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Five Things Learned in the New Venture Creation Course

The Sofaer Global MBA at Tel Aviv University is focused on preparing our students in the fields of entrepreneurship and innovation. As such, one of our flagship courses was created – New Venture Creation. This full-semester course covers many facets of launching a startup through a blended learning curriculum of lectures and case studies.

The following is a reflection piece written by one of our students, Julie Benhammo:

While reflecting on the things I learned in the New Ventures Creation class, I realized that a lot of what I took away from it came from the dynamic group of instructors. While this may be an unusual path, I would like to reflect on some of the things I learned or were reinforced about venture creation that didn’t come from the pure theory aspect of the class.

Before the Sofaer Global MBA, I had joined a startup at the seed stage as their first senior manager. The New Venture Creation class allowed me to see a broader picture of what comes before the stage I joined, what could have been done differently in my time there, and perspective on what could have happened after.

Question everything then question again: No matter how many years of experience, credibility or confidence level, there isn’t a piece of information, a number or a slide that can’t be questioned. Whether you are new to an industry or a veteran, there isn’t a something in what you present, write or pitch that can’t be questioned. Whether you are a professor or a student in this class, question everything and when you get to a solution that seems viable of feasible, question it again until everything you say, do or act on is reliable and viable. Investors will then be confident in you as an entrepreneur and your team will trust and follow you.

Challenge ideas: Another major takeaway I learned was through watching the professors interacting. All three instructors have different backgrounds and cultures, and each and every idea was challenged in the most respectful, constructive and articulate way. This experience reflects the current flatness of the world, where we each have to be prepared to be global by comfortably collaborating with people with diverse backgrounds. Our program being in Tel Aviv gives us an additional advantage as it’s both a major tech-hub, and a global city in the Middle East. I have learned that even if you trust your business partner, it is healthy to challenge his/her ideas in the most respectful way and to communicate and even to agree to disagree.

Adapt, pivot, adapt, pivot: Our instructors analyzed what didn’t work and constructively reacted to “customer’s” feedback. We changed the classroom, we changed the structure of the class and students suddenly went from being passive to being proactive, we devoured case studies, we interacted during each theory presentation, we were part of the “business” and it was on us to make it even better. While all of this pivoting was happening, we were reviewing the Rent the Runway case, and this was the most representative and live example of what it was to pivot. I learned that it takes a great team and customer’s feedback to make great things happen.

Don’t sit back on your successes, take risks and learn by doing: Another major lesson from this class was how to successfully manage drastically different personalities. While my decade of experience in the professional world was mostly being surrounded by similar personalities, working on someone’s idea, in an industry that is brand new, with a neuroscience and a team that he didn’t technically select (like one would do within a company) was definitely tremendously valuable experience. One of the lessons was to find ways to add value to a neuroscientist that by definition knows a lot, is an intelligent, bright, researcher and perfectionist and has been working on this idea for many years. Starting a business is learning by doing, it is taking risks and being agile. I learned that not everyone rises the same way to this challenge and not everyone has the same amount of resilience and persistence. Depending on background, culture, life experience, and professional experience, being wrong and being in a state of failure is perceived or lived differently by an individual. Starting a new venture is not about sitting back on its own successes.

Feedback is everything: A final lesson learned I want to share is that feedback is everything. From the professors to the classmates, each feedback received has been valuable. We can spend days, weeks, months working on something and assuming that this is correct or the best way to do it, but nothing is like getting constructive feedback from someone that is just seeing or hearing this for the first time. There isn't a more objective and constructive approach, and this is what makes new ventures successful or not. If your investors don’t understand the solution you are providing, then your customers won’t understand either. If you can’t communicate clearly what your value proposition is then your customers won’t purchase your product. If your classmates are unclear after you pitch the value proposition or product attributes, then investors or customers will be confused as well. Feedback is key.

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