My knowledge management and communications internship at KCIC oftentimes affords me some very cool experiences- such as getting to be a part of the ClimateLaunchpad (CLP) Boot Camp. While I was primarily there to tweet, in the process I learned so much about entrepreneurship and met some very inspiring individuals working to combat climate change, one startup at a time.
ClimateLaunchpad is a competition to help aspiring entrepreneurs grow their green ideas into global businesses. Before the national and global finals, each participating country completes a 2-day Boot Camp for selected participants. In Kenya, the Boot Camp was held here at KCIC.
These two days were essentially a rigorous training for participants to develop their business strategies and learn the ins and outs of launching a startup- everything from the pitch to market research to types of finance. It was led by Frans Nauta, a Dutch researcher and lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business and founder of CLP as well as Climate-KIC Startup Accelerator.
The Boot Camp provided a lot of practical assistance and relevant exercises for the entrepreneurs to partake in. While much discourse on entrepreneurship tends to focus heavily on the importance of the “idea” and passion, Mr. Nauta emphasized that the only thing one needs to start a business is a paying customer. However, as the main reason why startups fail is due to a discrepancy in the team’s vision, participants had to delineate with their co-founders the specific, quantifiable goals for the company- making sure they were in agreement about them.
The next challenge, of course, is how to get a paying customer. One of the first steps is to choose a “beachhead market” and do research on potential customers. A beachhead market is essentially narrowing down one’s entry market to a small enough segment which will allow the company to be a significant player- but still large enough to make money.
Participants then learned how to conduct interviews with potential clients. It was interesting to learn that most people will not give you honest feedback in such interviews; to get truthful answers, it’s best to ask questions involving frequency, details, current solutions (how the customer is solving the problem now), and past experiences- as opposed to vague “would” questions about the future. The “Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick was brought out. If you asked your mom the question, would she lie to you? If so, then it’s not a good question.
Mr. Nauta imparted some advice on pricing. First of all, it is much easier to decrease your price than to increase it. Many entrepreneurs usually price their good or service by simply adding the cost of production including profit (“cost-plus” pricing). However, Mr. Nauta recommended taking into account the value you are creating for the customer (how much they are able to profit from your product), which might be higher than the “cost-plus” price. Additionally, there is the psychological effect of an item being too cheap and the customer thinking it is due to inferior quality.
The Boot Camp ended with each entrepreneur giving a 5-minute presentation pitching their business and getting feedback. It was inspiring to not only hear about all of the innovative ideas but to see the fleshed-out business plans that they were able to create in the two days. Hopefully, the winner of the Global Grand Final will be someone who was in the room. Last year’s winner came from Kenya- being the first to bring ClimateLaunchpad to Africa, the country has a lot to live up to.
By Alise Brillault