Entrepreneurship revisited — Part II

(c) Koen Van Damme — October 26th — University College Ghent

October 26th. Five weeks have passed since the first lecture and working sessions entrepreneurship. Some interesting progress has been made by the twelve project groups. Time for a check-up.

With the business model canvas (2010, Pigneur & Osterwalder) as a starting point, the twelve project groups within the real estate department are asked to design a realistic business model and conceive it from different perspectives and stakeholders (customer segment(s), partner, starting company et cetera).

The central theme is “livability in the city”. The focus varies from “mobility in the city” over “senior residents vs. young residents in the city” to “intercultural dialogue and creativity in the city”. Because of the need to get young people out their comfort zone once in a while, it’s not solely about real estate, brokerage and the things they learn about all the time. Instead, they’re forced to challenge themselves a little more within other themes and perspectives.

As stated in the first reflexive essay, one of the main questions for me was how students can be lectured and coached towards building a conceptual business that are also human value-driven and not solely profit-driven.

As one could state, the offered principles strongly suggest a direction towards social entrepreneurship. At the same time the way they follow is paved with unrestrained possibilities. These two cornerstones — freedom and direction — is the main procedure to coach each project group as a whole. Subsequently the main tool to support such a procedure is asking questions as a coach, many questions to be honest. Questions which are based upon the theoretic lectures and the building blocks of the business model canvas. Finally, the main aim is to let the project groups — and students themselves — discover the bigger story behind there business model under construction instead of presenting things clear cut and thought over.

By those means, 75% of the becoming business models at this point have social and human value form the early beginning of development. Within the creative process/brainstorm and while understanding the core meaning and expectation(s) of the course as such, students go with it, partly unaware.

The building blocks of the business model canvas form one whole and the conceptual nature of them all together are easy to grasp and very practical. If there’s one little shortcoming, than it’s the financial part, which consists only of revenue stream(s) and cost structure. Although, this is presented in the same fashion and very logical, there’s no testing at all within a real business context. You need the numbers to check the vitality and growing-power of a start-up. You need to know the turn-over at least the two first years to understand dynamics within a financial plan. You need to pinpoint the financial value of each product or service. There’s no getting out of that. Some of the lectures that are planned in the second half of this semester will focus on this rather businesslike part of a business model. Every building block radiates upon this. The choices made about channels used, customer relations, key resources and key activities all influences costs and revenue streams.

Creating value is the central force within the used model. One or more wants of one or more customer segements are satisfied by this created value. As it seems, this concept is not easy to understand when made tangible. Students struggle quiet a bit with finding the right angle for this fundamental force within the business model. It requires empathetic skills to imagine what customers want. You need to think and feel like a potential customer and try to tell your story from their perspective. The last couple of weeks, I noticed that some project groups found it rather difficulty to do so.

That said, the major lines are set straight again. Ready for the second part of this semester. Draft are starting to show bigger and bolder and the coaching starts to shift from questioning students about their achievements towards finetuning the essence of each building block.

It’s a great dynamic process, balancing the focus between experienced learning (freedom) and leading (direction). It will be interesting to see where those projects are going to lead to in the nearby future.