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Identify two or three passages that are important in the reading. These passages should either give key information, back up information given, or summarise the author’s key points.

Challenge the idea in the article by developing a list of critical (two or three) thoughtful questions and arguments that might be raised by critics of the authors, or by those with different points of view

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David Taylor, Virgin Startup,
London, England
Resource
..
business
incubators
are lending
a hand.
BY SARAH FISTER GALE
PORTRAITS BY JON ENOCH
Startup
success
stories
than 50 percent of all U.S. startups fail within five
years, according to 2017 data from Statistic Brain
Research Institute. The high rate of failure, even
among companies with strong backing by savvy
investors who vetted the idea and team, suggests
some entrepreneurs are missing vital tools to help
them transition from big idea to thriving business.
No tool is more important than project manage­
ment, says David Taylor, a mentor at the business
incubator Virgin StartUp, London, England. He’s
also chief grower at Grow in London, a marketing
business incubator. “Unequivocally, startups need
project management skills to get off the ground,” he
says. Entrepreneurs are often running at breakneck
speed trying to do everything at once. “They need
someone to help understand how and why they
need to create plans and set milestones.”
34
PM NETWORK APRIL 2018 PMI.ORG
Boye Ademola, a Lagos, Nigeria-based partner
and lead for digital transformation at KPMG who
mentors startups, agrees. “Without project man­
agement fundamentals, the chance of delivering
tangible results is slim.”
Yet aspiring business leaders often have no idea
why project management is important or how
to integrate it. That’s
where startup incuba­
“Unequivocally,
tor organizations with
startups
staff skilled in project
need project
management can help.
managem ent
While they provide
skills to get o ff
strategic advice and
networking and men­
th e ground.”
torship opportunities,
— D a v id T a y lo r
many business incuba­
tors and accelerators also integrate project manage­
ment training and guidance.
At Boston Children’s Hospital’s in-house incuba­
tor in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, project manag­
ers are part of customized teams the organization
convenes to develop clinicians’ innovative ideas
into viable products and services. For example, to
support delivery of a software project to improve
emergency room (ER) triage processes, the hos­
pital paired ER staff with software developers,
a visual designer, a business analyst and a proj-
ISTOCKPHOTO
Visions of Amazon founder
Jeff Bezos selling books out of
his garage, or Jack Ma scraping
together money to launch Alib­
aba, inspire budding entrepreneurs
around the world. They also attract
venture capitalists (VCs): In 2017, fund­
ing to VC-backed companies grew 50 per­
cent over 2016, reaching US$164.4 billion.
But despite all the fabled success stories
and seed money, startups are a risky bet. More
c
V *

“Startups never have enough
resources to hire th eir own
project m anagem ent experts,
so th e y need training on how
to do it themselves.”
” —
â–  j r ARE A G I iVOFSmtflfa
I o DOEBS ffflAFSlTS!
P P
| ETHIC on T’ ^O T .p,;;
—Brad Burke, Networked Insights, Chicago, Illinois, USA
p iJ I
O ffices o f dig ita l
s tartup incubator
1871, Chicago,
Illinois, USA
ect manager. Even the Creative Artists Agency
(CAA)—which helps entertainers and athletes
manage their careers—is building an incubator with
project management skills in mind. In October,
CAA announced it would launch a “startup studio”
named Creative Labs in Vancouver, British Colum­
on maintaining investor interest. Investors want to
see results, and project management helps deliver
them. “Providing startups with project management
guidance creates a level of accountability and makes
it easier for them to demonstrate their ROI,” Mr.
Taylor says.
bia, Canada. A key reason for choosing Vancouver?
The city’s wealth of project management talent, said
THE VIEW FROM OUTSIDE
the new lab’s co-founder.
“Startups never have enough resources to hire
their own project management experts, so founders
Many startup mentors agree that project manage­
ment is vital to getting companies up and run­
ning. But that doesn’t mean they all have the same
approach to imparting project management knowl­
edge and skills.
Mr. Ademola focuses on helping startup owners
look beyond the product to the business community.
“They usually have little business experience
or understanding of the resources they will need
to get to market,” he says. He helps them build
a roadmap and define the people and capital
they will need to complete that journey. He also
encourages them to connect with customers
and other stakeholders to get feedback on their
product. “Once they are empowered with this
knowledge, they are able to make better deci­
typically need training on how to do it themselves,”
says Brad Burke, CTO of the marketing agency
Networked Insights and former mentor at digital
startup incubator 1871, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
At 1871, Mr. Burke spent two years working with
entrepreneurs who had secured angel funding for
their startups. He noticed that many organizations
worked like well-oiled machines when co-founders
were working on a single project. But if things got
even a little complex, they lost control. “Once you
have multiple teams with interdependencies, you
need at least basic project management skills to
survive,” he says.
In the startup world, a big part of survival hinges
36
PM NETWORK APRIL 2018 PMI.ORG
sions,” he says.
i
Foundation
First
The goal fo r m entors a t tech accelerators: Make
sure startups embrace the value o f basic project
m anagem ent discipline.
J
oe M aruschak’s b ig g e st p e t peeve as a s ta rtu p
m e n to r is ” to o l p u s h in g “— w h e n p e o p le c o n ­
fuse p ro je c t m a n a g e m e n t w ith s o ftw a re to o ls .
T h e y v ie w p ro je c t m a n a g e m e n t as a s o ftw a re -d riv e n
ta s k and m an ag e by th e t o o l ra th e r th a n by th e d e ­
sired business o u tc o m e . B ut to M r. M aruschak, c h ie f
s ta rtu p o ffic e r and e xe c u tiv e d ire c to r a t R egional
A c c e le ra to r & In n o v a tio n N e tw o rk (R A IN ) Eugene in
Eugene, O re g o n , USA, p ro je c t m a n a g e m e n t is re a lly
a b o u t discip lin e .
“ If y o u c a n ‘t p rio ritiz e tasks, c o o l n e tw o rk a b le t o o ls w o n ‘t add va lu e .”
He fe e ls s tro n g ly t h a t e ve ry s ta rtu p th a t
co m e s th ro u g h RAIN s h o u ld be tra in e d in
For Mr. Burke, it’s all about showing rather than
telling. He finds that entrepreneurs are so focused
on getting the next thing done they often have little
patience to discuss process. So he eases them into
it. “I don’t say, ‘You need project management.’ I
ask them, ‘Who is managing the project?’” he says.
He aims to help startup mentees think about
where risks might arise within their strategy. Espe­
cially if they realize that no one is a clear owner
of critical tasks, they’ll recognize the need for
project management practices such as establishing
milestones for project teams and key performance
indicators (KPIs).
Mr. Burke has seen a common pitfall that creates
an opportunity to show the power of project man­
agement: when startups hire overseas development
teams to complete a project on the company’s criti­
cal path to generating revenue or getting a product
to market.
“They see this solution as throwing money at a
problem to make it go away,” Mr. Burke says. But
when they let the vendor define the deadline and
also set parameters for reporting progress and
determining whether goals are met, things quickly
go off the rails. “You can’t let the person you are
th e a rt o f tra c k in g key p e rfo rm a n c e in d ic a ­
to rs , kee ping th e sta ke h o ld e rs ab re a st o f
progress and m a k in g g o o d decisions. W h a t
te c h n o lo g y an o rg a n iz a tio n u ltim a te ly uses
is fa r less im p o rta n t th a n th e se skills.
The sam e goes fo r s p e c ific agile te c h ­
niques such as s cru m o r d a ily stan dup s,
says Brad Burke, a fo rm e r m e n to r a t th e
d ig ita l s ta rtu p in c u b a to r 1871, C hicago,
Illin o is , USA. “ If y o u r a c tiv itie s a re n ‘t
in te g ra te d in to th e b ro a d e r business goals,
even agile fa lls over.”
Instead, m o s t m e n to rs a t s ta rtu p in c u ­
b a to rs and a cce le ra to rs fo cu s on th e basics:
w h y p ro je c t m a n a g e m e n t adds va lu e and
h o w t o in te g ra te it in to th e business p ro ­
cess. T hen th e y le t co m p a n ie s cho ose th e
“ If y o u r
a ctiv ities
a re n ‘t
in te g ra te d
in to th e
b ro a d e r
business
goals, even
agile fa lls
o ver.”
—Brad Burke
m e th o d o r t o o l t h a t w o rk s b e st fo r th e m .
“T he n e a t th in g is th a t p ro je c t m a n ­
a g e m e n t is scalab le,” Mr. M a ru scha k says. In th e
b e g in n in g it can be as s im p le as p rio ritiz in g tasks and
bre a kin g d o w n big goals in to a ch ie va b le chunks. As
th e business gro w s, p ro je c t m a n a g e m e n t p ra ctice s
can b e co m e m o re s o p h is tic a te d .
W h a t m a tte rs m o s t is d is c ip lin e . If a fle d g lin g
o rg a n iz a tio n has th a t, it w ill te n d t o cho ose p ro je c t
m a n a g e m e n t ap pro ache s and to o ls th a t b e st m e e t
its needs, w h e th e r a gile, p re d ic tiv e (w a te rfa ll) o r
h y b rid , Mr. M aru scha k says. “O n c e y o u m a n ag e a fe w
p ro je c ts as a te a m , y o u ‘ll fig u re o u t w h a t w o rk s .”
APRIL 2018 PM NETWORK
37
paying tell you when the project is done,” he says.
Once they recognize the problem with this
model, he introduces them to basic project man­
agement practices, like setting up a ticket system
for the development team so they know which tasks
to prioritize and establishing daily meetings that
include overseas teams to track progress. “Eventu­
ally they see how these extra steps free them to
focus on other things,” Mr. Burke says.
Mr. Taylor takes a similar approach at Grow in
%
London. He finds that most entrepreneurs hate
corporate jargon, so he uses colloquial terms to
discuss project management practices that focus on
the specific needs of the company and where a plan
might have gaps. For example, he recently men­
“A p ro je c t
m anagem ent
approach
a llo w s
[s ta rtu p s ]
t o c a p tu re,
q u a n tify and
p rio ritize th e
p ro je c t tasks.”
— Joe M a ru s c h a k , R A IN Eugene,
E ugene, O re g o n , U SA
38
tored a fintech startup that had spent months build­
ing a prototype without getting customer feedback.
Mr. Taylor helped the founders see how feedback
on the prototype would help them hone the product
before they went to market. He then helped them
build a plan to talk to 100 potential customers.
The feedback helped them tweak the technol­
ogy and expand their network of potential buyers.
They’ve since made feedback loops part of their
project management process, he says. “Most start­
ups learn more from doing than reading.”
TRACK EVERYTHING
Other business incubators treat project manage­
ment techniques and strategies as a formal part
of training programs. The Regional Accelerator
& Innovation Network (RAIN) is a governmentbacked initiative to grow tech startups across the
U.S. state of Oregon. Its affiliated accelerator in the
city of Eugene offers immersive training and men­
toring programs to early-growth-stage companies.
“Project management comes in through all of it,”
says Joe Maruschak, chief startup officer and execu­
tive director, RAIN Eugene, Eugene.
He believes three big problems most startups
face are failure to organize, quantify and prioritize.
PM NETWORK APRIL 2018 PMI.ORG
•
*
*
“Providing
s ta rtu p s
w ith p ro je c t
m anagem ent
guidance c rea tes
a le v e l o f
a c c o u n ta b ility
and m a kes it
easier fo r th e m
t o d e m o n s tra te
th e ir R O I.”
— D a v id T a y lo r
Cash
Required
Before startups can get major projects o ff the ground,
they need an infusion of venture capital (VC).
US$ BILLIONS
0
50
100
150
200
US$164.4
billion
Global funding to VCbacked companies in 2017
F
A
Q
/
/ O
Increase in global VC funding
over 2016
US$71.9
billion
Am ount invested in U.S. VC-backed
companies in 2017
US$70.8 i
billion
Venture capital funding in Asia in 2017,
up from US$32.7 billion in 2016
‘ M
^
^
V7
/
0
/
Increase in VC funding to Asian
/ Q companies between 2016 and 2017
The number of unicorn
organizations—private com­
panies th a t reached US$1
billion in market v a lu e minted in the U.S. in 2017
Source: MoneyTree Report Q4 2017, CB Insights and PwC, 2017
w a y offdoing things. But a fte r going through the
accelerator, I realized w e needed a b etter system.”
—Brett Bernstein, Gatsby, Los Angeles, California, USA
“A project management approach allows them to
value. “They need to learn that time is the only
capture, quantify and prioritize the project tasks,”
resource they will always have, and they can’t waste
Mr. Maruschak says.
it,” Mr. Maruschak says.
RAIN Eugene’s program is built around these goals.
The next step for RAIN program participants is
On day one, participants are expected to submit an
to put tasks in buckets based on expected outcomes,
executive summary describing what their business
prioritize the ones that generate value and start to
idea is, why it’s needed, how they will build the idea
create plans for reaching strategic goals.
into a scalable business and why they are the people to
do it. “It is basically a project charter,” he says.
The process forces startup leaders to think in
“It’s about breaking down the big picture into
small pieces and then getting it done,” he says. “That
is the discipline of project management.”
40
and identify gaps in their plan. From there, RAIN
DATA-DRIVEN ACCOUNTABILITY
instructors require each participant to track every­
Derek Schloss has seen his company benefit from
thing they do—for example, time spent in meetings,
task tracking and prioritization. The co-founder and
client calls, product development or sales. Then
CEO of Cowbucker, which manufactures and sells
they link each task to business value generation.
hats, Mr. Schloss went through RAIN’s 16-week
That’s when the “aha moments” happen, he says.
program last year. The “track everything” mantra was
W hether it’s seeing how much time they spent in
drilled into his head, and it’s changed the way he runs
meetings or the way they prioritized sales calls, they
his company, he says. “The KPIs help us make better
start to see that not all activities deliver the same
decisions and stay on track to achieve our goals.”
PMNETW O RKAPR IL2018PM I.O RG
ISTOCKPHOTO
detail about how they will build their business
Since completing the RAIN program, Mr. Schloss
him to adhere to basic project management prac­
has set up daily standup meetings for his entire
tices. These included setting weekly goals, pri­
team and built a dashboard to track activities and
oritizing tasks and identifying risks. “Being held
their expected outcomes. “There are 100 little proj­
accountable forced me to do things I might not have
ects we need to keep track of,” he says. By monitor­
made time for before,” he says.
ing metrics tracked by the dashboard, he’s able to
These practices led him to make a tough staff­
accurately gauge the value of time spent on different
ing decision early on. After Mr. Bernstein realized
activities rather than just going on instinct.
one of his key development team members wasn’t
Demonstrating strong project management dis­
communicating or holding his own team mem­
cipline also can impress stakeholders and investors
bers accountable, he made the decision to fire the
who want proof that a company is delivering on its
employee. “In the past I just chalked it up to a dif­
promises, says Brett Bernstein, founder and CEO of
ferent way of doing things,” Mr. Bernstein says. “But
Gatsby, Los Angeles, California, USA. The market­
after going through the accelerator, I realized we
ing platform identifies and introduces companies to
needed a better system.”
their most influential customers based on custom­
ers’ online behavior. Last July, Mr. Bernstein was
Since completing the program in September, Mr.
Bernstein tracks a list of KPIs, which he uses to set
accepted into Acceleprise, an accelerator in San
weekly goals and report progress. “It has become
Francisco, California that focuses on software-as-a-
part of the Gatsby culture,” he says. Each week the
service and business-to-business tech startups.
team meets to discuss progress, look at outcomes
From day one, Mr. Bernstein’s mentors required
and set new goals. Aside from keeping everyone
focused and productive, it has helped his team pivot
Gatsby’s business strategy in response to new data,
Mr. Bernstein says.
He makes a point of communicating goals and
strategy shifts with his investors following weekly
team meetings. “It’s a way to engage with them and
remind them why they backed us,” he says. “Put­
ting our goals and deliverables out there makes us
accountable.”
For Mr. Maruschak, project management chops
often make the crucial difference to a startup’s
chances of sustaining success. RAIN Eugene works
specifically with startups that have a big potential for
high growth. Once these firms take off, it can be too
“It’s about
breaking down
th e big picture
into small
pieces and
then getting it
done. T hat is
th e discipline
o f project
management.”
— Joe M a ru s c h a k
late to start thinking about how to incorporate proj­
ect management, he says. “All fast-growing compa­
nies need project management from the beginning,”
he says. It ensures that every new hire is indoctri­
nated with project management discipline from day
one—which helps the organization make better deci­
sions and strategically prioritize work.
“Once you get people to think in chunks, they get
more realistic about what’s possible and how to get
things done.” pm
APRIL 2018 PM NETWORK
41
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