What’s NEXT? A Look Into the First Class

NEXT, a nation-wide start up program powered by Google for Entrepreneurs recently finished up its first class of Dallas participants at the DEC.

The 5-week part time program exercised a variety of training methods to sharpen the skills of local entrepreneurs to help build their ideas. Participants had access to a range of local mentors, insight into customer development, and valuable feedback on areas of needed improvement.

Among the participants were a wide range of founders from all walks of entrepreneurship. Below, a few of them have shared their experiences along with Kevin Strawbridge, a mentor of the program.

What stage of entrepreneurship were you in entering this program? (In other words, did you already have an idea or successful business?)

Kevin Strawbridge: I worked as a mentor for the program and; thus, was aiding the entrepreneurs. I will provide my overall observation of various states. The attendees ran the gamut on where they were in the development process for ideas. Regardless of where they were, all smartly refined their ideas. In some cases, the participants were able to successfully pivot ideas without having had to spend significant money to find out the original idea was missing a mark. Many of the participants came in with ideas that had a broad range of goals. I feel like we were able to successfully narrow the focus to a point where the entrepreneurs could go forth and better define their longer term strategy and execution plan.

Alexis Nguyen: We were completely brand new with an idea in mind. The idea actually expanded into something bigger as we went through the different weeks.

Saibal Mukherjee: I already have a company that launched in March. I joined this because when you join a like-minded group like this, you can learn a lot.

Kathryn Waggoner: I signed up because I’ve always been a person who has ideas and I play around with them in my head but have never done anything with them. I graduated from TCU in May with a background in strategic communication. I had a lot to learn about the financial side of things and also customer development.

Kelli Thomas-Drake: I have a health tech start up with my cofounder that we’re currently developing and establishing. We attended the class to really learn the true essence of customer development.

What did a typical day look like going through the program?

KTD: We would have homework and a syllabus to refer to outside of class which was pretty extensive in terms of the material that had to be covered regarding developing our business into something viable that generates revenue.

During class, we would go over the homework which usually was focused on furthering the business model canvas and further identifying revenue streams.

A lot of people develop concepts, but they don’t simultaneously monetize them. There is no business in selling ideas. So we really focused on implementation, strategy, and execution during class.

What was your favorite feature of the program?

KS: From my perspective, the interaction of the group (with a broad range of ideas and influences) opened many eyes to see beyond the finite view of the ideas. By getting input from other entrepreneurs, I was able to see real discernment start to take place. By taking off the blinders, the participants were open to making the ideas better.

AN: The mentors and videos were HUGE! They gave a lot of valuable insights and AHA moments!

KW: The ability to network and connect with everybody there and bounce ideas off one another was really valuable. Also, the focus on customer development was a huge help for me.

KTD: The exposure to the business model canvas and the lessons of development. Also the guidance and leadership from our mentors as they shepherded us through the process of getting us to the point of having a pitch deck was pretty inspiring.

Why do you think it is important for early stage startups to gain training from programs like such?

KS: More often than not, entrepreneurs have an idea, tune out those round them, and solve a problem that is far too limited in scope. A training program like this exposes new stimuli and feedback that is crucial to avoid expensive mistakes – both in time and money.

AN: It’s a smarter way of going about pursuing your ideas, especially in saving both time and money. By doing customer discovery first before creating a product and taking it to market, startups know whether there is demand for their product.

SM: I think most of the start up people know what this class will teach them generally, but the program formalizes the lessons in a nice way. It condenses the information and improves it.

How do you think you benefitted most from the program?’

KS: As a mentor I benefitted from watching these “students” learn and take notice of how to move an idea forward. While I have successfully started a company, and have worked with a multitude of other start-ups and businesses, I never tire of being in the trenches and seeing how new ideas evolve and take hold. I was honored to mentor the teams and hope that my inputs will be a catalyst to future success for all of them.

AN: I walked away with another way of looking at building a startup and the relationships that I’ve built through the program are invaluable.

KW: The mentorship I received, working specifically with Kevin, I learned exactly what I needed to about the financial side of things.



Jenna Clark

Jenna is an avid explorer and supporter of the DFW startup community. In addition to LAUNCH DFW, she works and volunteers for startup events around the city.