Friday, August 14, 2009

Know Any College Students in Boston?

Here's the new Facebook Group for the Innovation Open House Series. It provides an opportunity for currently-enrolled students around the Boston area to visit cool companies. We're going to do a pilot group of six to nine open houses this coming academic year.

To read more about the idea behind IOH, check out these prior blog posts:

- Let's Organize Some Innovation Open Houses

- Connecting Students With Cool Companies: Your Ideas?

We'll use the Facebook group to communicate with students about upcoming open houses, solicit their feedback and ideas, and also keep companies that would like to host open houses in the loop.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Let's Organize Some Innovation Open Houses for Students ... Are You In?

If you're interested in how we can connect the smart students who come to Massachusetts to get educated with the cool companies that exist here, and perhaps even help them lay the foundation for cool companies of their own, I want your help. More on that at the bottom of this e-mail.

I'd like to try an experiment during the upcoming academic year. Here's the rough outline, though it should definitely be refined:

1. Let's line up at least six (and possibly more) Innovation Open Houses at cool local companies.

2. The goal of an Innovation Open House (and that's merely a place-holder name) is to give students currently enrolled at any local school a chance to visit cool local companies.

3. An Innovation House would last about 90 minutes. It might consist of a lunch or snack in a conference room, a talk from the CEO or a company founder about what the company does, a Q&A session with the students, and a tour of the office. It could take place at lunch time, in the afternoon, or at the end of the day on a weekday (but probably not during the student-unfriendly morning hours.)

4. An Innovation Open House should be able to accommodate at least 15 (and ideally more) students. Students would RSVP to hold their spot in advance; there'd need to be some dis-incentive for students who didn't show up.

5. Companies could use IOH's for their own devious purposes: they might pitch their internship program, entry level jobs, use the visiting students as a focus group, ask them to play with a demo product, or present a challenge the company is currently dealing with.

6. Students could use IOH's for their own devious purposes: they might ask about job or internship opportunities, or ask questions related to their research/coursework.

7. But the goal of an IOH is simply to expose students to the company, what it does, how it got started, etc. There's no obligation on the part of the company to do anything aside from spending 90 minutes with a group of students. And there's no obligation on the part of the students to do anything aside from spending 90 minutes at a company. (But students will be encouraged to continue the conversation among themselves at a nearby coffee shop/inexpensive restaurant to build connections.)

8. Snacks, lunch, or beverages should be supplied by the company -- or paid for by a generous sponsor of the IOH series.

9. IOH's should be very low-effort to organize, low-effort for companies to participate in, and low-effort for students to RSVP for and come to. (Though if they prove popular it may be necessary to ask students to "compete" a bit to get in.)

10. After the 2009-2010 academic year, we should evaluate how well IOHs are working, and think about ways that they might be "open sourced" so that other cities in New England could replicate them (OK, and the rest of the world, too).

If you want to help make this happen, drop me a note at sk - at sign -, and let me know if you're available for a 5:30 - 8 PM brainstorming session in Cambridge on Aug 3, 4, 5, 6, or 10. (I need to hear from you by July 13th.) This will be a very distributed effort, ideally, that doesn't turn into a giant time sink for anybody. My goal is to simply have one meeting now to design the series, do everything else by e-mail or conference call, and meet again next summer to review. Please do not come if you just want to lob ideas and are not available to be hands-on when it comes to actually running these.

Among the questions we'll address: what companies would be most interesting to students... how will students RSVP... how do we reach out to get a good mix of students... can students attend more than one of the events in the series...should we include companies that aren't accessible via public transportation. Another question, more for the long-term, is how do we track the impact of this effort, and the careers of the people who've participated. (Perhaps a Facebook or LinkedIn group?)

I'm open to students, entrepreneurs, profs, VCs, anyone being involved in making this happen. If you are willing to help, you'll be considered one of the Esteemed Most Trustworthy Trustees of the IOH Series, which should do wonders for your résumé.

Please forward this blog post to anyone you think may be interested...and of course, feel free to comment if you have feedback/ideas/criticism/words of warning...

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