow and compensation impact team dynamics

Articles
Incorporating Competencies in Recruitment from the MaRS Library
This provides insight into how to incorporate competencies into your startup’s recruitment process, including defining the key competencies and recruitment considerations.

Compensation
Useful advice for how to address common compensation-based questions.

Tools
Create a Skills Matrix from Project Management for Dummies
The Skills Matrix is used to confirm the skills, knowledge, and interest of your team members, as well as their interest in working on assignments using these skills and knowledge. The Skills Matrix is useful for helping a leader think about strengths and weaknesses for employees, to help assign tasks to get best results.

Job Analysis Worksheet from Score
A template to assist with writing up a job description and keeping track of notes for hiring negotiations, but not as targeted towards ongoing performance management.

DiSC Personality Profile Assessment
An assessment tool that can be used to identify team member’s behavioural tendencies.

Lesson 7

Leadership

Leadership is critical for developing an idea into a viable business. The leadership team is the group who will implement your business’ vision. In this lesson we will look at how to leverage leaders’ skills to create a more competitive business.

By the end of this lesson you should be able to:

  • Define what leadership is
  • Understand what leadership skills and background are needed for effective leaders, and
  • Understand the different roles leadership can take

Articles
Startup Team Symmetry by StartupBiz.com
Useful article outlining a framework for determining the composition of the founding team, including summary descriptions of each role.

Early Stage Tech Boards by – David Rowat
A comprehensive website to assist directors and managers of early-stage technology companies to develop and operate high performing Boards of Directors.

Governance from the MaRS Library
Advice on selecting a Board of Directors and Board of Advisors.

How to build and manage a Board from Seedcamp
Tips on why and how to build an early-stage Board, as well as key considerations for Board meetings.

Running a Board Meeting from Forbes
Advice from lessons learned on running board meetings, including logistics and presentations.

Anatomy of a Tech Startup Team written by Emily Bonnie
Useful infographic explaining the structure of a software startup.

Tools
Entrepreneur Potential Self-Assessment Tool by BDC
An assessment tool to identify and assess team and leadership skill potential. Results in a report compilation designated into four categories: Concerns, Motivations, Aptitudes, and Attitudes.

Create a Skills Matrix from Project Management for Dummies
The Skills Matrix is used to confirm the skills, knowledge, and interest of your team members, as well as their interest in working on assignments using these skills and knowledge. The Skills Matrix is useful for helping a leader think about strengths and weaknesses for employees, to help assign tasks to get best results.

DiSC Personality Profile Assessment
An assessment tool that can be used to identify leaders behavioural tendencies.

 
Lesson 8

Early Stage Financing

When a small business is starting out, there are many, many sources of financing available to it. The focus of this lesson will be on three common early stage financing options: bootstrapping, friends and family, and angel investors.

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Understand the main sources of early stage financing
  • Identify where to raise money from

Articles
Startup finance from the MaRS Library
A catalogue of resources on how to deliver an effective pitch, understand a term sheet and raise money.

How to Fund a Startup written by Paul Graham
Guidance to build understanding on start-up funding, from friends and family to venture capital.

Tools
Introduction to Investment Readiness from the MaRS Library
An online course to assist with investment readiness as you organize your seed fundraising round.

Angel Group Website Links
NACO
Invest-Tech
VA Angels

 

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