Learning Entrepreneurship: Announcing the Microsoft Innovation Center Pre-Accelerator Program
It used to be that an entrepreneur was a sort of magical creature.The prevailing belief was you were born with entrepreneurship coursing through your veins. Or not. Black or white. With the rise of the modern tech accelerator, however, that notion has shifted.It is more commonly accepted that entrepreneurship can be taught, or at least guided via strong mentorship.
This shift is happening, in part, due to redefining a startup as something other than just a small company. A particularly elegant definition comes from a 2010 blog post by Steve Blank, who describes a startup as “an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.”
With this definition, the “search” becomes the focus.
At some point you will need to learn how to run a company, but first you need to find a business model that works. The latter requires a different set of skills, which most people call the “lean” methodology (a combination of customer development and agile software development techniques). To track your search for a business model, you might use a framework like Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas.
In addition to these foundational skills, a collection of complementary capabilities are sought to ensure the idea has a shot of becoming a viable business – building the right team, intuitive UX design, nailing your value prop, and refining your VC pitch, among others. These are useful for turning a strong concept and a bit of market validation into a desirable product or service that can be continually improved, maintained, and defended in the market.
So, you may know what skills you need, but what is the best way to learn them? There are only a few traditional schools that have adopted this new “search” paradigm of entrepreneurship, but there are other types of institutions teaching these skills. We commonly refer to them as accelerators. In a quality accelerator, you’ll be surrounded by mentors, advisors, and like-minded peers, and will concentrate your time on developing a marketable product or service.
But what if—as an aspiring entrepreneur—you have a brilliant idea, but it isn’t far enough along to get accepted to an accelerator? What can you do to prepare yourself and refine your idea for the next step? How can you test and validate your idea before quitting your job or spending too much time and money building a prototype?
The Microsoft Innovation Centers (MIC) Pre-Accelerator is a 12-week intensive program designed by our Miami MIC for early stage startups looking for mentorship and training to take their idea to market. Powered by workshops and coaching from Microsoft and our curriculum partners, the Pre-Accelerator takes entrepreneurs through an idea validation process, rapid prototyping, development of a product, go-to-market techniques, and a variety of key skills needed to succeed as a startup founder.
Starting with four locations around the world, we look forward to eventually rolling out the program to the 100+ global MIC facilities. If there is a Pre-Accelerator program offered in a MIC near you, we hope you will apply and take the next step towards bringing your idea to life. For more details on the program, locations, requirements, and application deadlines, please visit www.aka.ms/startups101.
Not every entrepreneur is born equally. But we believe every good idea should have an equal shot at viability by providing access to the tools, resources, and expertise necessary.