Starting classes at university level was something I was truly excited about when I finally finished my associate’s degree. I really imagined and expected fresh, adventurous, and challenging opportunities to grow as a student and eventually, a professional. The idea of being able to learn about a future career path, however, through reading and homework assignments can be only so much exciting. Actual fun, if continuously and strictly searched this way, can be limited, even nonexistent. As adolescence fades and adulthood emerges, we sometimes falsely assume that fun must be sacrificed in order to handle responsibilities. Starting school at a University and being exposed to new opportunities were almost one and the same thing. Taking advantage of opportunities to test character and compliment the education that cannot be learned in a class room can indeed be a fun way to learn about entrepreneurship, investors’ interests, and storytelling.
What 3DS is
The 3-day-startup project is a 72 hour workshop designed to help university students start companies. Members of the Regional Economic Development Association, (REDA) team up with the Austin education program 3DS to invite local students with an entrepreneurial spirit learn 3 months' work of starting a company in 3 days. Every spring, students at Utep sign up for a chance to develop and idea or a solution to a common problem, with the intent to develop it into a market opportunity. This year, REDA and 3DS would like to extend the chance to enroll to others who are not enrolled in the university and limit the scope of the problems to clean technology specific start-ups.
Over the course of 72 hours: participants discuss problems and potential solutions, form teams, and build a pitch deck. Participants who don’t necessarily have a strong idea at the beginning of the event may join a team who does. Even a vague idea, however, mixed with a strong desire to learn what it is like to start a company can be sufficient and indeed worth signing up for such great experience.
Once a couple of ideas have been selected and everyone has a team, the learning experience begins. Joining 3DS as a participant, has been one of the most intense things I’ve had the chance to go through in college. On the very first day, after being asked to explain in one sentence what problem our company intended to solve, my brain started to function strangely and set into a state of flow.
On day two, we learned about things like customer discovery, customer validation, prototyping, and what investors thought of our ideas. Most of the tasks that need to be thought of and completed, when laid out seem complicated-- especially against something abstract like an idea. Mentors at 3DS, however, bring the kind of feedback and insight that excite participants toward more clearly defining what or how proposed solutions make the dream work.
Team work and individuals’ levels of commitment toward achieving a goal can be seriously challenged during this workshop. Still, the feeling of legitimate growth usually abounds in a setting like that of 3DS.
Engaging in critical thinking while actively searching for answers to then present to a group of investors and judges is not something one does for fun.
This workshop, however, is a platform to do something difficult and intense in a rather amusing yet truly challenging way. If you have never taken on this challenging way of coming up with answers, you’ll feel and know this by the time the weekend is over. Seriously, just listening to other passionate individuals pitches and developing your own is a vibe you’ll find missing after just three days.
Little by little participants who are initially clueless as to how to build a pitch deck, learn this valuable skill toward the end of the workshop.
The skills participants can and should expect to acquire or polish are a reward in itself, in my opinion. Business classes hardly ever provide with a chance to really hone story telling skills. How are story telling skills relevant at all when it comes to business? Well, essential, really. Participating in 3DS made me realize how selling an idea actually happens. The concept is simple, an entrepreneur with an idea naturally believes his idea makes perfect logical sense to the investor and should be validated. However, what really actually gets people moving is adapting an idea that resonates with them emotionally. To do this, a story which creates emotional impact should be carefully delivered.
It all comes down to what you, as a participant, really get to take with you from this experience.
From my own experience, I can guarantee participating is nothing you will regret. Meeting other students with the same entrepreneurial spirit is always a rewarding experience. This, coupled with the knowledge of three to six months’ worth of company building experience and you can start a team that will maybe one day generate lots of profit! So whether you want to benefit from this development of skills that ultimately compliments, and cannot be found in your higher education journey, or simply curious to see how an idea will be received, 3DS is the perfect place to do all that. Won’t you sign up?!