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Ashish Bhatia

Founder Challenge

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The story of the Founder Challebge


In the inaugural year of the Business, Technology, and Entrepreneurship program I was trying to figure out a way to get students to take more action. We had a town hall and I decided I would challenge them to become founders. The slides are above.

The students reacted pretty well to the challenge, I got lots of positive feedback, they wanted me to tell them. In fact, they needed help to get out of their shell.

Delivering the message to other classes

Given the success of the message with BTE, I realized there was no reason I couldn't deliver this message to my other students. So I passed it along and not only did it stick, several students became eager to work with me on it.

Purpuseful Entrepreneurship? EMindset?

I thought for a long while about the name. I entertained Purpuseful Entrepreneurship and EMindset quite a bit. These names spoke to key ideas that related my teaching and apporach....

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Initial Mock-ups

My initial mock up is not far from where we are today. I thought there are 3 key ideas I'm trying to get across. Mindset, Action, Purpose. Below on the left was a slide I made in Google Slides. On the right Jerry Chen gave a crack of one of many initial iterations.

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Logo. Lots can go into a logo, what should we do?

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Who Do I Know?

While this one may seem quite straightforward, it's far from it. I don’t know Jeff Bezos or Oprah Winfrey and I'm betting neither do you. And that’s ok. Two clues to get you started:


What types of people are you connected with? Or what communities are you a part of?


Are your friends gamers? Do you know a lot of athletes? Are you from a long line of immigrants from a particular country? Is all of your family involved in running convenience stores?


Maybe you have grown up in a particularly challenging environment--you still know valuable people that can be a building block for new projects! Consider the micro neighborhood you were a part of. Maybe if you were to launch a business or service, it could meet the needs of a community like that neighborhood that you are really familiar with. Who do I know is the power of leveraging your specific communities of people.


Co-Creation (or Quilting)

Under effectual reasoning, founders focus on forming strategic partnerships (collaboration) over competition. Effectual entrepreneurs seek to co-create or quilt together resources toward their vision. Professor Sarasvathy at UVA Darden has put forward this idea of quilting as it an important distinction from a puzzle. With a puzzle, you simply have to find the "right" piece or as a startup founder, person or investor to make your venture happen. If instead you are quilting, any piece you find may play a role in you achieving a collective vision. So that employee you hired to do the website might also have ways to help you with sales that you never considered!


Professor Sarasvathy will often say, measure the success of your venture, based on who you can bring on board. If you are sharing your vision with others and they want to chip-in, you are probably on the right track. It all begins with what she calls the Effectual Ask. You might be founder, but the entrepreneurial journey is never viewed as a solo mission in effectuation!


Affordable Loss 

One of the biggest impediments to people getting started with their venture ideas is the fear that they could loose it all! We often think of Entrepreneurship as taking the "Plunge." But the reality is that most entrepreneurs have rationally chosen that pursuing the opportunity will bring them more joy than the alternative. 

You can make this choice too, with the help of determining your Affordable Loss. Your Affordable Loss is what you are will to commit (and loose) to starting your venture. For the founder of this webpage, that was making the choice to focus his time on this webpage for the summer and the certain amount of money to get the page off the ground.  If the resource turns out less useful, the cost is quantifiable as just that. 


In traditional business, leaders are tasked with minimizing costs and maximizing returns. Entrepreneurs can't follow this playbook. Instead, entrepreneurs can gain better control of their venture process by pre-determining their Affordable Loss, so they can jump into their venture process fully committed by knowing their downside.


Are you ready to become a founder?

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