This winter, from Jan 2nd — Jan 23rd, we piloted our Scratchpad Fellowship, which gave 5 teams of students 4 weeks, free desk space, and $200 to pilot their early-stage ideas and test them for viability. We adapted this test from Four94 mentor Avni Patel Thompson’s Four Week Test. This blog post is from one of our Scratchpad Fellows.
The Four94’s inaugural Scratchpad Fellowship challenged me to consider, “How can you grow your idea in 4 weeks?” The Fellowship, an adaptation of Avni Patel Thompson’s Four Week Test, was an opportunity to build my venture, FooFii, a digital platform that helps food insecure families access the resources they need. Here are five takeaways from my experience — I hope it inspires you on your journey!
1. Believe in yourself. I created FooFii (“foo-fee”) in a course focused on designing mobile apps for health promotion. The concept drew from my family experiences and Master’s thesis, and won the Tufts Institute for Innovation’s Human Health Hack (2016). Despite this lived experience and initial success, FooFii remained an idea for over a year, until my Harvard program director encouraged me to pursue it through my doctoral studies. While grateful for his validation, I realized that I had been afraid. Shelving my ideas prevented potential failure. I had already founded a company, what were the odds that this second venture would also be successful? I was letting self-doubt get in the way of success. In life and business, believing in yourself is the best investment you can make.
2. Keep experimenting. One of the foundational aspects of the 4-week test was reframing goals into “experiments”. The focus is not about being right or wrong, but rather about being curious and trying things out. Entrepreneurship entails posing questions, getting data to make decisions, and evaluating how decisions affect goals. It is an iterative process that we can all do. There is no formula, we just have to start — and keep — experimenting.
3. Set goals and make them known. Remember my fear of failure? The 4-week test helped me confront it by requiring me to 1) set goals for the month and 2) share them with others. While I did not accomplish all the goals, the process of reflecting, creating action items, and tracking progress helped me be more agile. If you let others know about your goals, they can help you achieve them. Plus, you extend your reach of possibilities — they can give you feedback, make introductions, or even invite you to be on their organization’s board. All of this happened through this process!
4. Community is key. As entrepreneurs, our success depends on relationships. To bring FooFii to life with limited resources, I partnered with Boston University’s Global App Initiative, where students build mobile apps for free, to develop a basic prototype. And in Four94 and other entrepreneurial groups, I am part of a community contributing our experiences and expertise to support each other. Look around you — peers are among our best resources.
5. Take the long view. One of my biggest goals was to apply to the Harvard Innovation Lab’s Venture Incubation Program for spring 2018. It is an honor to be selected for this opportunity, but it is only the beginning. Experiments will fail, target goals will be missed, and sometimes it will feel like you are all alone, but remain focused on your purpose and why you set out on this path in the first place.
It is an uncertain journey growing a successful venture — luckily with Four94 and other initiatives, we have the confidence, curiosity, and community for the ride.