NEXT is a curriculum rooted in Steve Blank’s Customer Development methodology, powered by Google for Entrepreneurs and designed to help startups validate business ideas and build a scalable company. During the five week program, teams do around 20 hours of week a work outside of class in addition to the weekly three hour sessions.
The first NEXT happened a year ago. Approximately 25 cities around the world are participating this fall. “For a market the size of New Orleans, it’s fairly unique for us to have this,” said Program Co-Coordinator Elliot Adams. Adams is also joined by recent New Orleans transplant and Megan McNeill.
“The point of NEXT is to work on primarily developing customers and doing customer discovery,” said Adams. Week 1 in New Orleans kicked off yesterday with the Customer Discovery focus. Week 2 topic is Big Markets, Big Ideas, Week 3 is Fundability, Week 4 is Pitching Your Idea and Week 5 is Go to Market.
Four mentors will help pick out false positives and be present to check in mid-week with teams to discuss what they have discovered and more. Program mentors include: Robbie Vitrano, Co-founder of Naked Pizza, Trumpet, and Idea Village; Chris Schultz, Founder of Voodoo Ventures and Co-Founder of Launch Pad and Flatstack; Josh Fleig, Director, Business Development at Louisiana Economic Development; and Jeff Yellin, Director of Research at SpearPoint Buyout Group.
Two hours before the program start yesterday, 16 co-founders and members of startup teams had registered. Adams said they had teams from Startup Weekend, including members of the winning team BeneFit, Idea Village, Urban League and a few individuals as well.
Using the business model canvas, NEXT will work with teams to try to prove or disprove hypothesis, figure out who customers and early adopters will be, marketing and generally helping to develop ideas. Adams considers NEXT a “pre-accelerator” because, with less of a time commitment, it works as preparation for an accelerator, investment or early-stage launch. “It makes you a better candidate for an accelerator because you are closer to having customers than if not having gone through the program at all.”
Adams hopes NEXT will happen again in the future, as long as the timing is right with local accelerators. “In general we want to sync in up,” he continued.