Interview with entrepreneur, Scott Block
How about a change of content?
I normally interview authors of books on the subject of entrepreneurship or innovation. This week I decided to interview an entrepreneur about his venture and entrepreneurship in general. I hope you enjoy!
Scott, what inspired you and your team to create VentureBoard?
Avi, Justin, and I realized there were some gaps in the way universities promoted entrepreneurship, even at institutions with prestigious entrepreneurship centers. Students weren’t connecting with each other and were unaware of the resources universities had to offer. Meanwhile, universities were struggling to keep tabs on and best assist student startups. We knew there had to be a better way.
Please tell us a little bit about your team’s background.
The VentureBoard team met at the University of Maryland. Justin is a Computer Science major, Avi graduated as an Information Systems and Marketing major, and Scott is finishing up his degree- also in Information Systems and Marketing. Justin does backend development, Scott handles the front-end development as well as sales and customer support, and Avi does marketing, design, user experience, and financials.
Delving into your software program, who would benefit most from it?
University entrepreneurship centers of all sorts benefit from VentureBoard. Colleges just starting their program benefit tremendously from VentureBoard. It provides a set of tools to save administrative time, and reduces barriers to entry for students.
Established entrepreneurship centers also benefit from VentureBoard. Our platform gives insight into students companies, teaching them which ones are active and which ones might need additional support from advisors. There are also tools to allow student entrepreneurs to help each other out, and ways for student startups to reach out to the greater community for additional resources.
What makes your software different from others that try to solve the same problem? Or, is this the first software solution to address this problem?
VentureBoard’s design and features are built around the students. We know that without student engagement, universities cannot gain anything from their end of the platform. We’ve built tools that are easy for students to use. They are lightweight and flexible enough to not get in the way of a team’s current workflows.
What are the most important components, modules, or structures of your software that you’d like potential customers to know they will benefit from?
For students, VentureBoard allows you to find people to work with based off of common interests and needed skills. Once your team is in place, we give you a place to take your idea from concept to sustainable plan. Tools include task management and a collaborative Business Model Canvas (easy to use alternative to a long business plan). We provide you with links to resources you might need, as well as a way to request university advisors to help you out.
For universities, VentureBoard gives you a high level overview of student startups. At a glance, you can see which startups are active, which ones are stagnant, and which ones are interacting with university advisors. You can quickly assign tasks and events to startups, and track which startups are completing them on time.
Without VentureBoard, a university is lucky to even know which startups are on campus at any given time. With VentureBoard, guesses and assumptions are replaced with valuable data about student entrepreneurs and their ventures.
Given your interest in entrepreneurship, what is the best piece of advice for an entrepreneur you’ve ever received?
My former boss and current mentor, Doug March, taught me about the Man in the Arena speech by Theodore Roosevelt, and it’s really stuck with me. Specifically, it’s not the critic who counts. As a founder, you might not be doing everything correct, but at least you’re in the arena, working and trying every day to positively impact the world. It’s much easier to sit on the sideline, and criticize from afar, but that’s not how great companies solve hard problems.
Give us an interesting fun fact about the research or product development process you went through to develop this software solution.
Death by spreadsheet! We’ve seen some incredibly complex spreadsheets from entrepreneurship centers attempting to track student startups. Spreadsheets that take minutes to open or even are breaking Google Spreadhseets because they’re too big. Of course, they also become cumbersome to use, extract data out of, and keep up to date.
Where can people find out more about VentureBoard and your team?
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