Bulgarian Young Leaders Program

Summer Entrepreneurship Program 2014

WEEK 5: Final Learnings & Last Pitch in NYC

Sunday, August 3

California Dreaming: Thinking BIG and Leveraging your Team

Module 3 began with participants hitting the ground running at the beautiful Babson campus in downtown San Francisco, California where they met with their main Babson faculty member and mentor, Jim Poss, an entrepreneur himself, who is also the founder of the innovative and eco-friendly waste management product, Big Belly Solar

On their first day, they were given the context of thinking big in order to understand the deeply rooted entrepreneurial spirit and mentality that Silicon Valley is famous for throughout the world. They learned how to maximize opportunities and align them with the best business models that provide the highest scalability.

Lastly, teams met individually met with Jim to develop a strategy for market research while in the San Francisco area as well as improve specific parts of their business models.

Monday, August 4

Understanding the Revenue Side & the Cost Model

On Monday, participants began by picking apart the CircleLending case—a business led by a very promising entrepreneur that promised to solve many pains and meet demands in informal lending, yet required a painstaking and remarkable amount of fundraising in order to stay afloat and eventually become profitable. From the case, students learned valuable lessons on revenue models, viability, the importance of the team, and networking, especially in the context of fundraising. 

After a savory meal at the Thirsty Bear with Babson faculty and IIE staff, participants ventured into San Francisco to conduct market research in venture-idea specific locations including the Moscone Center, the Haight, and the Academy of Art.

Tuesday, August 5

Learning about the startup culture in Silicon Valley

Babson faculty brought the SEP teams full circle today by “triangulating” the key components of the business model: expenses, revenues, and fundraising. Where there were doubts or questions raised, participants learned how to “plug holes” with answers that “held water.”

The students learned how to strategize fundraising and which fundraising options work best for specific stages of development.  Afterwards, teams had a workshop to help improve their stories within their pitches, for example, how to present the problem better as well as their solution or how to engage the prospective investor to perceive them as the solution holders of the problems they present.   

To wrap the day, participants were privileged to pick the minds of Northern California’s “IP Super Lawyer,” Richard Horning, as well as entrepreneur and former associate director of Stanford University’s leading research technology teams, Henrik Bennetsen.

Wednesday, August 6

Finding the Perfect Pitch, Verizon Innovation Center & Dropbox Visits

In preparation for their last day at Babson San Francisco, students gave one last round of pitches to Babson faculty in order to make any necessary last minute changes.

Afterwards, they visited the Verizon Innovation Center (VIC). At VIC, participants were encouraged to reach for the sky and think outside the box as they saw firsthand how wireless (cellular) technology was integrated it into things unlike phones—delivering solutions in transportation, health care, green energy, education, wearable computing, and much more. Big Belly Solar is a prime example of the many solutions VIC has helped bring to market by quickly integrating sensors and mobile technology into its solution, delivering access to network coverage and the ability to quickly and reliably exchange significant amounts of data.  

The adventurous afternoon provided an opportunity to discover Runway, located in the same building as Twitter and Yammer headquarters. Runway is home to approximately 70 startups in San Francisco. Since its opening in 2013, four startups have already been acquired. Participants learned about the value of an open space office, and how it physically stimulates more collaboration.

They day concluded with a visit to DropboxDropbox is a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily. Dropbox was founded in 2007 by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, two MIT students tired of emailing files to themselves to work from more than one computer.

Today, more than 300 million people across every continent use Dropbox to always have their stuff at hand, share with family and friends, and work on team projects. 

Bulgarians are taking over Silicon Valley!

Thursday, August 7

VC Pitching, SF Graduation, & Big Belly Solar

After a long four weeks, participants were ready to pitch their final venture presentations to investors. The panel of judges was intimidating, as they were all well experienced with venture capitalism, especially in Silicon Valley.

The judges included:

Richard Allan Horning: Mr. Horning has been representing technology companies in Silicon Valley and globally since 1970. He specializes in counseling high technology companies in all stages of development on domestic and international issues, including securing, protecting and licensing intellectual property rights. He gave great feedback to venture teams about possible patent and litigation challenges they may run into.

Will Bunker: Mr. Bunker is an accomplished entrepreneur and investor, co-founding One-and-Only.com in late 1995. He and his partners grew the company into the largest online dating site and eventually sold the firm to TicketMaster-City Search for $45 million in June of 1999. Soon after, the company was rebranded as Match.com. Mr. Bunker gave great feedback to teams regarding growth and exit strategies.

Paul Weinstein:  Mr. Weinstein has over 25 years of investment experience across numerous sectors of technology. Paul’s primary investment focus is on communications technology, data center, cloud infrastructure and applications and mobility solutions. Mr. Weinstein gave feedback to the teams from an VC´s point of view, including questions about the financials.

Gene Ramirez: Mr. Ramirez has advised technology clients on more than 75 public and private financings, and mergers and acquisitions representing over $5 billion in transaction value. In addition, he has founded two software companies of which one was sold to Oracle in 2002. Mr. Ramirez also gave inquisitive feedback revolving venture concept and customer acquisition.

Billy Draper: Billy Draper is a 4th-generation venture capitalist working at Draper Associates, a Silicon Valley-based firm with a focus on seed-stage companies. He looks for early-stage companies, both consumer and enterprise, that provide transparency and clarity to industries that are historically very slow-moving and inefficient. 

The day ended with a case study on BigBelly Solar, including a visit to see a BigBelly right in Fisherman´s Wharf in San Francisco. BigBelly Solar transforms one of the least efficient and resource-intensive industries on the planet — waste collection. Solar panels on top of the Big Belly Solar trash receptacles produce energy to compact trash as items are placed in the container, and through data reports and analysis, municipalities can learn how often they need to collect trash and recyclables and which spots are the busiest. Participants learned of how Jim Poss helped to start BigBelly Solar, the challenges he ran into, and how he went about receiving funding.                                                                         

Drawing Inspiration from Bulgarian Stanford Alumni

Pushing the Limits: 3D Scanning at Singularity University

Friday, August 8

A Journey through The Valley—Silicon Valley

The morning began by exploring the offices of Google SF and learning about their newest department, “Google for Entrepreneurs.” Google for Entrepreneurs partners with startup communities and builds campuses where entrepreneurs can learn, connect, and create companies that will change the world. The participants learned about different startup networks in Bulgaria associated with Google for Entrepreneurs and were encouraged to connect with them, such as StartUP Conference NEXT, StartUp Weekend, and Startup Grind.

Next, they visited Singularity University at the NASA Ames Research Park in Palo Alto. The visit taught the participants to push the limits and to dream even past the available technology today. The Singularity Lab was especially interesting as participants were able to test breakthrough technologies such as Google Glass, Oculus Rift virtual headset, as well as a 3D printing and scanning.

Participants then met with Bulgarian Stanford alumni at Stanford Graduate School of Business where they did quick pitches and received more invaluable feedback on both their venture ideas and pitching skills. They also learned about the Bulgarian community in the Bay Area.

The day ended with a Bulgarian Startup Mixer nearby where participants had a chance to use their networking skills and meet fellow Bulgarians who were once (or still are) in their shoes. It was inspiring for them to meet others with similar backgrounds, proving yet again that they, too, can do anything if they set their mind to it!

Saturday, August 9

Leaving our Hearts in San Francisco, a Farewell 

Students enjoyed their final day in San Francisco by taking in the sights. Some went biking all the way to Sausalito and Tiburon, while others went to the majestic forest of Muir Woods. Many also enjoyed Lombard Street and taking fun poses near or on the Golden Gate Bridge. The day of exploration ended with a memorable sunset cruise around the San Francisco Bay filled with good eats, music, and bonding. 

Monday, July 28: Understanding your Industry and Competitors & How to Negotiate

Participants learned how startups can disrupt industries by “blowing up the box.” In particular, they  examined the case of Uber and how it has changed the taxi transportation industry. Companies such as Uber have managed to stay at the forefront of the industry and pave the way for other similar companies.

Participants looked at their competitors and analyzed what opportunities and problems may exist within a competitive environment.

Concluding with a negotiation workshop, participants paired up and negotiated the famous “Sally Soprano” sample contract exercise and learned that no matter which side of the contract they are on, each side has negotiation power and their needs are not always incentivized by money. In the end, everyone made a deal!

Tuesday, July 29: Venture Financing and Determining the Positioning Strategy 

      On Tuesday, participants learned about the different ways to finance a venture idea. They also learned about ¨pre and post money, more specifically, how the venture might be valuated both before and after capital infusion.

      Additionally, they learned how to determine a value proposition by plotting out the target customer, points of differences, categories, and reasons to buy. They examined the possible implications stemming from positioning and how to choose target segments within a competitive market.

      Teams concluded the day by consulting with their mentors to discuss their revenue models and financial projections, which would later be included in their final pitch presentations.