Here is the pitch I wrote to give to the students in the publishing program at Portland State University (the one I delivered today was shorter).
“In the spring term of 2012, I will be teaching a class in entrepreneurial publishing at Portland State University. You are going to learn first hand through the projects that you bring about entrepreneurship, business models, and the challenges of creating a startup.
I don’t think I need to tell you the tumultuous time which the industry is going through. I could make a good case for a five year narrative arc and that we are in the final year of that arc. The arc started in 2007 with the Amazon’s introduction of the Kindle. The climax was the epic battle of Macmillan versus Amazon in the start of 2009, one that forced Amazon to cede to the agency model with Apple playing the role of France is publishing’s short revolutionary war. Since then it has been about watching the fallout, identifying the winners and the losers, finding the Amanda Hockings and grieving for the loss of booksellers. New doors are opening though. I say “Hail the entrepreneurs!”
I fully expect the students that take this class will fail, not in terms of the grade you will receive but the likelihood that your project will be successful. I want to be very clear about the objective of the class. We are here to learn about entrepreneurship and test a set of theories about innovation that have been evolving over the last 20 years. Learning is the key. That means I do not care about the end result; what I do care about is your ability to show what you have learned. I hope that relieves some pressure, but let me introduce some back.
What I am looking for are groups of two to four, maybe five people coming with a defined project that they want to work on for the ten week period. This is commerce, not art. This is about creating a business model and finding paying customers.
You will need my approval to take the class. The way you get my approval is by pitching me your project. We will do this in February ahead of you creating your schedule for the spring term. Your group will tell me what your project is, why your customers are going to care, and what first steps you are going to take to create your startup. You’ll have five minute to do that. Abbey is going to help me with the selection process.
I’ll be back in January to talk about the class and some things we are trying to do to raise the stakes even more.”