Program for Entrepreneurs

For the matching process

Questions about the Matching Process / Conference Calls from June 1-July 24

1)  Is this a meet and greet or a semi-interview where the inventor/idea originator determines if and/or how I can assist them.  If it’s the latter, do I have to come up with ideas beforehand how we can progress?  I wanted to come to the call as prepared as I can, but just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.  

It’s a little more of a semi-interview in that your purpose is to figure out if this is the right startup idea for you to commit to and it is up to them to determine if you are the right person to be the team lead to take the project forward.

In addition, there are a few criteria you may want to examine and be ready to talk about.

a) Is the idea submitter open to having you drive the process of coming up with the business case for this business?

-Or do they look at you as cheap labor to do what they want done?  ideally they are a little more technically or operationally focused and you are providing the business function.

b) Is this business going to be at a stage where in approximately two years you could step into a company that could be ready for you to be working at full-time?

-It could be 1 year, it could be 3 years, but there needs to be some sense that the timing may work out for a company to be formed and funded in time for you to forgo other employment opportunities

c) Is the idea submitter open to the idea of sharing some equity with you, assuming that the fit is a win/win for you and the idea submitter?

-Nothing is guaranteed, but are they at least open to this possibility?

d) Does this startup idea still need significant work done on the business side of things, particularly with developing the business case?

-We’re not looking for startups where they’ve solved that issue and your role would not be critical to the success.

e) Can you assemble a team of 2-3 students who have complementary skill sets that will allow you to make significant progress?

-Having a couple team members is a requirement before enrolling in the program.  Without it, it will be difficult to make enough progress during the courses.  You may want to look beyond the MBA talent pool to the undergraduates (who can receive course credit) and the graduate and professional schools at Duke (who may be able to receive course credit, depending on their situation).

2) I have to admit that I am a bit confused with the spreadsheet you sent us. I didn’t reply back with what idea I am interested in, but am interested in a few. Since I am not on your sheet, should I just reach out to the idea submitters directly?

Fill out the form here, that will be the best path forward. In addition, you may want to reach out to the other students that expresseed interest in addition to the idea submitter in order to see if anybody has started organizing that call.  We’d like to minimize the number of students that separately contact the idea submitters.

3) I wonder if it might make sense to offer these two students a joint-effort program where we work on 2 concepts at once, increasing the probability that they end up with a successful concept at the end.  

It is conceivable that this is possible from now until October, but by the time they attempt to enroll they must be down to one idea because the coursework is structured for focusing on a single idea.

Our preference is for students to choose before July 25th, but as I said, conceivably that may not happen for a couple of students.  If so, then good to have a couple backup ideas to fall back to should their first idea not work out.

4) What if multiple students want to be the lead student for a given startup idea?  What’s the process?

There can be multiple lead student(s).  The lead student(s) are defined by their commitment to the project.  Also, it’s important they have a good relationship with the idea submitter.

To be clear, our model is to let the lead student(s) make all personnel decisions for their team.

6) I am going to be a second year student, can I be involved?  This looks like a 2 year program, and it sounds like it’s targeted at first years being the lead students.

Given that you are going to be a 2nd year, your analysis is correct. The lead students in this program are first year students.

Your options, then, are to play a supporting role on one of the teams that gets formed.  Joining a team is at the discretion of the team leader.

In that case, you should fill out this form to be entered into the directory of entrepreneurial students:

7) Would you, Howie, be joining those calls?

I will not be joining the calls.

8) Is there a purpose to the Happy Hours we’ll be having?

Yes, having a couple teammates (more is better) is a pre-req to enrolling in the Program in October. Therefore, it would be a good idea to spend your time wisely meeting and determining whether someone else might be a good team member.  Personality fit and complementary skillsets could be important. As Ram Shriram, one of the early investors in Google has noted “Bad hiring mistakes can be the most fatal”

9)  I’ve had some great calls with the inventors but at the end of the call I’m always a little lost as to what the next step is.  I realize there are 8 ideas that are chosen and I assume that’s from this list of 70 startup ideas.  

There are 8 idea/team combinations that are selected in October.  We choose those projects that have the highest likelihood of success.  If there are 9 that are good fits for our Program, we might choose 9.  If there are only 6 or 7 that are good fits, we might choose that.

Next step after your call is to select the idea you would most like to work on and be prepared to talk about it/present on it on Sat July 25 for about 10 minutes.  Goal is to let us know where you are coming from and also to attract possible teammates.

10) If we wish to proceed with this, are we supposed to pick ourselves as a potential lead student on this project, present to everyone on the 25th of July, and then see if we are selected to be part of the P4E?

You could volunteer to be the lead student, however the actual student selected will be a combination of the idea submitters preference, the advisory groups thoughts, and whether you can attract teammates who want to work with you.  In other words, you’ll need to convince others that you are the right person to be the lead student.

Also, conceivably, there could be a couple of students leading.  It depends on the team dynamic.

11) If I was not to be selected for P4E and or/the idea was not part of one of the ideas selected by the students selected for P4E, can we still move ahead with the inventor in developing the idea/business?

If the idea submitter would like to keep working with you and you have sufficient belief in the business to keep moving forward, yes.  Through our Duke Entrepreneurship Education Series and the Duke Start-Up Challenge and other initiatives, there are some resources, and milestones that will continue to help you make progress.

12) What is the goal of this selection process in July? 

The process we are going through is to help you select an idea to work on. So that after July 25th, you will not spread yourself too thin on multiple projects.  Time is tight starting with Orientation, and you will have to be very focused to prepare your team and project.  After the kickoff, there will be rolling admissions up until October, when the first class starts.