E-Lab host companies represent a diverse range of industries and technologies, including Web2.0, Mobile, Software, Clean Tech, Healthcare and Medical Devices. The ideal company is relatively small (<40 employees) but has established technology and funding. To maximize the opportunity for face-to-face interactions, host companies should be based on the Boston area (i.e. within an hour's drive of Boston).
Projects vary widely, but a typical project might involve any of the following:
- Investigating different vertical markets for a new technology
- Conducting "customer discovery" and identifying customer problems
- Defining and quantifying the value proposition for target customers
- Developing market requirements and product specifications
- Developing a market entry strategy ("go to market" strategy) for a product
Host companies should consider the following guidelines when identifying potential E-Lab projects:
- Will the student team have access to in-person meetings with top management and/or executives? The topic of the project should be extremely important and valuable to top management, who will offer substantial time and access to the students.
- Does the project research allow for direct, intensive and frequent contact with customers and potential prospects? E-Lab has a very strong customer orientation. Students' ability to interact directly with customers/prospects and synthesize the information gained into actionable recommendations is a critical component of the course.
- Can the student team make a substantial contribution? In almost all cases, good topics involve understanding a market, and/or bringing a product to market rather than dealing with technical issues (i.e. the team will likely not have the skills to assess a host firm's technology in detail).
- Is the project scope appropriate? The project will span three months with the results/findings being presented to management during the last week of April. Given other classes, the team (normally 3-4 students) will typically be able to devote about one day a week to the project.
Note that we recruit more potential host companies than we have teams, to ensure that students have a wide choice of projects. The more attractive that companies can make their project, in terms of its importance and visibility to the management team, the greater the likelihood that an E-Lab team will choose it.
Below are a few examples of E-Lab proposals adapted from past successful projects.
Past E-Lab Project Examples
Software analytics: go to market strategy
Project Description: The firm provides marketing analytics software for small to medium sized companies. To reach customers, the firm is pursuing a channel sales strategy, focusing on industry specific application vendors. The project goals include developing a strategy to address the initial customer base (what is the customer value proposition, messaging, pricing model, etc.), determining the broader go to market strategy, and identifying additional attractive customer segments.
- Clearly define the value proposition and messaging for target customer base
- Industry vertical and application recommendations (target verticals and possible partners)
- Go-to-market strategy assessment and recommendations
gas sensing technology: identify beachhead market
Project Description: The firm develops technologies for detecting environmental gases, used in applications where unwanted gases may be generated via natural or industrial processes. The project is to assess different vertical markets (e.g. waste treatment, chemical production, etc.) to identify a "beachhead" market, define the customer value proposition, and develop a go-to-market strategy.
- Assess relative market attractiveness for pre-selected vertical markets
- Define the customer value proposition for the target customer
- Develop a go-to-market strategy for the beachhead market
prescription medication tracking: define target customer
Project Description: The firm develops technologies for tracking if patients have taken their prescribed medicines and reminding them if they have forgotten. The technology creates value for patients, doctors, drug manufacturers, and pharmacies. The firm would like the team to conduct interviews across the value chain to determine the ideal target customer, value proposition, and revenue model.
- Identify the most attractive target customer in the healthcare value chain
- Define and quantify the customer value proposition
- Develop a revenue model for the target customer
interactive sports game: go to market strategy
Project Description: The firm's sports game is in the final stages of beta. The firm is attempting to do what all start-ups need to achieve product market fit and validate the business model. The firm would like the team to assist in achieving product market fit via in-depth user interviews. The second part of the project involves developing an effective strategy to reach the target user demographic.
- Quantify the value proposition via vigorous user interviews
- Develop go-to-market strategy using social media, inbound and/or viral marketing
- Identify strategic partnerships for the firm
online travel search firm: develop mobile app strategy
Project Description: The firm develops software and services to help customers search for and book travel online. The firm would like the team to conduct interviews with existing and potential customers to determine how the products it offers should differ between its website and its mobile app.
- Interview at least 100 users and non-users of the firm's services/app
- Synthesis of key differences between customer needs for the website versus the mobile app
- Develop market and product specifications for the mobile app