BEFORE THE 3 DAYS: RECRUITING AND WORKSHOPS
Before the 3-day program begins, the organizers of 3DS solicit applications from across the university, often receiving 100 applications from 25+ different majors. After reviewing applications and conducting interviews, the top 40 students are invited to participate in the program. Two weeks prior, 3DS organizers host workshops on how to recognize opportunities in the marketplace, how opportunities differ from solutions, and how to execute the customer-focused 3DS model. 3 Day Startup alumni have succeeded precisely because they have applied a relentless focus on making products and services based on actual customer needs.
On the first day, the participants arrive at the 3DS program site motivated to start new companies: students bring pre-built prototypes or simply an idea for a startup. These projects are usually at early stages; feasibility and business models are unproven. In the first few hours, participants discuss and evaluate their business ideas in smaller groups. During this analysis phase, mentors from around the community provide their insights. Later that evening, participants vote on which ideas (usually 5-7) will become the focus of the remaining time. 3DS facilitators then lead students through a process where students form teams around the remaining ideas. These self-directed program components (voting, team formation) ensure that students feel a sense of buy-in and commitment to the ideas they work on.
On the second day, everyone engages potential customers on the streets and over the phones to better understand the need their venture addresses. Day two and three are packed with action–these days are a microcosm of startup life, with the highs of completing prototypes and the lows of discovering better-positioned competitors.
The ideas that have survived thus far are revealed at the pitches and prototype demos on the final day.
A panel of venture capitalists, angel investors, and accomplished entrepreneurs offers feedback. The presentations include functioning prototypes, beta customer responses, and teams comprised of highly skilled and motivated students.The feedback is constructive and extensive: panelists ask tough questions, identify strengths and weaknesses, and give candid advice for the road ahead.
VALUE BEYOND THE 3 DAYS: SUCCESS KIT + GLOBAL NETWORK
Students leave their 3DS experience with the skills, vision, and products and services necessary to accelerate the growth of their businesses. The benefit to participants and their communities is ongoing. 3DS provides access to a world-class network of mentors that can provide guidance in areas such as venture capital, product design, and scaling new ventures. 3DS alumni receive the 3DS Success Kit: a package of services vital to an early stage startup including free hosting from Rackspace, the Microsoft BizSpark/DreamSpark suite, deeply discounted incorporation packages from DLA Piper, Ash Maurya’s Running Lean, the FluidUI prototyping tool, and more.