There’s more to Spring Break than catching rays and sipping on rum drinks. For a group of Harvard MBA candidates and working professionals, now is the time to double-down on their startup ideas.
Rohan Ganesh, Ben West and Andrea Coravos all HBS students, as well as Sydney Rossman-Reich and Angela Nicholas, have decided to stage a Startup Lockdown. Over the past 3 years, it’s been an organic, unofficial tradition for a group of 5 people – previously 5 HBS MBAs but, this year, 3 HBS students plus 2 professionals – to get together during Spring Break and dedicate themselves to testing 5 separate business ideas in 5 days. So this is the latest cohort that opted out of vacations and opted into laying the foundations for a business.
Each day of the Lockdown, the team focuses on one group member’s startup idea. They tackle the preliminary steps for building a business with each potential venture over the course of 24 hours: conducting consumer research, prototyping, doing user testing, iterating, pivoting and ultimately building the foundation of a company. This happens every day for 5 days.
Historically speaking, the “5x5x5” approach has gone over well in past Startup Lockdowns. In 2013, the idea for the first Startup Lockdown was born out of the venture lab, Whitespace. The original team worked on the makings of what would become Hello Alfred one of its 5 days. The startup – whose prototyping occurred during that day – has continued on to raise two rounds of funding and grow. In addition to Hello Alfred’s co-founder Marcela Sapone, past participants in Startup Lockdown also included Lola Travel’s VP of Product, Ellen Chisa.
“It’s like having a jetpack on your idea.”
The ideas that each person brings to the table this year differ greatly. On one side of the spectrum, there’s Rossman-Reich, working on a marketplace for on-demand physical therapy; on the other, there’s Nicholas, developing an app to share travel recommendations and curate itineraries among friends. Meanwhile, West is making a tech-savvy way to educate men on hair loss and the treatments available, Ganesh is developing a solution consolidating users’ messaging apps to reduce stress and distractions, in addition to Coravos forming a marketplace for brain fitness. Despite the differing topics, there is a common thread. Every participant in Startup Lockdown sees this time as an opportunity to take their idea somewhere.
“It’s like having a jetpack on your idea,” Rossman-Reich said. “A lot of times, people have an idea mulling around in their head, but…this gets you over that line of the idea phase.”
The structure of the Lockdown is also appealing, especially for busy business school students and professionals with full-time jobs. There are very few chances when these individuals are able to take a block of time and focus exclusively on their startup ideas.
West explained, “I think what I’ve been missing most from school is the time to focus on an idea, create it and look at what you’ve created…When you have class, you’re always busy and always distracted.”
“When you look at it, it’s a lot of hours together, but because it’s so concentrated…there’s an amazing amount of things that can happen, especially with everyone focused on one thing at a time,” Coravos said.
Time isn’t the only thing on their side. Startup Lockdown is also alluring because it brings together people with different backgrounds, has them pick apart each idea, work out all of the kinks with other entrepreneurially minded people and come up with a theoretically more sound basis for a venture.
“For me, the value add was that I’d have 4 people sit in a room and talk through what I’ve been thinking about for a business,” explained Nicholas, who flew in from Seattle to participate.
“It’s like having 4 brains to borrow for a week,” Ganesh added. “It’s a huge benefit, particularly given our backgrounds.”
Image via Startup Lockdown.