Outside the Bubble

innovative xLiving inside the Villanova bubble is very comfortable. The environment, in a sense, is temperature-controlled; I can pursue my studies with little interruption from the outside world if I want. That might be one of the (many) reasons why Villanova is such a prestigious school—students like myself can focus on academic achievement in the most productive and comfortable environment possible.

In stark contrast, the weather I stepped into on a Monday night in February was anything but comfortable. As I walked (slid) from the dining hall to the Septa train station on the icy pavement, I thought about the meetup event I was about to attend in Center City Philadelphia. I had no idea what to expect. My friend and I were making a trip to DeVry University’s Philadelphia campus to pitch our business idea at the first Innovative-X meetup in Philly. Innovative-X (https://www.innovativex.com/) is an international community that joins local ideas with global resources, helping entrepreneurs gain access to the resources they need to get refine their ideas and get them off the ground. It seemed like a great opportunity to get feedback on our business idea that was in the early stages of development.

After only a few minutes of waiting in the cold, we boarded the train, pulled out our laptops, and rehearsed our pitch. We were going to be giving a 3- to 5-minute presentation on our idea and we wanted to make sure we effectively communicated the pain point, our solution, our value proposition, and our plan for implementation.

Once we reached our destination, the meetup’s coordinator Daryl greeted us immediately and seemed very excited that two students had attended the meetup. I could see why—the rest of the attendees were all business professionals. I admittedly felt very out of place. Networking and striking up conversation with experienced professionals is not my strong suit, and this was definitely not the Villanova bubble.

We made small talk with several of the attendees before settling in our seats for the beginning of the meetup. Three ideas, including ours, were going to be pitched that night, and then the attendees would break up into groups to provide feedback, criticism, and resources to each ideator.

My friend and I presented our idea last. We didn’t quite finish our presentation within the 5-minute time limit, so we were cut-off. We were able to communicate the essentials, but this told us that we needed to make our pitch much more concise.

For the next hour, the numerous attendees pointed out problems in our idea, suggested solutions, offered other ideas, and validated/negated our assumptions. We heard from IT, legal, marketing, engineering, and web development professionals. It was one of the most valuable hours I had spent in a while. We received feedback that we would have never gotten from our peers at Villanova, and the attendees raised concerns that we had not even begun to think about. It would have taken us weeks to stumble upon the roadblocks and supplementary possibilities that we were discovering in mere minutes. It was also encouraging to be asked multiple times weather we were going to pursue this idea after we graduated—talk about validation.

While it is sometimes uncomfortable to do so, Steve Blank and Bob Dorf adamantly suggest in their book The Startup Owner’s Manual that entrepreneurs need to “get outside the building.” One needs to get her idea in front of as many people as possible so that she can refine and perfect it as quickly as possible. Great ideas cannot be fully developed in a vacuum. Or a bubble.

So I encourage any Villanova student or budding entrepreneur with an idea to get outside of their bubble. The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Philly is thriving, and there are so many resources available for those who pursue them. Great things do not happen in a temperature-controlled environment. Put yourself out on those icy sidewalks, be ready for the inevitable slip-and-fall, but also be poised to skate.