Professors Jeremy Caplan and Jeff Jarvis, Spring, 3 Credits.
At the heart of the entrepreneurial journalism program, the incubation course is where students will identify business models for their businesses and create business plans—and in some cases prototypes and even products—for their own businesses. They will incubate those businesses in this class, which will consist of a short weekly class gathering as well as one-on-one work with the faculty and advisors brought into the school. Such experts will help address, among other subjects, technology, law, marketing, advertising, and so on—a list we are developing now. Students will also be encouraged to reach out to potential partners and to participate in relevant industry gatherings, ranging from the NY Tech Meetup to Hacks/Hackers meetups. We’ll visit General Assembly events and gatherings at tech hotspots including Hive 55, the Hatchery and other startup centers where there are opportunities to develop partnerships and to learn from and meet up with others developing new ideas in related areas. Students and faculty will meet once a week to discuss students’ problems and solutions so all may contribute and benefit from their lessons.
The product of the class is their business plan, which they will present at the end of the course to a group of investors. Note the differences from the school’s third-term Entrepreneurial Journalism class: They will present to potential investors (not to a jury also made up of journalists, publishers, and entrepreneurs). There will be no prize money per se. Now they are competing for real for venture capital. Some may receive money; none may. But all this is a dress rehearsal for the presentations they will have to make when they leave the program. It also is an appropriate expression of the core of their work in the program: their journalistic mission, research, strategic and tactical planning, and business lessons.
Note that we will likely see three kinds of businesses developed in the program:
● Entrepreneurial ventures that disrupt the landscape in some way, creating platforms or executing on new models. This can include companies that execute on new business models as well as platforms that would be used by many companies.
● So-called free-agent nation businesses that follow existing templates (e.g., a hyperlocal, niche or hyperinterest site).
● Products or strategies for legacy companies that a student or a professional sent to the school takes to a company to create a new product or service or to execute a new strategy.
We will provide mentors to students with each of these business types. If a student wants to start a hyperlocal blog, for example, we will introduce that student to others who have started such businesses. We will introduce students to experts who can provide real-world guidance and advice.
● Produce a business plan and presentation for their sustainable journalistic enterprises. The plans will include considerable research.
● Learn how to identify a market need and an opportunity for a journalism solution
● Learn how to identify, research, and solve problems—including changing direction, reacting to industry developments, and making frequent revisions in their business plans.
● Learn through the lessons of the businesses around them, as is common among startups.
● Learn about the importance of networking and partnerships.
● Learn about the various sources of funding:
○ Grants: institutions, funds
○ Loans: bank or other financial institutions
○ Equity: angel investments, venture capital, private equity, investment banks
● By the end of the course, students will have a basic understanding of their own business model, and the primary components of the business model, including, but not limited to, the nine components outlined in Osterwalder and Pigneur’s Business Model Generation. These components include:
○ Key Resources
○ Key Partnerships
○ Value Proposition
○ Customer Segments
○ Customer Retention
○ Channels of Distribution
○ Cost Structure
○ Revenue Streams
By week four, students will have completed a competitive analysis and by week six a preliminary marketing plan. Research in preparation for submitting these two documents will help students assess the feasibility of their initial ideas and refine their thinking with real-world data. By week nine, students will have completed an initial operational plan, which includes basic details about how their business will be run. It may include initial operational details and an organizational structure. By week 11, students will have completed a basic estimate of initial financial projections, under the guidance of the professors. By week 14, students will have completed a one-page summary document using the Angel Soft Template commonly used by entrepreneurs in the New York City startup community. The one-page summary functions as an “idea paper” that helps communicate the essentials of the business.
● Competitive Analysis
● Marketing Plan
● Operational Plan
● One-Page Business Summary
● Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
● Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days
● Additional Readings Selected and Assigned as Appropriate
Students will maintain a digital journal throughout the course, where they will analyze issues raised in class discussions, post responses to the readings, and develop their thinking on core topics of the course. This will include, but not be limited to, responding to guest speakers by applying the concepts presented to the particulars of the student’s own startup project. As students develop their thinking through the course, students will share their journals with classmates, who will read and respond to selected journal entries as part of a collaborative peer review.
Discussion through the term will include problems, solutions, and opportunities in businesses around these topics, scheduled in parallel with the other classes and around the students’ needs at the time:
● Market research
● Advisory board development
● Legal issues (company structure, legal agreements, intellectual property)
● Insurance issues
● Other revenue
● Ethical issues
● Presentation skills
Discussions may include the program’s advisers and mentors as well as other founders working in the incubator but will not include lectures by guests. The focus of these discussions will be the students’ business plans.
The grade will focus not only on the quality of the student’s business plan, but also on his or her ability to successfully meet each of the course milestones. At each stage of the business development, we will consider the following questions: Is the idea well conceived? Is the plan well researched? Has the student identified and addressed key questions and challenges and, as an entrepreneur, adjusted nimbly? Did the student present the plan well?
Each of the five milestones will comprise 12% of the final grade, for a total of 60% of the course grade. The five graded milestones include:
• Initial competitive analysis: 12%
• Preliminary marketing plan: 12%
• Operational plan: 12%
• Financials: 12%
• One-page business summary: 12%
Written Work – Incubation Digital Journal: 20%
Throughout the course, students will be required to detail the progress they have made on their individual projects. Students will also address questions posed in the incubation meetings by their mentors and professors. The written component of the course grade will be measured by the consistency of contributions, the quality of contributions, the degree to which the student addressed the key issues discussed in incubation sessions, the thoughtfulness of the business analysis and the degree to which the journals constitute an effective tool for the student’s development of their entrepreneurial thinking.
Final Oral and Written Presentation: 20%
The final 20% of the course grade will be determined by an assessment of the quality of the final written and oral presentation of the business idea at the conclusion of the course.
Syllabi for Entrepreneurial Journalism Courses