Business 101.1 NYU ITP: Values, Value Proposition, and The Future of Business

We recently covered competing value proposition mental models as they relate to The Business Model Canvas and Lean Startup.

We also took a pause to uncover the core motivations, values, and inherent friction in starting a social purpose-driven company.

And customer relationships, customer channels, and running your first test:


Personas, TAM/SAM/TM

Business 101.1 for ITP, Gallatin, Journalism, School of Professional Studies.

You’ll find the current team formation topics and people as of today 9/19/2016.

Contact Jen or Josh with any team changes – or reflect your changes next week.

6 core teams and recent changes in direction:

Fragrances Uber for Yoga

Prisons Social Community for Designers

Ergonomic Furniture

Assistive Tech – Colostomy Bag Assistive Tech, also Mental Health Provider Finder for LGBTQ

Fashion Social Enterprise

Social Listening Metrics Tattoo Artist Match

See you all next Monday


NYU ITP Business 101.1 Innovation + Entrepreneurship

NYU ITP Fall Semester

This course is about understanding the levers that drive business, and learning how to turn them into your favor.

You will learn through experience and work in teams to develop a concept from the generation of an idea to launch or market test. 


Warning: the course involves a field work commitment of 5-6 hours per team per week. Much of the work of business model innovation is done outside of the classroom, in direct observation and conversation with your potential customers. The primary focus of the course is the work of developing your network capital – building connections with potential customers, partners, investors, and subject matter experts to help define opportunities that the concept is designed to solve, and early stage product development. A strong component of individual leadership development is built into the course- for students to identify your core values, and to work in teams to co-create a vision for your project, or your business.

We’ll bring the best thinking and methods from MBA school, Lean Startup, Design Thinking, Business Model Canvas, Innovation Accounting, Social Impact Entrepreneurship, Leadership Development, and Agile Methodology.

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So You Want to Control Your Own Destiny, Do You?

Founder motivations and control for impact entrepreneurs

Lean Startup  is great for finding scale opportunities, quickly, You make assumptions, discover your customer needs, run some tests, and you can quickly get feedback that you’re either on the right track, or need to start again.

Yet one thing that tends to stop founders from even asking the right questions in the first place is the reason why they are starting a business.

Why are you doing what you are doing? What’s your motivation?

I like to ask this question of very new founders. I got to ask this question twice last week:  at NYC Media Lab’s kickoff of their intensive customer discovery program, The Combine, and at in my two week Lean class at NYU ITP.

There are two basic patterns in the answers – and often the two answers coming from the same founders:

1] I want autonomy. I don’t want anyone looking over my shoulder. I want to control my own destiny.

2]  I want to see my technology/product/service reach as many people as possible (only a few publicly admit to seeking wealth but will acknowledge this in private).

Yet these two motivations set up a dilemma, The Founder’s Dilemma, to be precise, as researched by Noam Wasserman. A Harvard Business School professor, Wasserman studied tens of thousands of companies to understand founder motivations and the high rates of entrepreneurial failure.

He found that entrepreneurs often make choices that do not maximize their wealth.Founders are often torn between wanting to control their company, and wanting to grow their company.

“The need to negotiate a trade-off between wealth and control, between building financial value and maintaining a grip on the steering wheel… founders’ early choices can have delayed and unexpected but significant effects, sometimes because natural inclinations such as passion, optimism and conflict avoidance lead to shortsighted decisions.”   – Noam Wasserman

In Wasserman’s analysis, you can aim to be “King” – seeking complete control over your company, self-funding and maximizing your ownership stake. Or you can aim to be “Rich”  – seeking external investment, and sharing equity to attract and motivate cofounders and employees. Control-oriented companies tend to achieve well below their potential because they fail to attract capital, and also fail to attract strong co-founders and world-class employees.

Meanwhile, founders seeking to build for financial value have a higher hit rate for reaching their potential.

I’ve loved Wasserman’s work ever since I read the findings of his early research. I’m a recovering control freak and have learned how my own desire for control has limited my upside.

But I’ve been struggling with Wasserman’s Rich Verses King concept when working with a the new crop of impact entrepreneurs. These are founders who want to grow and scale their businesses, but they have defined a core purpose beyond financial outcomes. They want to help people. They want to restore the planet.

Rich v. King


When we talk about the Rich vs. King dilemma, they want to consciously choose King. The path of Rich means making decisions oriented towards maximizing wealth. Yet these founders find this goal tantamount to greed, which they define as the root cause of much of the capital industrial system they aim to disrupt and unwind.

More critically, they fear the motives of investors who may not share their same values, or who may want them to simply maximize shareholder value, and not seek a social impact goal. They are researching B-Corp status, LC3, and even considering not-for-profit structures in order to protect their mission, and vision from the likes of misaligned investors.

When we break it down further, these impact entrepreneurs do not follow the classic control pattern. They are open and willing to attract strong equity-sharing co-founders, and want to give decision rights and control to employees. Specifically it’s the fear of investors who want a different outcome that limits their growth. They tend to self-fund and bootstrap, and aim for a corner of their market, rather than go for the biggest possible impact.

The double dilemma of the impact entrepreneur

The desire to control the destiny of the company leads to avoiding external funding, which limits the company’s potential. Impact entrepreneurs settle for a smaller corner of a market, a known problem, and may even compete with non profits in the space. More critically, they fail to make the big, disruptive shifts that would manifest the world they want to see.

“The best problems to work on are often the ones nobody else tries to solve.” – Peter Thiel, Zero to One.

What’s the way out of this? My cynical, Wall Street self says, “That’s the way business works. The spoils go to those who seize the power, and maximize for their personal wealth. The markets are geared to find the most efficient financial returns.” But my meditation-and-yoga-practice-self sees a new possibility.

We are witnessing a grassroots movement of entrepreneurs, globally, seeking to contribute to a  better world, by creating a business. They are motivated by the act of creation, they want to be connected to their community, and to the world.

There will always be enough money to chase wealth maximizing business ideas. But my bet is that we’ll see a new form of capital, with more evolved expectations.

We we can hope for: We can encourage impact entrepreneurs to aim big. To go after those problems we can’t figure out how to solve. To back these high potential, high impact companies to private investors with aligned values. We can see a future where high impact companies get the backing and support they need to grow and attract the best talent. To trust that giving up control will lead to the greatest outcome. We may then become clear about what it truly means to flourish and prosper.

Lean at ITP Workshop 2016

Changing to a workshop format this year to scale it up!

What: Lean @ ITP
When: Two weeks in January, 11-22
Location: NYU ITP 421 Waverly 4th Floor

Lean ITP

We embrace a creative, iterative, and collaborative approach to making things — but launching a product out into the world takes a somewhat different set of skills. How does one make sure people want to use what they make? How does one figure out how to support an idea with the right business structure? Is the idea strong enough to turn into a job — or a career? Enter Lean at NYU ITP – the experiential workshop in entrepreneurship.  (Please note:  this is a non-credit opportunity, it does not provide degree credit toward the ITP degree).

Who is this for: any student who wants to pursue a path to entrepreneurship, or work in an entrepreneurial company.

Format: 2 intense but fun-filled weeks in January with daily 1.5 hour orientation sessions and feedback each day, followed by outside in field ethnography and customer research.

Fee: Cost for the workshop: $200. Student fees will be pooled into a prototyping and marketing experiment fund – to run those first critical tests on the path to user growth and revenue. The fund will be made available to those student teams that show focus, commitment, and progress towards understanding their customer.

Modeled after Steve Blank’s Lean LaunchPad and the NYU Summer
LaunchPad Accelerator, we are applying the curriculum developed at
Stanford and Berkeley for the NYU community. This workshop has been
developed with support from the NYU Entrepreneurship Initiative, and
aims at mixing the best of the methods from the Lean LaunchPad
methodology with the spirit of ITP’s emphasis on exploring the
imaginative use of technology to augment people’s lives.Over a two week program in January, student teams participate in an
iterative approach to startup development, a combination of customer
development + business model design + personal exploration to
determine the most viable business scenario for their ideas. Alexander
Osterwalder’s Business Model Generation is used as the basic framework
for business model development, and we utilize interaction design
methods and tools to ground students in an understanding of how to
successfully move through the early generative stages of product
development.We will facilitate and organize student teams of 3-4 to develop the
company concept and business model over the two week course. The
primary focus of the course is the work of customer development,
speaking directly to potential customer to help define opportunities
that the startup is designed to solve, and early stage product
development. The ITP curriculum will augment the Lean method with
additional approaches from generative design, UX, and ethnography to
accelerate the understanding of both explicit pain points and more
latent or hidden challenges that people face, in their jobs and their

Participants from the NYC Venture Capital community and leading
successful startup entrepreneurs will serve as mentors and advisors to
student teams. The workshop is open to all enrolled NYU students.

Please indicate interest by signing up here (official registration to follow)

or email Jen van der Meer at jd1159 at nyu dot edu with questions.

NYU ITP Pitchfest #5: Antidotes to a Technical Culture

5th Annual NYU ITP Pitchfest 2015

Design for self assembly. Connected jewelry for brilliant moments. A replacement for wasteful packaging. Assistive Kitchen tools. Apps for enhancing relationships and serendipitous encounters. Discovery and peer review apps for emerging performing arts. It may be possible for technology innovation to more genuinely connect us to each other.

Red at NYU eLab

Each year at the NYU ITP Pitchfest, a workshop series and Pitch event to leading investors in NYC, we witness an emerging group of digital technologists and artists who explore antidotes to what technical culture has wrought. They have grown with the unintended consequences of perpetual innovation – social media sites that make us more lonely, on demand food services that rely on large volumes of packaging, wearable that distract us and vibrate but create no deeper meaning, knowledge, or connection.

The students skip over the obvious “pain points” and dive deeply into the unmet latent needs that are deeply submerged and underserved by tech quick fixes and distraction apps.

Once they emerge from their first or second year at ITP exploring the imaginative use of communications technologies, Pitchfest encourages students to think of the projects ambitiously. We ask all participants to determine their purpose – why they are driven to do this work and their personal story that motivates them to pursue their vision. We encourage a deep dive customer discovery exercise to test their assumptions and business model hypotheses, and a storytelling exercise to communicate their vision. By telling a story with a vision that is clear enough, compelling enough, and big enough, they have the chance to attract the right people and resources.

Here was this year’s lineup of ideas that need to exist in the world:

Handled! by Zoe Logan

User-informed design approaches for assistive kitchen tools

Empowering differently abled users to access the pleasure of cooking

A graduating ITP student, Zoe developed the first in a series of kitchen tools as part of her thesis project. Zoe has a history in designing, building and prototyping but was motivated to develop assistive technology objects through her experiences at the Ability Lab at NYU. The series includes a stabilizing cutting board and adaptive modular handles for enhancing existing kitchen utensils. From Zoe’s personal statement: “Assistive technology…seems like a field with enormous potential for developing objects that can be interesting and well designed while actually making an impact on a user’s experience and that is important to me.” The designs are available for download-to-3D print on Thingiverse, and Zoe intends to conduct further research before commercializing her series of products.

Learn more about Zoe’s project and view her ITP thesis.

Download Handled at Thingiverse

Download Handled at Thingiverse

Luma Legacy: Alina Balean and Karol Munoz

Smart jewelry for every brilliant moment

Alina and Karol are entrepreneurs exploring the concept of smart jewelry. Their team observed that jewelry always comes embedded with a story. When Karol traveled through Europe with her family, her mother collected charms in each city as a memento. Karol careful curated her photos and comments to a close circle of friends (often far away from Facebook, which reserved for more impersonal updates). Luma Legacy seeks to create smart jewelry that connects digital storytelling the relationships in our lives. For each charm purchased, the owner or gift giver can create a digital story, accessible in a companion app, that is unlocked at a future time, or in a future location determined by GPS. The team have graduated from ITP, and Luma is actively looking for support to launch their first piece.

Get updates about the Luma progress from their website.

Learn about Luma in an early incarnation as a necklace for Alina’s thesis project.

Foodprint: Shaun Axani

Replacing wasteful packaging with a cyclical system for the on demand food economy

Foodprint is a return to the old fashioned milk bottle. Shaun and team have identified a critical fault in the on demand food economy: the huge amount of paper, plastic, and hauling energy required to deliver food direct to the home. If you’ve ever ordered Fresh DIrect, or experimented with new services like Blue Apron, you may have noticed the boxes and plastic containers required. The team aims to make and distribute a deposit-based system of reusable eco-friendly containers, and sell directly to grocery services and restaurants to offer customers an alternative to wasteful packaging.

Shaun is entering his second year at ITP, and will be further exploring the Foodprint concept. Follow Shaun’s work on his personal website.

4 App: Yu Ji

An app for people living in metropolitan areas or who are new to a specific space to explore and start building connections in real life.

Yu Ji created 4 app to experiment in new way of interaction and connection. 4 works as an icebreaker, it helps people to smile, say hi and potentially start building connections/friendships with strangers in real life. For those that have tried other location-proximity-based social networks like Highlight that exposed too many people, too soon, 4 App explores how this interaction could better mirror actual relationship building. After downloading the app, you receive notifications when you pass by another user, but their identities are progressively revealed over time.

After three interactions when you cross each other’s paths, you’ll be given a chance to message the person in real time, and meet in real time, or forever lose the opportunity to say hello in person.

See how 4 App works in this video.

4App – 4 Connecting Strangers from Yu Ji on Vimeo.

4 App is pending iOS app store release sign up here for updates.

ReStage: Stream Gao and Elena S.

Creating a community for events within the performing arts that are underserved

Stream and Elena are dance performing arts students who seek out the sub-genres of dance and the performing arts that are not well covered by the mainstream old guard media publications of New York. They both recognize the time and complexity involved in being an active fan and supporter of certain dance companies and other performing arts. They triangulate multiple websites, ticket sales sites, and are left to leave their own reviews in awkward places like TripAdvisor and Ticketmaster. Stream and Elena envision a supportive app-based community that supports dance performance companies, and creates a place for performing arts enthusiasts to quickly uncover emerging companies, and support a more diverse ecosystem of the arts.

Follow Stream’s work as a digital performance artists on her website. Oryan Inbar, Chang Liu

Emotional interpretation of your chats and messages – bring back what we’ve lost – from body language, tone of voice, to the rhythm of words.

Oryan and Change speak English as a second language, and felt they had to learn text as a third language when they moved to NY. They spend most of their time communicating to friends and family through chat and messaging apps, and seek to find a better way to express themselves and understand how their messages are received. is an app that uses color as the background message buble to express emotions as the new text interface. Over time, you will be able to look back and graphically visualize relationships to see how the pattern and behaviors emerge.

Oryan and Chang are first year students moving into their second year, and they plan to further explore their early prototype.

Keep in touch with Oryan and Chang on their websites.

Self Assembly Architecture Toys: Alejandro Puentes

Complex concepts and systems learned through playful encounters

Alejandro grew up on Tinker Toys, then Legos, and became an architect. At ITP he became interested in design for self-assembly and systems thinking, and he developed multiple prototype design tools to understand how these systems work. See Alejandro’s mesmerizing fractals self assembling in a bowl:

Alejandro will explore creating these design building blocks for the STEM learning market, selling to parents and educators who want children to explore concepts not easily taught within existing disciplines of thought: complexity, anti fragility, systems thinking, and self-organizing systems. As Alejandro would say – the FUTURE of EVERYTHING.

Stay in touch with Alejandro’s progress on his website.

A huge thanks to our supportive investor critics this year: Adaora Udoji, Ryan Jacoby and Frank Rimalovski.

Thanks all who came to our fifth annual ITP Pitchfest, our mentors this year John Bachir and Michael Krasnodebski, and to ITP for promoting and sponsoring, our mentors John and to the NYU eLab for hosting us.


NYU ITP Pitchfest Workshop 1

June 1: 2015

Why we do this

Get an audience outside of the cozy world of ITP Thesis feedback

Respond to genuine interest from investors

Help you understand how to launch ideas that just need to exist in the world

Which means we’ve expanded our aim – we are not just seeking high growth, high scale companies.

We welcome everyone that has a compelling concept

What we need from you


Know why you are driven to do this.


Know what drives you? Are you trying to control your own destiny? Or build the biggest thing that you can build? Or pay off your loans as soon as possible?

Vision. Vision First.

If it is clear enough and compelling enough it will attract the right people and resources.

If it is clear enough and compelling enough AND BIG ENOUGH it will attract the SCALE AND IMPACT-SEEKING people and resources (VCs, angels, future partners and team members)


How we get ready


June 1: First pitch. No visual aids. Concept review.

June 8: Purpose

June 15: Business model fun

June 17: PITCH

Whether or not you are seeking a scalable opportunity – spend the next few days going over investor pitch deck recommendations:


Cooley Co

Polaris (links to the first Foursquare pitch)

New York Angels Criteria

For lots of examples PitchEnvy

All will require you to know who your customer is. Talk to 10 per week for the next 2.5 weeks. (25 total). If you do not know how to do this, read Talking to Humans. It’s free.
Inspirational: Two Dots a Year Later

“What’s particularly great about the increase in revenue, is our team found a way to make money while sticking to our values, ensuring we’re always keeping our players’ interests and overall “fun” of the game front and center. Instead of looking for a quick win, we’re working to build our business and revenue responsibly by adding content and features that players (hopefully) find valuable enough to buy.”

Selling Science: Applying Lean at the NSF I-Corps

Published at the NYU Entrepreneurs Blog Part 1 and Part 2. —

Lessons Learned at the NSF’s I-Corps for Learning program:

“Parents didn’t even know what STEM was, nor STEAM!” exclaimed a conference participant.

Similar concerns could be heard from many of the academic and entrepreneurial educators this April, streaming out of the San Francisco Marriott after their first few days in windowless meeting rooms and actually talking to parents – their potential customers.

These would-be entrepreneurs were all grantees participating in a two month-long funded Lean LaunchPad course, developed by Steve Blank and run by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under the Innovation Corps for Learning (NSF I-Corps L) program. The goal of the program is to vet their educational ideas for sustainability and/or scale.

Lean methods have been embraced as a near religion in some startup circles, and is perceived to be the ideal method for driving potential unicorn-sized high growth market opportunities. Now the NSF is banking on Lean LaunchPad for social impact ideas to find their greatest impact.

The goal of NSF I-Corps for Learning is to foster entrepreneurship that will lead to the commercialization, greater scale and impact of STEM education, and learning innovations. The limited adoption and quality of STEM education is considered a crisis by the Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). In response, the NSTC has developed a five-year strategic plan to address the US’s low ranking in STEM education and lack of skilled STEMdino workers.

I attended the NSF’s I-Corps L program as a mentor on an NYU team – Cognitive Toy Box – as I was curious to see how Lean LaunchPad works on social impact challenges.

I’ve participated in the adoption of the Lean LaunchPad method within NYU. NYU’s Entrepreneurship Institute has been a lead proponent of adopting Lean LaunchPad curricula in the Summer LaunchPad accelerator and supporting educators across NYU to prototype the course. I have had the privilege of teaching the first for-credit class at NYU at Tisch’s ITP program in 2014, which continues this year as we support a new batch of student teams to find their market potential.

There are a number of parallels in how the NSF teaches Lean LaunchPad and how we have adopted the curricula at NYU ITP. Because ITP is an engineering school in an art school, students are encourage to explore pre-commercial ideas and often struggle when they start to think of their concepts, projects, and potential businesses.

Most of the teams participating in NSF I-Corps L program faced a similar struggle – did their idea have the potential to be a scalable business, or even deliver a sustainable source of recurring revenue? What organizational structure would best propel their educational innovation? Where should they focus their efforts so that their innovation could achieve maximal social impact? Does the team have what it takes to pursue their innovation? While these questions may seem crazy to a Bay Area creator of the next wearable, dating app, or cloud-based big data analytics solution, they are deeply relevant to educators who are motivated not by profit potential, but by educational impact.

Part 2:

Customer Discovery Divines Sustainable vs. Scale Potential

In the first week indoctrination to Lean LaunchPad, the 24 teams in I-Corps L were encouraged to change their approach for how to scale curricula and teaching method innovations, under the relentlessly direct feedback of fellow Ed-Tech entrepreneurs, VCs, NSF advisors, and the Lean LaunchPad creators, Steve Blank and Jerry Engel. Each team, a triad consisting of an academic principal investigator, an entrepreneurial lead, and a mentor, were charged with taking their initial learning innovation and finding customers – fast. “Get out of the building” to discover potential customers.

The Customer Discovery approach is well suited to answer the question of scalable vs. sustainable. Most academic educators share the same bias as tech founders who fall in love with their solution without ever talking to more than a few potential customers. Customer Discovery forces the team out of the comfort zone of academic hierarchy and challenges the egos of the team, who are deeply humbled when they first try to sell their solution.

Almost every team had defined the STEM crisis as the “hair on fire” problem they were motivated to solve, and were shocked to learn a quick sample of parents at Union Square in SF, or the Exploratorium museum, had never heard of STEM or STEAM. The creators of an after school STEM curricula learned that a highly educated high income parent would pay a premium for these kinds of programs, but then the educators were disappointed that launching with this segment would delay their ability to reach students of all incomes.

Those teams that were successful in repositioning their value proposition to appeal to a potentially larger addressable market were on to a more scalable innovation. For example, a number of after school curricula creators learned that they shouldn’t be headlining their value proposition with the STEM crisis. After deeply listening to families of all incomes and educational advancement status, they learned that there were common themes for how parents described their deepest needs. More important than science, or design thinking, or engineering methods, these parents want the benefits these methods have to offer.

Parents want their children to develop team-building skills, collaboration skills, discovery and joy in learning, and reduce their fear of failure.

There is a huge addressable market in a society that seeks these outcomes. Recasting the value proposition based on these outcomes of learning, rather than the curricula itself, worked to expand the market.

Other teams confirmed potential sustainability rather than scalability. Defining how a certain curriculum or program could replicate within a local school system, or to other school systems. While these project teams were unlikely to see a hockey stick style growth curve in their future, they are well equipped to envision how their innovation can move beyond their initial experiments.

At the end of the program, the NSF has a particularly open stance to what becomes of the project team innovations.

The outcomes of the projects are expected to be:

  • A clear go-no go decision concerning the viability and effectiveness of the learning oriented resources/products, practices and services
  • An implementation “product” and process for potential partners/adopters
  • A transition plan to move the effort forward and bring the innovation to scale.

The prize for participation for academic entrepreneurs is high: The I-Corps programs feed the popular NSF Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Tech Transfer Programs (SBIR and STTR), and successful businesses can earn multiple non-dilutive grants that rival seed or Series A investments.

NSF is very comfortable telling STEM educator / entrepreneurs that it’s ok to fail once you’ve gathered enough evidence that your project isn’t viable. At the start of the program, teams were assured that a decision to not continue a program is completely acceptable. Teams move to no-go when they learn the steep uphill climb it would take to scale their innovation, because they are too early, there is too much competition, or they are not cost effective enough to deliver in the current market environment. Teams also choose no go when the individuals involved decide that entrepreneurship is just not their calling.

What I learned from the experience in the end: parents want for their children what the NSF wants from educator entrepreneurs: learning how to take risks, collaborate, and reduce our fear of failure, and the joy of discovery.


NYU ITP Pitchfest 2015

Workshop Series: What is your concept. Your idea. Your project. Pitch your Idea  for support and feedback: Workshops, Practice Pitch Prep, and Pitch Festival.

Adjunct Professor: Jen van der Meer

Background: Over the past five+ years NYU ITP has organized increasingly successful Investor Pitchfest to showcase startup team ideas worthy of funder consideration and attention. Prior Judges for Pitchfest have included Joanne Wilson and Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures), Andy Weissman (Union Square Ventures), Phin Barnes (First Round Capital) and Frank Rimalovski (NYU Tech Ventures), Amy Millman (Springboard) and a number of active Angel Investors.

This year we are augmenting with more super sub micron seed stage investors, project funders, and social impact angels.

We schedule the workshop series after Thesis Week and the ITP show.

In the past five years, there are now so many more opportunities to pitch.

The Stern Berkeley Center Competition, The NYU Summer LaunchPad Accelerator, the Dorm Room Fund, the application process for YC and Highway 1 and other accelerators in NYC, the Bay Area, and China.

But we know there are those out there that haven’t yet ventured into thinking about their idea, project, or concept as a venture.

We have also augmented the prep workshops for the range of potential ideas we’ve seen at ITP over these years:

  • The projects that just need to exist in the world.
  • The social impact idea that must find its home.
  • The high growth potential company that hasn’t yet gotten picked up by an accelerator.
  • We welcome all of you. We want to help you launch.

Submit your business concept ideas to be considered for the first workshop, and Pitchfest here, and reach out to Jen at with any questions or for consultation. This workshop is open to anyone who is enrolled or has recently been graduated from NYU, and is designed for NYU ITP graduates specifically.


Workshop Schedule Overview:

Idea Submission: Friday May 22, 2015

Workshop 1: Monday June 1, 2015

Workshop 2: Monday June 8, 2015

Workshop 3: Monday June 15, 2015

Pitchfest 4: Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Idea Submission: Friday, May 22, 2015


Students will submit a 100 word description of their idea. Links to team member bios, early prototypes, presentations, blog posts, or video demos is welcome and encouraged. Professors van der Meer, Igoe and Hechinger will select top student ideas for the initial workshop.

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Favorite Lessons Learned from Lean at ITP Speakers

We just wrapped up our second Lean experiment at ITP last night with a Lessons Learned dinner party.

We had extraordinarily candid speakers this semester who humbly told us of their successes and failures, pivots and turnarounds, origin stories and the truth behind their funding and scale.

A few of my favorite wisdom pickings from the line up of guest speakers:

Britta Riley: Know the contours and flows of the dominant business model in your industry. Know the limits of direct e-commerce sales if you are selling hardware and how retail happens. Don’t deliberately limit your business by not understanding these parameters going in.

Albert Lee, All Tomorrows Lab who recently launched Emoji App:

Zero mental calories: users should have to learn nothing when they use your app. Nothing.

Toothbrush test: can you find a reason why they would use your app 2x a day, to create those reasons to engage.

Trojan Horse it: you can’t always give people what you think they need, especially if you are meeting a need they are uncomfortable talking about. So find out what their discrete top level painpoint is, and create the front door that meets that need. You can solve for deeper emotional needs not at the value proposition level, but in the product design. **** (This one gets extra stars)

Julie Berkun Fajgenbaum, Tweed Wolf. Come up with the 10 reasons why it won’t work and then develop tests to prove the contrary.

Chris Milne, IDEO: Design it so it looks unfinished – and people will give you more honest and useful feedback because they will not feel like they are hurting your feelings. They will truly co-create with you.

John Bachir, Medstro: Kill Features!

Christine Lemke, Evidation Health: Be comfortable with pivoting between consumer and B:B, and don’t get too attached to what the actual product is on either side – your strengths in one will benefit you for the other.

Angad Singh, Lolly Wolly Doodle: When you are in scale mode and hiring developers, learn to work together before hiring. Determine a project that you estimate to be about 20 hours over 2-3 weeks, and then assess not just coding skills but problem solving, decision making, and communication skills.

Scott Miller, Dragon Innovation and Bolt Ventures: Learn how to pick a factory, and validate that your project could succeed through crowdfunding or preording before you begin.