Bringing Definition to a Business Idea
This week the team of Sara Miller and Kelsey Greathouse made strides with our final two concepts:
- Casa – turnkey living-learning community for students enrolled in bootcamps
- Launch Pad – a summer workshop series that gives teachers the confidence, knowledge, and ability to identify and articulate their skill set needed to enter a new career in recruiting
For the past two weeks, we have been working on building and refining two pitch decks for these concepts and have learned a lot in the process. We have outlined this experience and all we have learned below.
#1 Creating two decks for different audiences
In an effort to more deeply consider and define our concepts, we began by creating two decks for each concept: one for the ultimate customers of our products and another for potential investors or partners in our products.
For Casa, we have identified our early adopter customers as perspective bootcamp graduates. Ultimately, we may home to expand the qualifications of our residents to allow students who are enrolled in online programs or who have designed their own educational curriculum through a compilation of alternative learning pathways. Yet, to start, we will be focusing on connecting with prospective bootcamp students to give us a targeted subset of our audience to design for and speak to in marketing.
As far as investors for Casa, we created a deck to be presented to the bootcamps themselves as we are imagining they would be important promotional and operational partners in our business. This is another way in which we imagine targeting bootcamp students would be a most valuable place for us to begin: with the right partnerships, it would allow us to utilize the existing infrastructures of these programs to connect with our students initially, best support them throughout our learning and fill in the gaps on outcomes assistance at the end.
In this process, we began to consider our business and revenue models at a much deeper level. We spent some time looking at potential properties to buy in Austin, looking into grants for coliving and affordable housing development, and considered the process by which bootcamps could inform their perspective of our housing option.
It was in the process of creating similar decks for Launch Pad that we transitioned our concept in the way we spoke about last week (from a website that aggregates alternative and informal education into a summer workshop series for teachers). The process of considering who our customers and investors would be with our initial concept stirred conversations around how we may be able to create a product that would be financially viable while ensuring that we would be solving the problem we initially set out to: to allow individuals to see and have the confidence to pursue alternative career pathways. We will speak more to how that concept really was able to come together in the next step.
#2 Hone in and condense to one deck
The next step in our process was to take a look at the finalized decks we created for our two respective ideas (a total of four decks) and condense them into two decks, one for each concept. This was a essential part of bringing definition to our concepts.
With Casa, it was a matter of simply reviewing the two decks we had created to identify which elements we hoped to incorporate into our narrative for a larger audience, one that could resonate for customers and investors or partners.
After setting up this trend, we introduced the problem that exists because of it, which our product is attempting to tackle: that with this rapid scaling of the marketing not all bootcamps will deliver on their promise to transition students into a career in tech. The schools that survive will be the ones that have students who evangelize their programs because of the enriching experiences and supportive community they had there.
To provide evidence of this, our team spent time scouring the reviews on a site called Course Report, which is a Yelp-esque site for bootcamp students, to get a sense of what themes existed amongst the 5-star reviews and what the biggest complaints were across the 1-star reviews. Across the board, we heard that the larger community of a program and support that that community offers is important. We shared some quotes from these reviews in our deck.
We then introduced our concept as the solution to this problem. We spoke about the business model which will be sustained through student rent and renting of our event space. We spoke about our plan for beginning our venture by simply assisting one cohort in securing housing and relocating to Austin, in our first year. This is will allow us to get to the know the student experience very deeply and be able to create a product that serves them best. Our intention in this first year is to solicit bootcamps for a portion of tuition if these students ultimately enroll. In the following year we will work to secure a living environment and build the infrastructure for students to be able to move in.
As I mentioned before, the process of creating this deck for Launch Pad was a bit more reflective. As we made our initial decks, we immediately felt that the audience for both and the solution our problem was solving for was too broad to clearly communicate what we were confident was a very strong concept. Our customer in that first round was “professionals” and our investors or partners would be “companies.” Our value proposition was that, through what we were imagining to be a website, we would make it really easy for recruiters and hiring managers to be able to see what a candidate gained in each of their professional or alternative educational experiences to truly fit the best candidate into the best fit role. The value proposition to professionals was similar in that we would provide a tool to allow you to define and articulate your skill set to level up or over into the role you want, while also being able to identify gaps to see what you needed if you were not quite there yet.
In the very initial stages of creating these decks, it became obvious that our concept was amorphous and our audience too broad. We had spoken with many recruiters over the past couple of weeks and validated a need. But, this problem immediately felt bigger than we could tackle in one product and we realized a need to hone our focus.
In one of our conversations with a recruiter at Google, she had said in a casual manner that Google will often look for applicants who were formally teachers when hiring recruiters. At first listen, this did not seem at all intuitive to either of us. But as we pressed her with a couple of questions about it, it became immediately clear that this was nearly an obvious transition given teachers ability to communicate effectively, evaluate and guide people, manage various stakeholders, amongst others.
Our minds went back to that idea as we began considering how to focus our concept. What if we could really focus on helping get teachers into recruiting? What would we learn in the process of helping some teachers transition into a new field that could be applied to other fields? Enter our new concept: the summer workshop series for teachers that gives them the confidence, knowledge, and ability to define and articulate their skill set to be able to apply it to a new career in recruiting.
As just alluded to, our hope is that by focusing on creating a sort of formula for really understanding the gaps between these two careers, neither of which necessarily require a higher degree or very technical training, we will be able to really understand the pain points in any professional’s transition to a new field and ideally be able to create a solution that solves for those pain points and allows anyone to make the transition.
We chose to focus on teacher because of the high attrition in the field. Our new deck pointed this out as the very obvious problem that exists for this population (as it does for any who want to change careers).
We also emphasized the growth of the recruiting market, which is expected to grow by 14% in the next couple of years.
All of this in the effort to set up our solution. We assumed that teachers will want guidance in their transition an so allowed our service to be an a la carte series of workshops. Each teacher will have a consultation with our team and we will assess where they need extra support and enroll them in the specific workshops we offer to get them to a point of confidence and great presentation of their skills by the end of the summer.
In our deck, we spoke about how we will begin very much as a concierge service, helping teachers one off to learn from them on a smaller scale at first and be able to develop our product in a way that meets their needs best.
We also worked to make sure that this deck spoke to companies (specifically hiring managers and recruiters) as well as teachers looking to leave teaching. We highlighted the overlap in skills between teaching and recruiting and the rising demand for recruiters in our new deck.
#3 Move forward
With each of these concepts, we have a much clearer sense of our audience and have considered a number of funding streams. However, our team is completely set on creating a solution that really solves the needs of our customers. As such, we are not married to the concepts we have created here, now.
Our intention is to place these concepts in front of the audiences that they will serve (the customers) or affect (investors or partners) most and get feedback.
This week, for Casa, we spoke with a student currently enrolled in a web development bootcamp in Denver. Half of his class has dropped out of the program and is down to 6 students. We learned about the importance of expectation setting and the importance of feeling settled (whether technically or physically) to success in a program.
This next week we have meeting scheduled with the teams at General Assembly, Hack Reactor @ Galvanize, and Austin Coding Academy to hear both about the pain points on business side of building a strong community that evangelizes their school as well as barriers they have witnessed on the student side to having that stellar experience.
For Launch Pad, we also spoke with two teachers, one who recently left teaching and does not have a plan for her next role and another who is seriously considering leaving teaching after 7 years. We learned a lot from these conversations about the overwhelm that teachers feel in all the opportunities that could be available to them after teaching from graduate school to property management. We also learned about the strong way in which teaching can be tied to a person’s identity and the fear of leaving teaching and loosing what feels like an essential piece of who you are.
In the upcoming week, we hope to speak with a couple more teachers to really understand this experience and begin to hone in on our concept.
What we could use from you
As we enter a week long break from school, we look to hone down to a single idea. We will be gathering all the information we can over the next few weeks about these two concepts (both of which we are very excited about) and ultimately making a decision to persist with one.
- If you or anyone you know is familiar with these populations, teachers, bootcamp students, or recruiters, we would love to connect with you or them
- If you or anyone you know is familiar with developing or working for a similar business concept to the two we have above, we would love to swap notes.