Mentoring Entrepreneurs

Mentoring Entrepreneurs

Innovation Mentoring Plan

Innovation is the principle required for survival in competitive markets and software products are no exception. My plan is to support Innovative Product Entrepreneurship. My focus is on startups in which software development represents a core part of their product or services. The product or service can be a piece of software, or a means that makes the product or service possible. Either way, before deciding how to develop the software-based product, the challenge of the startup is to find a sustainable business model — in other words, to discover an important and urgent problem that a defined and accessible segment of customers will pay for. Ries [1] proposes that “a startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” My Innovation Mentoring plan is directed to guide software startups on their pathway from an innovative concept to an actual usable product or service by leveraging my own entrepreneurial experience. The plan is designed to work also under remote communication settings.

Facilitating Feature Innovation

  • Understanding user needs are the ultimate starting point for product success. You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they will want something new” (Steve Jobs). Interviews, document analysis, prototyping, social media use, feedback analysis, analysis of similar products, use of model users, and story cards are techniques to solicit requirements. However, advanced NLP techniques allow making requirements elicitation more creative and more efficient. Pre-training and tuning text classification using Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) allows more reliable text understanding than ever before. The MapFeat method [2] was highly successful in the textual analysis of 69,680 unique tweets. We could specify a significant amount of new functionality (139 new features) demonstrated to be valuable for general public users in wildfire emergency events. The main conclusion of the case study is that MAPFEAT is able to find a significant number of new features which were not in the currently existing wildfire apps. 87.1% of these features were confirmed useful by the general public. My plan is to mentor companies from the Hunter hub to set-up and execute a similar process.

Product Innovation: Data Analytics for Competitor Analysis and Return-on-Investment

  • Product innovation is a new technology or combination of technologies introduced commercially to meet a stated or unstated user or market needs. A paradigm shift in requirements engineering and software evolution towards a data-driven user-centered development, prioritization, planning, and management of requirements was projected in [3]. If supported by a fellowship, resources will be used to develop a free service for entrepreneurs to define their Unique Selling Proposition based on a data-driven competitor analysis using the analytical tools from Objective data will guide decision-makers to predict the ROI of implementing new features into their products. Using the tool VeryBestChoice of my former U of C spin-off company Expert Decisions Inc. will allow remote and asynchronous prioritization of candidate features.

Supporting Entrepreneurial Students

  • Innovators Mentoring in the Hunter Hub will be happening by providing guidance and training to support all kinds of entrepreneurs and student innovators. In my course SENG 511 (Software process and project management), I will continue to invite industry speakers to be entrepreneurs. In the capstone project course CPSC 594, students will learn to develop (prototype) software products in collaboration with industrial partners. Many of them are startup companies. As part of that, students will be requested to perform competitor analysis and justify all technological choices. As part of these courses and specific lectures, students are encouraged to think in an entrepreneurial direction. They will be trained to pitch and defend their ideas. Students will be trained to think about business models and to come up with (unique) value propositions.

Guiding Software Product Management best Practices

  • I am a member of the International Software Product Management Association ISPMA,, which is led by a group of SPM experts from industry and research with the goal to foster software product management excellence across industries. My plan is to guide ISPMA-based education and training with best practices for product management of software startups.

[1] Ries, E. (2011): The lean startup: how today’s entrepreneurs use continuous innovation to create radically successful businesses. Crown Publishing Group.
[2] Nayebi, M., Marbouti, M., Quapp, R., Maurer, F., Ruhe, G.: Crowdsourced Exploration of Mobile App Features : A Case Study of the Fort McMurray Wildfire, ICSE (2017), IEEE Press, pp. 57-66.
[3] Maalej, W., Nayebi, M., Johann, T., Ruhe, G.: Toward Data-driven Requirements Engineering, IEEE Software, (2016), Vol. 33 (1), pp. 48-54.