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Term Project Assignment: Opportunity Analysis

Term Project Assignment: Opportunity Analysis

"I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one."  ~ Mark Twain


Key Deliverables

The Process of Opportunity Analysis
Suggested Resources
Tips for Interviewing Primary Sources

The Assignment


This is an exciting assignment to practice and hone your skills in entrepreneurship. You are expected to work in teams to investigate an entrepreneurial opportunity, keeping in mind the key distinctions between an "idea" and an "opportunity". Your analysis should thoroughly illustrate and document a pressing market need that could be solved with a high technology product or service.


Some thoughts to keep in mind as you begin:

Key Deliverables

This project accounts for 30% of your total course grade (20% for the presentation and 10% for the written report). The completeness of your Website and timeliness of your deliverables will be accounted for in the presentation grade. Please remember that the quarter is short, so start working on this project early!



Your opportunity analysis is an extended executive summary, NOT a complete business plan.  It should focus only on recognizing and defining a market opportunity and the necessary requirements for seizing that opportunity. Your analysis should serve as the basis for a decision by potential partners and investors as to whether to develop a more complete plan to pursue the opportunity. Consequently, your paper should combine elements of both a research paper and a sales pitch.  You should address the following topics:


o      Where did the idea come from (Office of Technology Licensing vs. other)? Explain what the market opportunity is and what your solution might be. What makes your solution particularly compelling? Do you have personal experiences with this market?  Is there existing intellectual property that you must license or new intellectual property you must develop in order to pursue this opportunity? Has anyone tried something like this before? If so, why did they fail or succeed, and why is the opportunity still attractive?

Opportunity Recognition (Market):

o      Trends. What industry are you addressing? Why is this market attractive? What segment of the overall market are you pursuing? What market research data can be gathered to describe this market need? What are the total industry or category sales over the past three years? What is the anticipated growth for this industry? If this is a new market, what is the best analogous market data that illustrates the opportunity? Project the potential market size and growth for your opportunity.

o      Customers.  This is extremely important. You need to have a clear idea of who your target customer is.   What does the customer need? Why does the customer need it? What is the customer using today?  What is the customer willing to pay for your solution? Why? How will you reach this customer? You should include both primary research and secondary research, emphasizing primary over secondary. One suggestion that is often very illuminating is to consider a day-in-the-life of the target customer and how your solution will impact that scenario.

o      Competition. Who else serves this customer need? Who might attempt to serve this market in the future? What advantages and weaknesses do these competitors and would-be competitors have? What share of the market do specific competitors serve? Are the major competitors' sales growing, declining, or steady? What are the barriers to entry for you? What are the barriers to entry for additional competitors?

Seizing the Opportunity (Implementation):

o      Partners and Allies.  Small companies can not do everything. Which companies or organizations will help you achieve your goals? What value will your partners contribute? What value will you bring to your partners? How will you align your interests with those of your partners?

o      Business Model.  How do you intend to make money and grow the business? Is this an original business model or is it similar to another business? What products or services would you develop to seize this opportunity? How much will people pay for your solution? How will you grow revenues and profits over time? What are your principle expenses?  How can they be managed? What size of investments are required to pursue the opportunity to profitability and how would you stage them?

o      Risk.  Of financial, technical, people, and market risks; which one is of most concern?  Which would you choose to address first and why? How would you manage or minimize each of the risks going forward?


Please note that the list above has no implied order.  Some entrepreneurs start with a well defined concept and then try to identify a market for their idea; others start by studying a market and then stumble upon an idea.  Also, please keep in mind that the specific data and information you provide will vary according to the type of opportunity you choose to analyze. 




The instructors have assembled a group of professional mentors from all over Silicon Valley -- venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and people all around and in-between -- to work with your teams in defining, developing, and honing your opportunity analysis. Each team will be assigned one mentor "relationship," and that relationship will consist of either one or possibly two people, depending on whether a mentor is working alone or has chosen to work with another individual. 


E145 TAs will be coordinating the mentor program for and details will be discussed in Session #2 (Sep 24).  At that time, they will distribute the list of available mentors and ask that your team submit your list of 5 mentor preferences via email (e145-homeworkl@lists.stanford.edu) by Tuesday, September 29 at 11:59PM. Please send 1 email per team with your team name in the subject.


A list of available mentors can be found here.


The Process of Opportunity Analysis


We recommend five basic steps in the process of analyzing an opportunity:

1.      Identify potential opportunities:
There are two options for you in identifying potential opportunities:

The first is to brainstorm. Combine your own personal experiences and creativity with external forecasts and trend analysis. How is the world changing with respect to new technologies? What is the impact of globalization on current solutions? What new requirements will those changes produce? Recent media articles on trends are often a good place to start.

The second is to select an invention from the recommended list provided during Session 2.  The Tech Search (http://stanfordtech.stanford.edu/technology) contains short descriptions of over 900 inventions in various stages of development. These technologies were invented by Stanford faculty and students and are being marketed to potential commercial licensees. While the OTL performs brief opportunity analyses on these inventions, it does not have enough time to do in-depth analyses like the E145 OAP. Because of this, the OTL is very excited to work with E145 students interested in using one of their inventions on the recommended list for the OAP project. They ask in return that you give them your final paper and invite them to the presentations. If you are interested in pursuing this option, here are the steps:

1.      Review the handout of recommended inventions from Session 3 and look up its description at Tech Search.  Please email the licensing contact listed at the bottom of the description.  The licensing contact may provide you with additional information and also put you in contact with the inventors. 
2.      Browse Tech Search.  If you find something that interests you, please email the licensing contact with regard to the latest status of that invention and whether it would be suitable for the OAP project. 


For general questions about OTL, please contact Linda Chao, (650) 725-9408, linda.chao@stanford.edu.

You may also wish to review the patents and trademarks held at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  The US Patent and Trademark Office provides a search engine that allows you to search for patents and trademarks under a variety of categories.

2.      Define your purpose and objectives. Identify your most promising opportunity, being careful to discriminate between an interesting technological idea and a viable market opportunity. Prepare an outline of your anticipated finished paper which will help you to determine what types of data and information you need to demonstrate the attractiveness of your chosen opportunity.

3.      Gather data from primary sources. It is crucial for you to obtain data from primary sources for the OAP. Potential investors will place more trust in well conducted primary research than in stacks of data from secondary sources. There is simply no substitute for talking to potential customers from the target market in order to validate the opportunity you have identified. Consequently, we prefer that you spend time gathering data from primary, not just secondary, sources. Please see Tips for Interviewing Primary Sources for some helpful tips and advice. Also check out SurveyMonkey (below).

4.      Gather data from secondary sources. Countless secondary sources exist on the Internet and in Stanford's various library resources. The Jackson Library GSB Database Resources and the GSB librarians are especially helpful. Appendix C of the Dorf and Byers textbook offers a good summary of secondary research sources. Try not to get too bogged down in financial and accounting data.

5.      Analyze and interpret the results. The written paper and the oral presentation will require you to persuasively summarize your results.


Project Milestones

Mandatory Admission and Team Formation Meeting. This team will serve as both your study group and your term project team.

Submit mentor preferences by 11:59PM. Mail to e145-homework@lists.stanford.edu.

Positioning Template. The Entrepreneurial Marketing class session will help you and your team get started in writing your positioning statement.

Present Your Positioning Statement. Your team will present the positioning statement for your opportunity in front of the class. Create an 'OAP webpage' which contains a link to your slide files and submit. (Keep the webpage around as you'll be posting more OAP information to the same location throughout the quarter). The webpage needs to include a picture of the team.


Deliverable: By 7PM on Sunday, October 12th post your market positioning statement, as described below, to your Website and email the URL to your section homework list.

Marketing Positioning Statement: Fill in Geoff Moore's two-sentence positioning template for your OAP product or service concept and send via email with your team name clearly identified. The template is:

Sentence #1

For (target customer)
who (statement of the need or opportunity),
the (product/service name) is a (product/service category)
that (statement of benefit).

Sentence #2

Unlike (primary competitive alternative),
our product (statement of primary differentiation).

Create and post two PowerPoint slides. One slide should simply list the name of your project team with all the team members and their majors. The second slide should have a succinct draft of your positioning statement above. It should also answer the question: is your product/service a discontinuous innovation?

Please choose one member of your team to present your slides in class. All the slides will be loaded onto a laptop so there is no need to make transparencies. Any teams that do not present on the 13th will present on the 15th.

Topic Summary. The topic summary is a one page (max.) summary of your opportunity. The summary should outline the opportunity and include any questions and concerns your team has about your project.


Deliverable: Update your OAP website with your team topic summary and send an email to your section's homework list noting the change by 7PM on Oct. 19th.  

Expanded Office Hours This week the TAs will be having expanded office hours to meet with OAP teams about their progress. The goal of these hours is to give teams a chance to discuss their review process with the teaching team. Note that the TAs will not give feedback on the opportunity itself - after all, analyzing the opportunity is the whole point of the OAP. Additionally, we also encourage teams to email the teaching teams with any questions they have about the OAP (e145-staff@lists.stanford.edu).


Expanded office hours will be by appointment. Please send an email to both of the TAs with your availability and one or more will get back to you with a time. The TAs will also be holding regular office hours this week.

Team Effectiveness. Come prepared to work with your team to grapple with issues of team effectiveness and leadership.  This is a chance to directly confront issues that you may have run across in the process of the opportunity analysis or otherwise working with your group.  

Each team must must choose another team with which to rehearse their presentation. No email is necessary but make sure you have another team to partner with by the end of today. Project presentation dates and times will be chosen by the CAs.


Online Reading Materials. Each team should post or link to their website one or two online reading assignments (e.g., websites, articles, etc. of reasonable length) and one or two video clips from the STVP Educators Corner archive (see http://edcorner.stanford.edu). The reading and videos should provide relevant background information for your topic so classmates can review in advance of your presentation. This is not intended to be anything original, but just references to give everyone a chance to better understand your chosen opportunity beforehand.


Deliverable: Update your team's website and notify the teaching staff via the relevant homework alias by 9AM on November 12th.

Presentation Rehearsals. Each team will rehearse their presentation with one other team and their mentor. Submit an email verifying your team has rehearsed to e145-homework@lists.stanford.edu by November 16, 2008 at 11:59 p.m.

Team Presentations. Half of the teams will present in Session 17 and half in Session 18. Presentations are limited to 15 minutes per team. Slides should be standard in PowerPoint format, with a recommended maximum of 8 slides per team. The best presentations are often the shortest and most succinct.


Deliverables: All teams must post their PowerPoint deck to their Website by 7PM on November 16th. This will give the teaching team time to assemble all the files onto a single laptop to facilitate presentations.

Deliverable: Opportunity Analysis Term Papers Due at noon. Papers should be a maximum of 1500 words, professionally formatted, with one optional exhibit page. The exhibit may be embedded within the document or attached to the end. Two complete copies of the paper must be submitted to the TAs by noon. You should also post these Term Papers to your Website at the same time. There is a box outside of Terman 402 for submissions.


Team Founding Shares: Please send an individual email to your homework list with your personal assessment of how to distribute founding shares amongst your team members (including yourself). Assume a total of 100 are available for distribution. Please complete this at the latest by the time of the final. Share distribution should be based on completed work and not distributed as if you were founding a company.


Suggested Resources


Video Links:


o        Jeff Hawkins on Designing Successful Products

o        Jeff Hawkins on the role of market research

o        Vinod Khosla - "No problem, no solution, no company"

o        Vinod Khosla - "Think big, act small"

o        Heidi Roizen - "Bridge the opportunity"


Course Textbooks and Readings:


Hot technologies and trends:


Past teams have found SurveyMonkey to be helpful in gathering primary data. The basic service is free and provides most of the features youíll need, though it is limited to 10 questions and 100 responses per a survey. Visit SurveyMonkey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/


Last modified Fri Nov 21 12:20:23 2008


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