7 Top Takeaways from Intro to the Business Model Canvas: Problem Solving for Value Add

Sylvana Lewin, Thursday October 26th 2017

“Do you have a problem that annoys you so much you just have to solve it?”

That was the question posed to participants at last week’s event: Introduction to the Business Model Canvas: Problem Solving for Value-add. In a 60-minute workshop with business teaching fellow, Kerry Sinclair, 30 aspiring entrepreneurs visited MEST to learn the basics of business development via a tool from the Lean Startup Methodology.

Agile Business Development and Lean Thinking are central to the curriculum taught at MEST. The process of iteration is fundamental to both ideas. A simple template, the Business Model Canvas (BMC), is an agile tool that replaces time-consuming and complex business plans. Versatile in nature, it helps entrepreneurs to “fail early, fail fast”, then quickly progress on their path toward finding a great product that can satisfy a strong market – or find product-market fit.

Last Wednesday, workshop participants used the BMC to identify a problem and brainstorm solutions they hope will create a compelling Value Proposition. Walking through 3 building blocks in the BMC, individuals and teams defined Key Activities, Customer Segments and Customer Relationships -- and gained an understanding of why product-market fit is essential for a company to succeed.

Understanding the market for a product or service is first in delivering a solution that people want. To get a competitive edge, fledgling companies must identify their target market and understand how a particular offering benefits the customer. Knowing this information helps to refine a company’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Taught at a high level, the workshop enabled hopeful entrepreneurs to analyze the marketplace and get to understand their customers

Here are some takeaways from the session:

Use the Business Model Canvas: The BMC is a lean tool for developing new, or documenting existing, business models. It provides a visual snapshot of each business area and provides insight into operational, market and growth strategies.

Pinpoint the problem: Discovering a customer’s pain points and what they hope to gain from a product or service is key to a compelling Value Proposition.

Determine Value Proposition: A company can have a single, or multiple, value propositions, depending on its business model. Value propositions can be quantitative, stressing price and efficiency, or qualitative, highlighting the customer experience.

Define key activities: These are the most important processes that need to occur for a business model to be effective. They are based on value proposition, operations, customer relationships, revenue generation, and other business goals.

Find your people: A target market is a subset of the total available market. Building a successful company requires finding customers for your product within that market based on factors like location, customer pain points and the business model that a company chooses.

Get → Keep → Grow: How do you attract customers to your company? And how to you get them to stay while you acquire new customers? Customer relationships define how a company interacts with existing, and attracts new, customers within its target market.

“Market matters most”: Without a market for your product, you don’t have a company. Achieving product-market-fit requires finding a strong market that will pull demand for a product or service out of your startup.

At the end of the day, the most important criteria for a successful startup is a problem that persistently drives the founder to find a solution -– bringing to market a product or service that satisfies customers. Beyond smarts and skill set, entrepreneurship requires critical thinking, instinct and a whole lot of grit. Because the process of company building is often an uneven path, an entrepreneur must be willing to fail and to accept that there is no clear-cut route to success.

The MEST training program teaches the skills of lean business development to its Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs), while helping them to develop the right attitude and a keen intuition. Introduction to the BMC, and its use a practical tool, has now given other aspiring entrepreneurs a taste of what it takes to build a business that will win.

This article was contributed by Kerry Sinclair who is a business teaching fellow at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology. She has a background in operations and business development, having worked with US-based non-profits and sustainable fashion companies in Ghana before joining MEST. A human rights activist with business acumen, Kerry is excited by all things entrepreneurial  and  is dedicated to finding DBIA solutions.