BREAKTHROUGH LAB CURRICULUM
Breakthrough Lab’s curriculum is informed by twin goals: to help founders develop successful ventures, and to foster the educational development of the individual entrepreneur. Whether working with technology, or consumer products, or with a socially-oriented goal, B-Lab provides the fundamental building blocks for creating impact at scale. Each year we invite a number of experienced entrepreneurs and experts to work with teams through a pedagogy that is rigorous, interdisciplinary, and highly customized to the needs of our ventures and their founders.
At the heart of any venture is the entrepreneur him or herself. Being a founder is unlike most roles that students have typically experienced. Week 1 focuses on preparing the entrepreneur for the challenges ahead and for the important work of managing oneself as one also manages the venture.
Before teams start to build a product or service, we work with them to identify how their venture provides value for others. Using bottom-up research to find and validate an unmet need, and articulating a value proposition are two of the pillars of the entrepreneurial process. Each year we hear from seasoned founders about how they’ve approached that challenge and learn from their failures and successes.
In week 3, B-Lab teams work through the challenge of marshalling the right resources to have impact at scale. Creating a sustainability model is not a one-site-fits-all challenge, and we work with teams to establish foundational principles of entrepreneurial finance and help them identify a financing strategy that makes the most sense for their venture.
In week 4 teams work through the nuts and bolts of product development insight from experienced founders. What is the right thing to build? What features matter most? What is the right way to prioritize them? In grappling with these questions teams will work out answers to some of the core principles of building great products.
No venture lasts long without providing value to customers in a sustained way. One of the biggest decisions a venture can make is deciding which customers it can (and wants to) serve. In week 5 teams dive more deeply into customer discovery, customer archetypes, and how they can design their ventures to meet the unmet needs they identified earlier in the process.
Venture capitalist John Doerr once famously remarked that he’d rather back an “A” team with a “B” idea, over a “B” team with an “A” idea. And that wisdom has become an almost bedrock principle of entrepreneurship. Founders are, and have to be, world-class, strategic, team-builders. In week 5, we talk with experienced entrepreneurs about how they built the teams that are critical to the venture’s success.
Seasoned entrepreneurs know that one of the critical skills to success is being able to successfully articulate what their venture is and why it matters. Founders must be comfortable communicating with a wide variety of stakeholders, from customers, partners, potential teammates, and investors. In week 5 B-Lab teams work with Brown’s own Barbara Tannenbaum, one of the foremost experts in communication, to help them craft and sharpen their communication skills.
Appearances to the contrary, it’s a common dictum among entrepreneurs that great ventures are a “10 Year, Overnight Success Story”. The ups and downs of being a founder can sometimes obscure the fact that building a lasting enterprise takes sustained, strategic effort over a long period of time. To wrap up B-Lab we diver further in to the team’s proposed sustainability model and explore what it takes to build a venture over the long haul.