Session 2: Entrepreneurship & Management

Date: November 03, 2017
Location: Knoll Inc – 1050 K Street, NW 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20001
Led by: Ethan Walker and Teri Coates, AIA
Session Sponsor: Microdesk
Venue Sponsor: Knoll
Session Downloads: Session 02 Guide

Ethan Walker and Teri Coates organized the second session of the year focused on entrepreneurship and management, held at the Knoll showroom. There was a specific emphasis on how these ideas look outside of the practice of architecture. Our first speaker, Marc Steren, spoke about the process of idea generation and consumer research required to create a successful and profitable product. Bill Spauling then discussed the variety of social styles that likely make up an office setting and how to work together in a successful way despite these differences. Our third speaker, Ben Miller, introduced his company, Fundrise, and the regulatory challenges that come along with creating a different type of investing business. Brad Bauer of Bluecadet then walked the group through the different skill sets that have contributed to his company’s success. We finished the day with the challenge of creating a two minute pitch to be presented to the group, utilizing Jeff Reid’s “6 steps to a Successful Pitch”.

Presentation #1 – Systems and Frameworks for Entrepreneurialism
Marc Steren of Georgetown University kicked us off with an introduction to the process of entrepreneurship. His presentation centered on the ability to pivot during the creative process while finding and identifying problems to solve. Marc discussed his Business Model Canvas and the steps to creating. The first step he identified was to create a value proposition. This proposition helps to identify the problem, build out the need for a solution, create a social connection, and determine the jobs that can be done. Once the value proposition is identified, Marc talked about the importance of identifying the appropriate client through customer interviews and open ended questions. He finished his presentation by walking the group through his process with his latest product, its testing, and its adoption by a major buyer.

Presentation #2 – Knowledge Management
Bill Spaulding of Bergmeyer began the second presentation by providing a thorough review of the group’s survey results. Scholars were asked to take a survey prior to the session to help identify social styles including: Analytical, Drive, Amiable, and Expressive. People of each social style communicate to others in a variety of different ways, in both a leadership position and when working as a member of supporting staff. Bill walked us through ways to resolve conflict with others that might have different social styles than our own by presenting a variety of scenarios to the group. He also introduced us to ways in which Bergmeyer tries to stay in touch with its employees through their internal intranet. Bill finished his presentation by discussing knowledge management, supported by sharing knowledge, a critical knowledge of specific information, and the ability to surround yourself with a knowledge community.

Presentation #3 – Office Culture and Entrepreneurialism
Ben Miller from Fundrise discussed his own entrepreneurial experiences. Fundrise serves as an online investment platform that believes in delivering a simpler, smarter, and more reliable way to invest money. Ben spoke on local investment in the DC market and the overall strategy in the startup process. He described the ins and outs of recognizing both valuable opportunities and the signs that something is not working. A key point of discussion was the ‘speed of change’ and how the desire for linear growth may not always be realistic. Actual growth may meander in a variety of ways, but with a good idea and persistence the target growth can still be reached.

Presentation #4 – Entrepreneurial Habits
For the final speaker of the day, Brad Baer from Bluecadet, broke down the personal styles and positions within their company and how it has led to success for them. By focusing on the roles and players within their office, it showed the importance of each person in the overall success. Brad shared knowledge behind the process of many unique projects such as the Museum of the American Revolution, Van Gogh’s Bedrooms, and Hoover-Mason Trestle. Bluecadet brought a unique focus described as “the Process is the Project.”

Activity #1 – Mini Pitch Competition
The culminating activity of the day involved scholars testing their own entrepreneurial creativity with a mini “shark tank” style pitch competition. Scholars were paired off and given the objective to quickly and concisely sell an idea that would benefit their firm using knowledge gathered from the various topics of the day. Pitch ideas ranged from new food programs for the office, technological advancements, mentoring programs, reward systems, and even an umbrella exchange. Each team gave an enthusiastic pitch as they tried to beat the clock and concisely sell their idea. The pitches followed  Jeff Reid’s “Six Steps to a Successful Pitch”, which include:

-Define the problem
-Describe your solution
-Explain the business model
-Make the ask