It was 5 PM on Thursday, April 20. I had just stepped into the Trailhead building in downtown Boise, and I could sense an entrepreneurial energy that seemed to electrify the room. This was the spring open house for BSU’s Venture College.
I knew no one, but after I’d surreptitiously enjoyed some BBQ skewers and a cup of wine, I started to mingle. Thankfully, the group was welcoming and excited to share their business ideas and experiences.
One woman I talked to said she was simultaneously going through an MBA program while also in Venture College, and that Venture College was what taught her truly practical skills for vetting her business idea and getting it off the ground.
It was enlightening to hear how big of a disparity there is between a typical academic degree in business and the hands-on approach of Venture College. Both are valuable, but for entrepreneurs, there’s nothing like an incubator to help you learn the set of skills you need to be effective in launching a business idea.
Boise State Business Owners
The spring open house was about connecting people and sharing what participants in the Venture College program were up to. As a highlight, three alumni of the program took turns talking about the success of their digital business ventures, including Whitney Hansen of The Money Nerds and online marketer James Petzke. Petzke runs several affiliate websites and sells his own physical knife products online. All three entrepreneurs said their businesses should top six figures this year.
Another standout was Hacking for Defense, a group of engineering graduate students contracted to solve problems for the U.S. military, specifically Special Forces out of Tampa, Florida. I talked to Megan and Kelson for about twenty minutes and learned all about the challenges they faced in creating a device that could help law enforcement and soldiers detect people through walls, while also being lightweight and wearable.
They mentioned that the process taught at Venture College is to start with interviewing your potential customers. Megan told me they interviewed 115 different people in the process of understanding the limitations of other devices in this space, and to figure out what they could do differently with their solution.
At the time, they had just a few weeks left before presenting their prototype, so they assured me they’d be hard at work making sure it was ready!
Today I Learned…
I took away a lot from this two-hour event, but I think the biggest lesson is the pace at which business moves today. Thanks to technology, it’s faster than ever to get the nuts and bolts of a business in place — and it’s also much easier to connect with customers and vet your idea before you invest months of time and money into a product without an audience or niche in the marketplace.
It was also interesting to hear that a lot of MBA students are there to learn how to run a business, as opposed to starting one. There’s a key distinction there, and it’s important for anyone interested in business to understand all of these steps.
Getting Involved in Boise’s Startup Education
Nowhere is the intersection of Idaho’s technology, education, and business more apparent than at Boise State’s Venture College. The program includes fellow students working on their own business ideas, as well as successful business mentors.
If you think it might be useful for you to explore this program for yourself, Venture College is having a Summer Sprint this summer from June 6 to June 22, Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5 pm to 7 pm. To participate, you’ll need a business idea you want to work on, and you’ll walk away with a solid understanding of the organization’s unique business methodology.
You can apply at the Venture College Summer Sprint registration link for the earlybird price of $129.