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Course Content


7. Operations

7.1 Curriculum Design

7.1.1 Course Content

Some of the standard course content followed across by mentors/facilitators are as follows:

Lean Methodology: (2 hours)

The Lean Methodology focusses on creating more value for customers with fewer resources.

It favors experimentation over elaborate planning, customer feedback over intuition, and working smarter over working harder. The concept endorses the path of ‘failing fast’ and quickly adapting, learning, iterating, improving on initial ideas, validating hypotheses against real users and ultimately succeeding.

What do startups learn?

The following main concepts of the Lean Startup approach:

• Starting with the hypotheses: from identifying who is the customer to what is the value proposition to pricing, revenue and distribution channels

• Testing the hypotheses by developing a series of experiments to understand customer reactions

• Creating a minimal viable product

• Maximizing customer value while minimizing on waste


SIGMA Social Startup Accelerator Playbook

• Building, measuring, learning

• Inculcating the ability to pivot

• Applying agile engineering

Business Model Canvas: (3 hours)

The Business Model Canvas is a strategic management and entrepreneurial tool that allows companies to describe, design, challenge and invent new business models.

What do startups learn?

The Business Model Canvas breaks the business model down into nine easily understood segments: key partnerships, key activities, key resources, value propositions, customer relationships, channels, customer segments, cost structure and revenue streams.

Key Partnerships

Describes the network of suppliers and partners that make the business model of the startup work. Key considerations are:

• Who are our key partners?

• Who are our key suppliers?

• What key resources are we acquiring from partners?

• Which key activities do partners perform?

Key Activities

Describes the most important steps the company must execute to make its business model successful. Key considerations are:

• What are our distribution channels?

• What key activities do our value propositions require?

• Where do our customer relationships?

• What are our revenue streams?

Key Resources

Describes the most important assets required to make a business model work. Key considerations are:

• What key resources do our value propositions require?

• What key resources apply in our distribution channels?

• What key resources do we invest into our customer relationships?

• What key resources we need to utilize for our revenue streams?

Value Propositions

Describes the various products and services that create value for a specific customer segment. Key considerations are:

• Which one of our customer’s problems are we helping solve?

• What value can we deliver to the customer?

• What specific customer needs are we satisfying?


SIGMA Social Startup Accelerator Playbook

• What products and services are we offering to each of our customer segments?

Customer Relationships

Describes the types of relationships a company establishes with specific customer segments.

Key considerations are:

• What type of relationship does each of our customer represent?

• What do customers expect us to establish and maintain with them?

• What customer relationships have we established? How costly are they?

• How are customers integrated with the rest of our business model?

Customer Segments

Defines the varied groups of individuals or organizations an enterprise aims to serve. Key considerations are:

• For whom are we creating value?

• Who are our most important customers?

• What are the various customer archetypes?


Describes how a company communicates with and reaches out to its customer segments for delivery of a value proposition. Key considerations are:

• Through which channels do our customer segments prefer being reached?

• How are we reaching them now?

• How are our channels integrated?

• Which of our channels work best?

• Which of our channels are most cost-efficient?

• How are we integrating our channels with customer routines?

Cost Structure

Describes all costs that need to be incurred to operate a business model. Key considerations are:

• What are the most inherent costs within our existing model?

• Which key resources are the most expensive?

• Which key activities are the most expensive?

• How can we best utilize our funds?

Revenue Streams

Represents the cash a company generates from each customer segment. Key considerations are:

• How much are our customers willing to pay?

• For what do they currently pay?


SIGMA Social Startup Accelerator Playbook

• How do they currently pay?

• How would they prefer to pay?

• How much does each revenue stream contribute to overall revenues?

Agile Development: (1 hour)

One of the strongest approaches to come out of the tech industry, is the Agile development model. In this approach, individuals and interactions are prioritized over processes, tools and software are preferred over comprehensive documentation and customer collaboration is adopted over contract negotiation.

What do startups learn?

Startups are exposed to key principles of agile, some of which are:

• Active involvement of users

• Empowerment of team to make decisions

• Requirements that evolve while the timescale stays fixed

• Development of small, incremental releases that are continuously iterated

• Focus on frequent delivery of products

Customer-Centric Innovation: (2 hours)

At the heart of every customer-centric innovation is a rigorous customer R&D process that helps companies continually improve their understanding of who their customers are and what are their needs. Customer-centric product innovation focuses on developing better ways of communicating value propositions and delivering complete, satisfying experiences to real customers.

What do startups learn?

There are various benefits associated with building a customer-centric business, some of which are:

• Edge over competitors: The more customer-centric a business, the longer it takes for competitors to figure out its game

• Increase in customer loyalty

• Increase in number of new customer investments

• Sustained profitability and growth

• Low-budget innovation

Branding and Communication: (1 hour)

A brand represents the sum of people’s perception of a company’s name, reputation, customer service, design, advertising, and logo. It conveys a uniform quality, credibility, and experience.

Businesses that define and build their brands gain tremendous advantages over their competitors while also gaining customer loyalty. The process of branding and communication for a startup involves careful consideration of the mission, creative thinking, and a strong desire to connect with the people who will ultimately make the business successful.


SIGMA Social Startup Accelerator Playbook What do startups learn?

• Branding for startups: why it matters

• Creating an authentic message

• Thinking like a customer

• Conducting market research

• Performing a competitive analysis

• Developing a market strategy

• Crafting a brand identity

• Using technology and social media platforms to scale Operating Plan: (2 hours)

The operating plan forms part of the business strategy and describes the methods and practices to be implemented during the program, the workflow from input to end results and all the key resources to be utilized for scaling the success of the startups.

The key components of a complete operating plan should include:

• Human capital

• Product development

• Revenue model identification

• Financial requirements

• Risk assessment

• Estimate of project lifespan, sustainability and exit strategy Growth Hacking: (1 hour)

Growth hacking is the use of new and innovative methods, tools, and practices to exponentially grow a company’s customer base. It involves marketing at low costs through analytical thinking, usage of social metrics, content marketing, creative social-media strategies, and online advertising, as opposed to traditional marketing platforms such as billboards, radio, television, print ads and PR.

What do startups learn?

Startups are introduced to new and powerful forms of non-traditional marketing such as:

• Social media marketing and campaigns

• Targeting niche communities via web forums

• E-mailers

• SEO/SEM and organic search

• Content marketing

• Blogs

• Podcasts

• Social bookmarking

• YouTube videos

• CRM automation and engagement via loyalty campaigns


SIGMA Social Startup Accelerator Playbook

• A/B testing

• Online media advertising

Sales: (2 hours)

A sale dictates that, in exchange for a certain amount of money or assets, the seller will provide the buyer with aforementioned goods or services. To complete a sale, both parties must be deemed competent and be in agreements regarding the terms as set forth.

What do startups learn?

• Why do buyers buy & buying motivation

• Sales process & Buying process

• Crafting a sales elevator pitch - USP

User Experience Design: (3 hours)

Products only sell if users can use them intuitively. The product by itself should provide a great experience without the entrepreneur having to invest huge amounts of money.

What do startups learn?

• What is Lean UX

• How lean UX can help in continuous learning and continuous innovation of the product and service

• How to create great UX in a lean environment

• How to combine UX and agile effectively

• How to create Lean-UX canvas

• The business problem you are trying to solve

• The business outcome expected through your solution

• Primary user personas and Develop it

• The needs/benefits of the users to use your solution

• Products and features that will help the persona to satisfy their needs

• Develop hypothesis by combining the steps above, for each of the feature identified

• Identify the riskiest assumptions that will cause the entire idea to fail if it wrong

• Brainstorm Ways to test the riskiest assumptions to be true or false