Stories from the Elevator Project

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Getting to Great

13 January

That magic formula for being investor-worthy. If you’ve ever tried transform an idea into action, you know what I’m talking about. Whether applying for a grant, mobilizing your community, or starting your own business, the success equation can seem a jumble of sortilege and sorcery. However, we are all too familiar with the stories of those fabled start-up wizards whose touch seems to turn their imagination into pure gold. So what’s their secret? We’ve tapped the expertise of some of Guelph’s innovation gurus and distilled their alchemy down to a set of criteria that’s both effective and easy to use. We call it the “Great” standard.

Quite simply, the “Great” standard is a living rubric, or measuring tool for self-assessing your ideas. It was developed in partnership with Guelph’s “Great” experts including Innovation Guelph, CBaSE at the University of Guelph and Futurpreneur. Your score evolves with you over time as you gain the skills to meet higher and higher standards. The “Great” Standard also acts as the criteria through which project applications are judged and scored. Now don’t fret if you don’t think you’ll be able to out of a rabbit out of a hat right off the bat. The Elevator Academy series is designed will give you the skills to continually improve your score and generate a “Great” investor-worthy Elevator Project application. So what makes great?

Rubric for the Elevator Academy: Getting to “Great” Projects

Each section has a total possible mark of 5. A mark of 5 means the project has achieved the “Great” Standard in that section or in other words, is investor worthy. The Great Standard (5) is explicitly defined for each answer, as is what a “0” looks like. The rubric can be used by Idea Makers to assess their project readiness and will be used by the Community Panel to assess the merit of each project individually. Based on how they score, projects will be sorted into three categories (Planning, Development, Deployment). These categories will be published on our website along with each project description and used by investors as pieces of information when they are determining which projects to invest in. Idea Makers will privately receive details of their score that they can use to further their project development.

Here is the rubric:

1. Project Model/Plan

1A. What problem am I trying to solve? Why is it a problem?

The “Great” Standard 5= Group has clearly identified the problem they are trying to solve, why it is a problem and how they are going to solve it. There is evidence that they have conducted research to support their theory and talked to others to validate their ideas.

3-4= Quite a bit of evidence of the Great Standard but not everything.

1-2= Some evidence of the Great Standard but not much.

0 = Group hasn’t considered what problem their project solves. They have conducted no research and talked to no one to validate their idea.

1B. How will I know if my project is successful? (what things will have changed? What can we measure?)

The “Great” Standard 5= Group clearly articulates what their success will look like and has achievable plans to measure that success. They have clearly defined what will be different in the community as a result of their project. Project demonstrates significant potential impact on the community.

3-4= Quite a bit of evidence of the Great Standard but not everything.

1-2= Some evidence of the Great Standard but not much.

0 = Group has no idea or wildly unrealistic ideas about what success looks like for their project. They have no way to measure their success. They have not articulated what will be different in the community as a result of their project. The project will have little to no impact on the community.

1C. Who will benefit from my idea? And how?

The “Great” Standard 5= Group has identified a large group or niche group of community members (target market) whom this project will benefit. They are able to clearly define their target market by segments (gender, age, income, etc). There is evidence they have a plan to reach their stated market and that they have validated their plan by either discussing their idea with key market members or run a pilot of their idea.

3-4= Quite a bit of evidence of the Great Standard but not everything.

1-2= Some evidence of the Great Standard but not much.

0 = Group has not identified a target market or strategy, or naively feels everyone will be a user.

2. Team & Expertise

2A. Why are we the right people to solve this problem?

The “Great” Standard 5= Group has clearly defined the skill sets required to tackle their problem and recruited the appropriate team members to fulfill those requirements. Team is well balanced and dedicated. Leadership has the vision, experience and network to deliver results. Team has dedicated time to work on the project. Team has the confidence and tenacity to go the extra mile. There is evidence they are working in cooperation and/or collaboration with other groups who are working towards similar goals.

3-4= Quite a bit of evidence of the Great Standard but not everything.

1-2= Some evidence of the Great Standard but not much.

0 = Group has one founder with little to no project management experience. The combined skills of the leadership team have never managed a project or led a team, have limited experience with no accessible network. The leadership team are working full time at other careers. The project is 100% hobby. The leadership team see coaching as a means to an end; they are not coachable; they have a my-way-or-the-highway approach; their approach tends to turn off potential investors, partners and users; Usually they end up failing before they start.

3A. What makes my solution the right solution? What sets my solution apart from other currently available solutions?

The “Great” Standard 5= The project has a clearly defined “unique” value proposition. It is clear they have researched other potential solutions and/or others solving the same issue in the community. The solution is innovative or just plain fun. The project innovatively enhances existing or model programs or is a brand new thing that doesn’t exist yet.

3-4= Quite a bit of evidence of the Great Standard but not everything.

1-2= Some evidence of the Great Standard but not much.

0 = Group has not developed a clearly defined value proposition. They have no idea why their solution is the right one and they have not completed any research into who is currently solving this problem in the community and how. Their solution unnecessarily duplicates other work already being done on the community. The project is not innovative or fun.

3B. What resources do I need to make my project a success? What resources have I already gathered?

The “Great” Standard 5= Group has identified a realistic amount of monetary funds or goods needed to complete the project. There is evidence they have considered the smallest version of their idea that could still be effective in solving their stated problem. The project is cost effective based the impact they expect to have. The resources they seek are beyond just funds and/or they have considered alternative ways of funding their project such as donated services or goods (if appropriate). Group has already secured some resources.

3-4= Quite a bit of evidence of the Great Standard but not everything

1-2= Some evidence of the Great Standard but not much

0= Group has set a wildly unrealistic and unattainable goal for funding. They are relying entirely on support to come from The Elevator Project and have not found any resources.

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