By John Comberiate
Sustainability, green technology and community impact are all hot right now. It’s easy to promote these ideas in business and agree that they’re important. What’s not easy is actually implementing new business plans devoted to them. Taking it a step further, it’s even harder to train the next generation of entrepreneurs so that they have the knowledge, skills and direction to make it happen. At last week’s StartUp Scramble D.C. University Challenge, a frantic three day event for young entrepreneurs, this important need was successfully met.
The idea of the Scramble was to take a coalition of young business enthusiasts from DC area universities (American, Catholic, George Mason, Georgetown, Howard, George Washington and the University of Maryland), lock them in a building with consultants and advisers and churn out detailed plans for sustainable startups. The goal was to start with dreams and forge them through the difficult process of refining and retooling until a clear, elaborate and concise plan of action was produced.
Led by Stephen Douglass of Young Impact and Stephanie Potter of Ashoka’s Youth Venture, the StartUp Scramble featured speeches from startup owners who have been on the ground floor, such as Sean Tuohey, founder of PeacePlayers International, and Tyler Spencer of The Grassroot Project. There was a skill session from CEO of iStrategyLabs, Peter Corbett, and a pitch session from Global Youth Fund founder Charles Tsai. The process moved from creating an idea and gathering teammates to working with consultants from Touchstone and presenting a ‘dirty pitch’ in front of a panel of MBA judges. Finally, an intense period of reassessment and reworking culminated with a final pitch for an opportunity to win funding.
The real value of the process was the experience gained and lessons learned by the students about the process of creating a sustainable business. In their original description, almost universally, each group listed among their needs things like social media, a website and grants for funding. At the end of the weekend, students had put together milestones, metrics, and revenue sources in their plan, so they knew what steps to take next, how to measure their progress and how they were going to earn the money needed to make it happen.
Often overlooked when new ideas heat up in business is how to develop the infrastructure behind making them happen. This is understandable, considering the undertaking involved to turn the idea into a reality. The StartUp Scramble accomplished this by breaking up the task in a new and exciting way, knocking apart the barriers to entry and putting the entrepreneurs of the future right into the mix.
John Comberiate is a first year MBA student in the Accelerated Part-Time track at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School. Working as a blogger and as member of Toastmasters International, he is developing the skills needed to spread the word about Social Value creation occurring in the world and how people can get involved.