Program for Entrepreneurs

NV1: Opportunity Evaluation

Strategy 848 / IE 748

Spring 2020, Tuesday 3:05pm – 5:35pm

Instructor: Dr. Aaron Dinin


Office: Room 102C, Gross Hall

Office Hours: Thursdays, 1:00 – 3:00 (and by appt.)

Course Overview

A common misconception about entrepreneurship is that it begins with an idea – an idea for a product, service, business, or nonprofit that can serve as the foundation for a venture. Unfortunately, while many people get excited about their ideas, having an “brilliant” idea is a bad way to start a new venture.

Instead, before pursuing ventures – and committing resources to them – entrepreneurs must learn to understand whether or not opportunities exist and whether those opportunities align with a person’s personal and/or professional goals. New Ventures 1 helps students do this first by asking them to clearly define their personal and professional goals. Are you trying to build a company? Are you trying to cure a disease? Are you trying to write a book? Are you trying to fix a societal problem?

Once students understand their goals, New Ventures 1 teaches them strategies for answering key questions to help identify opportunities related to that goal and evaluate their potential for success. Instead of jumping directly into problem solving and solution development – which can often be wasteful without a clear understanding of a given market – New Ventures 1 focuses students on research, exploration, and discovery. It forces students to set aside pre-conceived notions, avoiding some of their own blind spots, in order to do the necessary work of collecting data about a market and learning to assess it objectively.

Learning Objectives

  1. Questioning the world around us

Great entrepreneurs are great questioners. They rarely take things at face value. Instead, they develop a habit of always asking “Why?”

  1. Recognizing opportunities for innovation

The conditions and circumstances required for innovation are more constricting and limited than most people realize. Learning to identify the right environment for innovation is critical to an innovation’s potential for success.

  1. Evaluating sustainable business models

Regardless of whether a venture “makes a profit,” in order to exist it needs to create more value than it uses.

  1. Assessing impact

The work we do as innovators doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Understanding the stakeholders surrounding our work and the impact our work might have on them – both positive and negative – is necessary for making informed decisions about the kinds of action we should and should not take.

Course Structure

Cultivating an ability to identify and assess opportunities that can lead to new ventures takes a combination of time and practice. We won’t have enough of either.

To combat this challenge, I suggest thinking of this course as a “boot camp” during which we’ll practice the process of identifying opportunities. While it’s possible, during the course, you’ll chance upon an opportunity worth pursuing, that’s not the goal. The goal is to build the kinds of skills that, with continued practice, can help you identify opportunities for innovation throughout the rest of your lives.

As such, the “boot camp” will consist of exercises and discussions covering the following three skillsets that are crucial aids in recognizing opportunities for developing innovative ventures.

Skillset 1 – Understanding the Entrepreneurial World Around Us

(Weeks 2,3 &4)

Every man-made thing we encounter in a given day is a byproduct of someone else taking some form of entrepreneurial action. Because of this, the world around us provides a fantastic opportunity for education. We just have to learn to ask the right questions.

Skillset 2 – Identifying and Understanding Opportunities

(Weeks 5, 6, 9, & 10)


Once we learn to question the world around us, its flaws and shortcomings will become apparent. These flaws almost always represent a chance for innovation, but are they truly opportunities?

Skillset 3 – Developing and Evaluating Potential Solutions

(Weeks 11, 12, & 14)

Theoretically, every opportunity can be serviced by an infinite number of potential solutions. However, few potential solutions are viable. This makes separating the viable from the impossible (or unadvisable) a critical skill.