The true motivation of an entrepreneur should be developing products that create positive good by fulfilling needs in society and improving the lives of people. An entrepreneur should develop innovative products that solve problems. As the quote by Scott Berkun states, “Simply dedicate yourself to solving problems. It’s solving problems that matter.” Although so simple, this statement is also incredibly accurate. If you view the most valuable companies that exist today, they are companies that are solving the most important problems that exist. Therefore, any product analysis can be simplified into something as simple as determining the importance of the issue being solved, the validity of the solution being presented, and the quality of the market. When looking at the examples provided in class, the success of the ventures in the case studies often had to do with these factors or the competency of the founders. Just going through the cases briefly, with Swoop, we saw an issue with the competency of the cofounders and problems with determining the specific market the company wanted to tackle. In the case of Florida Air, the problem clearly was derived from the incompetency of the founders. For Rent the Runway, the success was attributed to a very clear product-market fit as well as competent founders who took a lot of the right steps to grow their venture. For Envirofit, one of the major issues was addressing a problem that was not of dire concern to the customers of their product. Rather than simply building a product to solve a need, they had to educate the customer on why it was a need. In Lit Motors, the product was clearly too expensive for the need that is satisfied, and therefore there was no market for the product. In the case of AnswerDash, the company was also building a refinement to a process, so the need was not as strong as would be desired by a thriving entrepreneurial venture. For Dr. John’s products, the need was clearly there, as evident by the sales figures and the overall success of the venture. 

One specific example that tied in the importance of solving a problem in the case of Envirofit, because of all the products, it seemed to be the one that solved the most important need. By considering the lives that this product could have saved, we can see that it should be something very attractive to customers. There should be a lot of interest in the product, but despite having an effective product, an effective team developing the product and the business, and a very great product-market fit overall, they experienced limited success due to the limited interest from their male counterparts in the household, who ultimately made the financial decisions. This example resonated with me because the downfall was due to the requirement of education regarding the harm that is mitigated by the Envirofit product. If the company had aimed to solve a problem that was more evident to the customer but at the same time was able to solve the problem of air pollution, they might have had more success because the customer would have unknowingly discovered the advantage of the smokeless design through experience with the product. In this particular case, I could have seen the value in developing a product that addressed the needs a little more direct rather than solving a problem that the customer did not recognize. Through all the cases, I began to develop a personal methodology based on a variety of questions I ask for validating customer needs. 

1. Does the product require educating the customer? 

2. Are there competing products on the market? Which ones are competing? 

3. Can the product be produced to be sold at a price point that would match the utility experienced by the customer? (Lit Motors example) 

4. Is there a possibility for recurring revenue from each customer? What is the lifetime value of the customer vs the acquisition and retention costs? 

5. What is the size of the market vs the cost to launch/begin production? 

Based on the above qualities, I can predict the likeliness that a product succeeds. But even with a successful product, there are still risks of failure mostly tied to leadership and the team development. We saw in various cases companies that failed or succeeded depending on the experience of the primary founders and the ability of the primary founders to organize and motivate a team. For example, in the case of Florida Air, the product clearly satisfied a need, there was sufficient product-market fit for their business to operate and succeed. We know this because, after the fact, a company successfully operated their proposed routes, but the team at Florida Air ultimately failed because they were ineffective at their roles and they had a lack of clear communication and accountability. On the other hand, the team assembled by John Osher was effective, he was an experienced leader and knew that accountability was important, he knew that building a strong team was also important, so he hired only the most skilled people for the roles. Within our own team for this course, we were fairly effective because we consistently held each other accountable. We always had predetermined roles for the assignment and checked on each other to verify that everyone was accomplishing their assigned role. From all the cases and personal experiences, I developed a few key points regarding team effectiveness: 

1. Accountability is important because it is important to know that everyone is doing their role in a team. Assigning clearly defined tasks is also key to achieving this. 

2. Skill is important. It is necessary that everyone in a team has the potential to contribute equivalently or near equivalently. Especially in a co-founder role. Less so for employees. 

3. Having a strong leader is important. Even if there are co-founders, one should be the primary leader that the employees view as the superior. Therefore, there is no confusion in the assignment of tasks and roles. 

4. Communication is key in all regards. When sharing vision, when providing instruction, when recognizing the achievements of others, when in tough situations, and basically all throughout the management process. 

5. Motivating is one of the primary roles of a great leader. They must push the team during tough times. Motivation includes recognition of achievements of employees and other team members. 

When approaching a leadership role, I will rely on the goals that I mentioned above. 

Throughout the course, we saw many examples of the importance of culture in the development of a successful venture. When employees feel positive about a goal and enjoy contributing to the goals of a company, they work harder to achieve the goals of the company. Most intelligent people who can join a team care about the impact that their role will have on the outside world. When the culture is overly competitive and adversarial, employees do not collaborate as well. The case that came to mind as an example of ineffective corporate ethics and culture was Florida Air. Throughout the company’s history, they struggled with financials, this caused an early issue in the founder compensating employees with equity rather than money which was originally promised. This showed some unreliability from the founder which weakened the interest from the employees/co-founders, which caused them in the future to also lack the commitment to the venture. Honesty about the financial position of the company would have caused more honesty across the entire venture so that the whole team worked more effectively. On the other hand, Envirofit was a company that had a wonderful ethical approach because beyond building a great product, they were solving a very high-impact product. Due to this important ethical mission and an overall culture that was accepting and open for modification, the company was able to attract top-tier talent which increased their chances of success. 

Throughout the semester I have learned a lot from this course. From the readings to the case studies, I see value in almost every assignment we have completed. I have always had a desire to become an entrepreneur so being able to take the time to run through and analyze various case studies has been valuable to me because I have been able to see all the areas that the companies we studied succeed and fail. Often people say that you should learn from your mistakes, but I believe that it is more efficient to learn from the mistakes of others, studying cases allows for us to accomplish this, which is why I think it is one of the most valuable entrepreneurial exercises that can be done. Considering these benefits received through this course as well as my life goals, career goals, and personal goals of being an entrepreneur, there is no doubt that this course has been incredibly impactful on my life as a whole. Probably one of the most important lessons I have learned through the course is the effectiveness of the lean startup model. Prior to this class, I often considered it to be unnecessary and inferior to a more capital-intensive model but looking at so many examples of companies that would have had more success if they were leaner and had early on customer feedback, I have recently realized the value of the model and am considering utilizing it on my next venture. Overall, this was a wonderful course which I will recommend to anyone interested in entrepreneurship or business as a whole.