Opportunity Analysis and Execution Projects

Key Deliverables
OAP & OEP Milestones
Suggested Resources


Opportunity Analysis Project (OAP) - Due during sessions 8 & 12

You will learn how to tell the difference between a good idea in a dorm or a lab and a great scalable business opportunity.  You will identify and define a market opportunity and pitch the opportunity in 5 minutes to your classmates and the teaching team.

Opportunity Execution Project (OEP) - Due during sessions 17, 18 & 20
You will explore how to actually assemble a company – thinking through how your team would sell, create demand, attract a team, and fund the product. Then you will pitch the opportunity in 15 minutes to your classmates and the teaching team.

Key Deliverables

The key deliverables for the two projects are:

Opportunity Assessment Project (15% of your total course grade):

You and your team should pick an opportunity and perform a first analysis to understand whether your opportunity can be turned into a scalable business. In your presentation and written analysis you should tell the "story" of your proposed venture by addressing the following:
  • Concept. Where did your idea come from (e.g., a Stanford lab)? Explain what the market opportunity is and what your solution might be. What makes your solution particularly compelling? How does it make meaning? 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?
  • Market. 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.
  • Customers.  This is extremely important. You need to have a clear idea of who your target customer is. The only way for you to be able to do this is to "get out of the building" and speak with your potential customers. You will need to answer questions such as: 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 (or first-hand) research and secondary research, emphasizing primary over secondary.
  • Business Model. Now that you have discovered an opportunity and talked to potential customers, how will you turn it into a business? How will you make money and when do you expect your venture to be profitable?   (You will get to think about this more in the Opportunity Execution Project.)
  • 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?

    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.

We recommend five basic steps in the process of analyzing an opportunity:
  1. Identify potential opportunities. 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. Additionally, you may want to look through Stanford's Office of Technology and Licensing for new technologies that have been developed at the University.
  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 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. 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. Check out SurveyMonkey as well.
  4. Gather data from secondary sources. Countless secondary sources exist on the web 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. Persuasively summarize your results.

Opportunity Execution Project (25% of your total course grade):

The Opportunity Execution Project is a chance for your team to think about how to take your idea from a business plan on paper and turn it into a real company. For this part, your analysis should include the following:
  • Fundamental Problem. What is the fundamental problem you are solving for the end user of your product?  What is the fundamental problem you're solving for your customer (if it is different from the end user)? Give a quick recap of your OAP - just a reminder of your key points and the takeaway.
  • Business Model. You now have had some more time to think about your opportunity.  Do you have any additional thoughts/changes about the business model?
  • Sales & Marketing Strategy. How would you sell your product? What distribution channels would you use? How would you create demand for your product?
  • Risk. Regarding 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 high-priority risks going forward?
  • Partners and Allies. Who will be your major partners? How will your product be made? Will your company produce all of the parts, or will it use external suppliers? How would you go about attracting these partners and allies to work with your company?
  • Funding. How would you fund your venture? Would you bootstrap, take money from venture capitalists, take funding from a corporate investor, etc?
  • Team. Who would you need on your team in order to make this venture a success? What kind of experience and skills would your team need? How would you go about attracting them to your company?

Opportunity Assessment Project Milestones

Session 3
Team Formation Deadline. This team will serve as both your study group and your term project team.

Session 8
Initial Positioning Statement. The Entrepreneurial Marketing class session will help you and your team get started in writing your positioning statement. Fill in Geoff Moore's two-sentence positioning template for your OAP product or service concept. 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 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.  Send via email to the teaching team with your team name clearly identified by 9 AM the day of the session.  For extra credit, please share how your potential venture will make meaning and not just money.

Session 12
Opportunity Assessment Presentation and Written Analysis. By 9 AM, email your presentation and 750-word written analysis to the e145-homework list. Your team is strongly encouraged to keep your written analysis to 750 words, as this is a good opportunity to learn how to be succinct in business communications.  However, if it is absolutely necessary, the word count may be increased 20%, up to 900 words.  Your team will have 5 minutes to present your opportunity and this time limit will be strictly enforced.

Opportunity Execution Project Milestones

*Any team that changes their opportunity between their OAP and OEP should send a short paragraph to the class before their presentation introducing the new opportunity.

Before Session 16

Mandatory Mentor Presentations. Each team should rehearse their Opportunity Execution Presentations with their mentors. This must be completed before Session 16.

Sessions 17 & 18
Opportunity Execution Presentation. The 6 Group A teams will present in Session 17 and the 6 Group B teams in Session 18. Presentations are limited to 15 minutes per team including Q&A. Slides should be in standard PowerPoint format, with a recommended maximum of 8 slides per team. The best presentations are often the shortest and most succinct. A summary at the end of the presentation is often very powerful.
Deliverables: All teams, regardless of which day they are presenting, must post their PowerPoint deck to the homework list by 9 AM before Session 17. This will give the teaching team time to assemble all the files onto a single laptop to facilitate presentations. No updates to decks are allowed after 9 AM.
Session 20     
Email your OEP written analysis (1500 words) to the e145-homework list by 9 AM.  Your team is strongly encouraged to keep your written analysis to 1500 words, as this is a good opportunity to learn how to be succinct in business communications.  However, if it is absolutely necessary, the word count may be increased 20%, up to 1800 words.

Also by 9 AM, send a confidential email to e145-homework@lists.stanford.edu 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. Share distribution should be based on completed work and not distributed as if you were actually founding a company.


The instructors have assembled a group of professional mentors from all over Silicon Valley -- venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and others -- to work with your teams in defining, developing, and honing your two term projects. 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 CAs will be coordinating the mentor program and details will be discussed in Sessions 1 and 2.

Suggested Resources

Video Links:
Online at STVP’s Entrepreneurship Corner there is a wealth of film clips of entrepreneurial thought leaders discussing relevant themes. Feel free to scroll through ecorner.stanford.edu for insights and inspiration.  The following are just a sample:

Textbooks and Readings:
    ◦    Technology Ventures , Dorf & Byers.  Chapter 2-5, 7, 11, 19
    ◦    Four Steps to the Epiphany, Blank.  Chapters 1-3
    ◦    The Monk and the Riddle, Randy Komisar.  Chapter 6, pp. 80-83, pp. 118-121.
    ◦    "How to Write a Great Business Plan," Sahlman, HBS Case #97409.

Hot technologies and trends:
    ◦    Top 10 Strategic Technologies 2009
    ◦    Entrepreneur.com Hot Ideas for 2008
    ◦    Computerworld Tech Trends 2008
    ◦    JWT Intelligence 10 Trends 2009

    ◦    Past teams have found SurveyMonkey to be helpful in gathering primary data. The basic service is free and provides most of the features you’ll need. Visit SurveyMonkey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/