A mentor’s proud moment(VentureSketch Season 1 ) by Winbert Zhang
Season 1 of VentureSketch began with a brainstorming session for the team name and logo. With ideas from ArtistNet to DesignLink, we finally ended up at the name VentureSketch through a discord team poll. The first few weeks flew by quickly, with each member finding their role within the team and keeping up with the fast pace to get the idea and baseline of the project set. From the start, certain students showed interest towards different aspects of the website. For example, some students were very interested in the design and front end, while others were more interested in developing the backend. Something to keep in mind for the future is to first give the students experience with all parts of the project before assigning them to specific parts so that they have a clear idea of what they like the most.
We quickly finished the basic prototyping of the website pages then transitioned into creating a presentation to show other ACF startup teams for feedback. When reflecting on the presentation creation process the students saw that they could have spent more time running through the presentation formally which would allow for a more professional presentation. The feedback we got on the presentation was generally positive, but it did not result in any specific action items. In the future, asking for negative feedback or criticisms specifically would be more conducive to useful feedback.
During week 9, we sent a team survey to our own members asking for feedback on the class structure and for points of improvement for the future. This form was effective in allowing the students to voice their criticisms of the project in a safe manner, which would not be possible during a normal class. Some key takeaways from the feedback were that there was a disconnect between team members, resulting in everyone feeling like they were working on their own small parts of the project rather than the project as a whole. Going forward, keeping a clear communication channel between team members to make sure that everyone understands what the other team members are working on is important. Another piece of feedback was for us to periodically review concepts that were taught before so that they could keep up with the technical requirements for website development. This feedback is easier to implement, as it just requires a concept review session to be blocked out of every 1–2 classes.
A few weeks before the end of our first season, we met with an advisor named Annamarie and with a senior center manager named Ami. We met up in person and hung our own art pieces on the wall of a senior center. Our goal was to in part get our name out there and also to test whether our idea is viable in practice. This opportunity was great for giving us more insight into what to focus our project on and what we can change to improve for the future. The visit was a huge success, as the art pieces turned out amazing and we had a great time talking to Annamarie and Ami. It also served as a team bonding experience as our members finally got to meet each other in person and have a chat over boba tea. In the future, we hope to continue to visit even more centers to promote our goal of connecting artists with non-profits.
For leaders of any project, it is important to establish a sense of ownership in all the team members. Specifically, this means that it is up to the students themselves to get the work done, and for them to feel pride in doing so. For example, a student who takes ownership of the front-end website would be able to understand that all the effort that they put into the HTML/CSS would be reflected in the final project for users to see. Another key takeaway is to make sure that there is a clear form of communication between the students with each other and the coaches. This way, whenever there is any type of issue that arises, it can be brought up immediately and resolved. Lastly, by allowing students to get a taste of all the aspects of the project first (logo/design/frontend/backend), it can allow them to have a clearer understanding of what they actually enjoy and lead to more effective role assignments later on. In conclusion, this startup experience gives the members a real look into how startups function. While there are inevitably things to improve, the process of trial and error will result in growth in the long run.