SPARK's Entrepreneur Boot Camp Primes Start-ups for Success
Ann Arbor SPARK is currently ramping up for its 20th bi-annual Entrepreneur Boot Camp. While the first thoughts that may come to mind are intimidating drill sergeants and 4 a.m. wake-up calls, entrepreneurs won't find any of those at this SPARK event. Instead, this program will cram the budding entrepreneur's head with years of consulting expertise throughout two days of intensive, hands-on learning.
Since its start in 2002, 236 companies have flocked to SPARK's Entrepreneur Boot Camp program to receive critical feedback and advice about their business model and other key elements that will determine if a start-up succeeds or fails. They come needing answers to critical questions like "Is there a market for my technology?" and "How should I be pitching my company to potential investors?" After working directly with top business consultants and coaches from the New Enterprise Forum, Great Lakes Entrepreneurs Quest, U-M Ross School of Business, and the business community, they'll leave with those answers and much more.
Entrepreneur Boot Camp will force entrepreneurs to "get their company into shape", by leading them through the creation of an investor presentation, elevator pitches, an executive summary, and a road map to the next company milestone. These deliverables will accelerate a company's growth to the next level, and help prepare them to be regional economic drivers.
Take for example Entrepreneur Boot Camp veteran Hannah Hensel. Her company, Brio Device
, won "Best of Boot Camp" last May. She co-founded the medical device company and spin-out from the University of Michigan Medical Innovation Center, whose flagship product is the SmartAirway. This improves the safety and efficacy of emergency intubation, even when performed by less skilled practitioners.
The award money from "Best of Boot Camp" allowed her to complete preparations for the company's first round of fundraising and secure necessary professional services that Brio Device needed to grow.
Almost a year has passed since Brio Device participated in Entrepreneur Boot Camp, and Hensel credits the event for helping the company build its reputation in the Ann Arbor Region. According to Hensel, "SPARK's Boot Camp and Engagement provided the framework and guidance we needed to get Brio Device solidly established as a medical device company in Ann Arbor."
Thru.im, a company co-founded by David Spiro and Chad Stark, has also participated in SPARK's Boot Camp. "SPARK was instrumental in teaching us as entrepreneurs to build a business around customer needs not technology features," says David Spiro, co-founder. "Thanks to SPARK – the drill instructors, mentors, and other startups – we learned to focus on key customer development activities and got our first customer by the end of the summer! We still meet with key mentors from the program regularly, namely Anik Ganguly."
Support from SPARK doesn't end after the expertise-packed two days of Boot Camp are up either. All Boot Camp graduates will have access to other SPARK Entrepreneur Services such as incubator office space, grants, and microloans, to name a few.
These after-camp benefits were of great assistance to Brio Device. "Winning SPARK's 'Best of Boot Camp' came at just the right time for Brio Device," Hensel says. "We needed lawyers, graphic designers, accountants, and insight from veteran entrepreneurs to complement the skills of our founding team. Those resources were immediately available through SPARK's engagement following Boot Camp. These relationships have proven to be invaluable to navigate the countless demands as a start-up company."
The next Entrepreneur Boot Camp will be held on March and 23 at the Kensington Court Hotel in Ann Arbor. More information can be found here
or by calling 734.761.9317.
Photo courtesy of SPARK