MCE helps innovators fill in the gaps between their deep industry expertise and the strategic business skills critical to launching a scalable, sustainable venture. Maine's unique economic and geographic challenges demand more that a traditional business incubator. They demand a catalyst.

Inside Top Gun Maine

This is the fourth year of Top Gun Maine, my second running it and the third working on the curriculum. What keeps it fun for the entrepreneur in me is we keep refining it, keep experimenting, keep learning how to do things better.

Last night was week two, "Addressing Death Threats: Agile Acceleration." It was an evolution from last year's immersion experience of participating entrepreneurs in Innovation Engineering. Last year, all the companies went through the three-day Innovation Engineering Leadership Institute.

This year we are doing "Innovation Engineering Lite." We concluded that the ideation tool box ("Create") of Innovation Engineering isn't the most pressing issue for entrepreneurs, based on feedback. Learning to communicate their ideas is critical; I included a fair amount of those tools in Top Gun Prep.

What I realized during my Black Belt training in Innovation Engineering is that the Plan/Do/Study/Act ("Deming cycles") approach for addressing death threats rapidly could be extremely valuable. The notion is pretty simple:

1) identify the most critical issues that could impede your business or kill it entirely

2) come up with fast and cheap ways to get smart about these issues (I call it Learn Fast Learn Cheap, riffing on the Fail Fast Fail Cheap motto central to Innovation Engineering)

3) do it. study it. integrate the learning. repeat.

So that's what the dozen entrepreneur teams and 20 mentors were talking about last night. By the end of the evening there were a dozen very concrete steps to be taken in the next week or two, with progress to be reported to mentors. Then we'll repeat the cycle.

Agile Acceleration.

Here's what it looked like (video posted on the Top Gun Facebook page):

Top Gun Maine


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Customer Development for Undergraduates

Many of you know that I'm a big advocate of the Steve Blank "Customer Development" method. I taught it in Top Gun in the spring of 2012, and in Top Gun Prep last fall.

While we haven't fully embraced the "Lean Launchpad" model, I continue to follow it and look for opportunities to bring it to Maine. A recent guest blog post on Steve Blank's blog was inspiring in that this method was used to teach a course for 20 Princeton undergraduates. It was extremely successful in bringing the hands-on dirty and unpredictable process of innovation and entrepreneurship into a very Ivy League school not particularly known for entrepreneurship. (I lived in Princeton for a decade and first time around married into a Princeton family).

I encourage you to read the blog post, and especially check out the student videos. I looked at this video about making 3D printed figurines of custom video game avatars - it's illuminating to see how the students had to pivot entirely away from their original idea.

Wanted: an academic partner to help bring this kind of class to Maine!

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