Name:  Aaron Anderson

Class Year:  2013

Current Industry: Venture Capital | Higher Education

Title:  Principal at Impact Venture Capital (micro VC fund) | Instructor @ UC Davis

Which BSSE theory (or theories) do you regularly implement in your work?

Jobs To Be Done is the BSSE theory that I use most often.  I use it with our startups all of the time, particularly when we’re trying to identify value propositions.  The theory of Disruptive Innovation is another theory I use, as it helps people working at startups to better understand how to create a value proposition that incumbents won't want to compete with. 

Detail a situation in which you put one of the theories to use:

Our students at UC Davis manage a startup accelerator called PLASMA.  As an institution, UC Davis is excellent at training and attracting top flight STEM students.  Inevitably, these students come to our program with a great technology idea, and the first questions I always ask them are, "What problem are you solving? What job would an actual individual hire you to do?"  These questions are usually met with blank stares.  With their strong engineering / science backgrounds, the students hadn't considered the questions before.  And that's where our program adds real value.  We dive in to Jobs To Be Done and help position the new company to integrate around said job.

What was the result?

Not to overuse a cliché, but it really is a lightbulb moment when the student entrepreneur realizes s/he needs to fulfill a real job in the real world.  Jobs To Be Done theory provides a framework that allows the student to think of their value proposition in a tangible way.  

Were there any challenges and, if so, what were they?

The biggest challenge after understanding the theory is identifying (with enough specificity) what the actual job is.  Most of our students have little industry experience, so it's difficult to lean on a network to find customers to interview.  I believe an important part of my job is helping students ask the right questions to the right people.  They need to frame their value proposition as a hypothesis, experiment such that they find an appropriate way to deliver on the Job To Be Done, and then build a company around that experiment.  

Do you have any advice for other alumni looking to deploy the theory?

My biggest unanticipated learning has been tied to the difficulty in translating the theory into action items for startups.  My greatest successes have come in forcing myself to be hyper specific about the Job To Be Done and about the value proposition being created.  If you can articulate explicitly the job, the value add, and the revenue model in a couple of sentences, you know you're on to something.  The more words needed to explain, the less likely you've got it pegged.