Entrepreneurs is good people. Introducing NFTE Launch!




For the last couple of years, I've been volunteering for an organization called the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).  Founded in 1987, NFTE brings business plan competitions into underserved high schools across the country.  Some families have parents that teach this stuff to their kids naturally through role modeling and at the dinner table.  Others rely on NFTE.  It's cool shit.

I noticed that there were always one or two students that wanted to take their idea further.  They had that itch that so many of us have spent our lives scratching.  They wanted to move beyond business plans and actually build something.  But they didn't know how.

And so...we created the NFTE Launch Week.  The goal was both simple and audacious:

Help aspiring entrepreneurs launch a real product in 4 days.

Props to Krista Katsantonis at NFTE Bay Area for believing me when I said this was possible.  I told her that our curriculum would be straight lean and customer development.  I promised her that the Bay Area entrepreneurial community would step up and mentor these kids.  

You guys didn't disappoint.

Four days before the week was scheduled to begin, I wrote one blog post asking for mentors to sign up and posted it on Hacker News.  I told you guys that we needed 3 hours of your time, no preparation or commitment needed.  Show up for a morning or afternoon session, pair off with the teen entrepreneurs, and help them move their product forward.  That's it.

The response was incredible!  Within a day, dozens of experienced entrepreneurs had signed up to be mentors!  Boo-yah!  I gave only two guidelines for the mentors:

  1. You can't type for them.
  2. You have to leave them self-sufficient.

Otherwise, do everything you can to help them move their company forward.  And they went to work.  Here's what got created:

Crystal was initially struggling to think of an idea.  Chris from Central.ly, helped her think through a dozen different product ideas until she landed on the TogetherPouch. Crystal is now making a group-snuggie that is targeted towards her own friends.  It's a totally unique blanket-pouch, in the shape of characters she creates.  By day 2, she had a prototype.  By day 3, she had a website and was set up to receive orders.  I would not be surprised to see TogetherPouch as the most popular Sweet Sixteen gift this year...

DeShawn came to NFTE with a love for making electronic music.  He had been selling his music as background music to indie artists and game makers, mostly in cash transactions to people he knows.  With a few days of hard work and missteps, the mentors helped DeShawn figure out how to set up a Weebly website with Soundcloud as a backend to host his music.  Now anyone, anywhere in the world, can purchase exclusive rights to Deshawn's original music.  Check it out.

Viviana brought a love of making jewelry for stretched ears and is now running her own small business.  With the mentors' help, she created Free the Soul.  She's now social media savvy and is talking with fans of her artwork on Facebook and Twitter.

Vivian is catering a magical Bubble Tea experience to startups in SF.  The mentors taught her Hustling 101.  Our new bizdev wizard, networked her way into getting Heroku to be her first customer (without our direct help!).  She's now working on a way to creat a shelf-stable version of Bubble Tea that she can sell in local stores.

And much, much more...

Huong, Tashayla, and Beatrice are all selling products online through some combination of Weebly, Wordpress, and Etsy.  Huang is running a t-shirt company called Always Adamo.  She specializes in Couples T-shirts, in which the graphics of each shirt work together.  Tashayla is making Doglets, totally unique dog bracelets for those dog owners, like Tashayla, that love and adore their dogs (perhaps, too much...).  Beatrice is using her art skills to make vintage jewelry.  


On Day 4, our aspiring entrepreneurs launched an MVP of their companies in front of 50 local entrepreneurs.   They're now meeting every other week in community dinners to check-in on each others' progress, get help from mentors, and hear stories from successful entrepreneurs.  The NFTE Bay Area office is already hard at work fund-raising for the program and making the 2012 Launch program available to more aspiring young entrepreneurs.

I've got to tell you—this has been one of the coolest things I've ever been a part of.  The mentors really stepped up and did what they do best: help launch companies.  It was totally natural, effective, and awesome.  The teens supply all the energy; we just show them how use the right tools.  It's cool shit.


You should get involved.  Here's how:

And finally, special thanks to Abe Cajudo for making our awesome video and Ahmad Varoqua for putting together our website in no time at all.

Find discussion of this post on Hacker News

I'm Jason Freedman.  
I've got a sweet-ass new company: 42Floors.  
Previously, I did FlightCaster.
I welcome connections on Linkedin,  FacebookAngel List and Twitter.