To understand the program, we are participating in the curriculum on Tuesdays and Fridays and getting to know the students. It is a bit like an undercover shopper operation because we really want to find out what the students like and don’t like about the program, and if they have suggestions for the future. Our evaluation tool will be a survey that is sent to all alumni semiannually to gain information on how the program has helped their business grow or why their business failed. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation funds the program and requires this data to see if their grant money is creating jobs and economic growth, so having a survey like this is vital to the continued success of the program. However, a key thing our supervisor has us keep in mind is that the success of the program isn’t necessarily black and white. Approximately 90% of startups fail, so we can’t simply look at the numbers. Even if the participants do not continue their businesses, they still learn a ton about startups and possibly pursue other entrepreneurial ventures in the future. Therein lies the challenge of capturing the true value of the program.
The other part of the project is creating a high level marketing strategy to recruit a diverse group of the best possible talent in the state of Michigan. Currently there are about 10 colleges represented, but we are working on a master list of all the schools in Michigan with contacts at their entrepreneurial related clubs to cast as wide a net as possible. Furthermore, we are working on marketing videos and profiles of the current teams in the program, and planning engagement events throughout the year at career fairs and startup related events where our supervisors at TechTown can attend and talk to students in person about the program. Lastly, we are working with alumni of TechTown’s programs to create a one page document to hand out to potential investors with all the relevant critical information about various businesses that have grown out of TechTown (i.e. Sentinl). Improving marketing will really allow TechTown to reach the greatest entrepreneurial talent and give them a unique opportunity to start their own business.