[notice title=”The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem (EE) helps develop new ventures at the University of Alabama and surrounding community.”][/notice]
The plant stage is focused on helping give your idea roots in the marketplace by (1) idea validation, (2) idea proof-of-concept, and (3) initial market assessment. Idea validation is utilized to help determine if your initial hypotheses regarding the customer problem/need, the solution, and types of potential customers are correct. The focus is on determining what specifically about your idea helps to solve a high-value customer problem. Additionally, it is important to distinguish potential customers, who have the power to make decisions, from potential users. There are several on-campus activities like the Crimson Start-up Canvas program along with workshops and seminars each semester to help you better validate your idea.
Once more detailed information has been determined, proof-of-concept of your idea is a great next step. The focus should be on a minimum viable product (MVP), which is a rough, somewhat tangible representation of your idea (such as a wireframe of a website, a rough prototype drawing, etc.). This stage helps to determine whether your idea meets a need in the market and if so, what an initial offering could look like based on consumer feedback. Information gathered here helps to define your target market and understand the size of the opportunity. Once you have determined that your idea meets a customer need and you have a MVP, a market assessment is used to dive deeper into the market your offering will be in. Performing a market assessment allows you to establish the market’s driving forces, key features, competitors, intellectual property/regulation requirements, and other information that is of value to your market entry strategy. The entrepreneurial ecosystem has several support services that can help those within the Plant Stage such as: Crimson Start-up Canvas, Entrepreneurs-In-Residence, 3D Printing Services, and workshops and seminars.
The nurture stage helps to develop your idea to an actual offering through (1) prototype development, (2) formation of an advisory board, and (3) identification of a management team. Once your idea’s potential has been shaped by the plant stage, prototyping your idea can provide additional feedback on features, uses, and price points. The goal is to develop a functional prototype from which you can obtain customer feedback, benchmark against competitors, and determine necessary features for market entry. AIME is a great resource to utilize for prototype development.
To assist you in areas where you lack expertise, the entrepreneurial ecosystem can help by connecting you with local professionals with the help of the Tuscaloosa Business Alliance and The University of Alabama Alumni. These professionals can be used to form an advisory board if you plan to establish a start-up company. Additionally, if you feel that you may need assistance on the management team, the entrepreneurial ecosystem can aid in the identification of entrepreneurs that may be interested in further commercializing your idea.
The cultivate stage supports the movement of your idea to the marketplace through (1) assistance in development of initial company pitch, (2) formation of a start-up company, and (3) securing start-up funding. The entrepreneurial ecosystem can help to develop you and your management team’s pitch and refine it to assist in securing funding. Once you plant to raise funding to further your idea, it is important to form a company through the appropriate channels. Each business type i.e. sole proprietorship, limited liability company, corporation, etc. have advantages and disadvantages. To help achieve the last hurdle of transition to the marketplace, start-up funding is needed. The entrepreneurial ecosystem leverages the Entrepreneurs-In-Residence, The University of Alabama Advisory Board, and the Bama Technology Incubator to propel your idea forward.