INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—Most scuba divers do not begin their hobby by suddenly donning gear and jumping into the ocean. Training is a methodical, step-by-step process to make best practices a habit by building skills and comfort in a controlled environment, like a pool. This also describes the way in which Evening MBA students learn about entrepreneurship in the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis DIVE program.
“In scuba diving, you learn one task at a time,” said Todd Saxton, associate professor of management, DIVE faculty director and scuba diver. “You learn how to clear your mask, to navigate, to buddy breath and share air. The DIVE experience is intended to parallel that— rather than having students jump right into that ocean of entrepreneurship where there may be dolphins, but there also may be sharks.”
DIVE stands for Discovery, Innovation and Ventures Enterprise. Launched in 2006, DIVE is a competitive program allowing Evening MBA students interested in entrepreneurship to partner with founders of local startups to help develop their business. The enterprise allows students to get their hands dirty on the ground floor of a new venture.
“DIVE is giving me the opportunity to utilize those skills I’ve learned over the last two years to apply it to a local startup and really give back to the local community,” said Amy Knue, DIVE member, MBA student and manager of strategic development at medical technology firm Medxcel. “We provide resources at a time when a business really can’t afford to go out and hire those resources.”
DIVE launched a partnership with DeveloperTown in 2011 to connect with local entrepreneurs who are just getting started with their business planning. DeveloperTown provides assistance building a robust and scalable IT and software platform to technology-based ventures.
“If your product isn’t ugly, you’ve waited too long,” says Lindsey Saxton, associate partner at DeveloperTown. “Entrepreneurs can spend so much time perfecting software that by the time they get it out there, no one wants it. You have to figure out what people want. DIVE works with our clients to help accomplish that—what market segment to target initially, and how to grow.”
While DeveloperTown focuses on IT needs, DIVE supplies multifunctional planning skills in strategy, marketing, finance and operations. DeveloperTown’s programmers and staff reside in small houses at the Broad Ripple warehouse-like facility. Some clients and partners, including the Kelley School DIVE program, also have a house and physical presence there.
“Having your own place you can feel at home in and work in privately is very beneficial,” said Associate Professor Saxton. “But at the same time, you need to be able to collaborate with other people on your development team. Working in a mobile house with castors, you can roll houses together and have your little module there of coworkers with whom you can very easily collaborate. DIVE loves being part of that community.”
MBA students in DIVE recently considered pitches by startup founders at DeveloperTown, and then chose which venture to work with on a project. One of the selected startups, Adproval, was founded by Kelley School of Business graduate Matthew Anderson (BS ‘12).
“Adproval is a service that allows bloggers to easily sell their display ads or any other type of sponsorship offerings,” Anderson explained. “The DIVE team can help Adproval develop a grassroots marketing plan and then execute it to scale the size of our company. We also we need help translating the data that we gather as we scale into proving the effectiveness of blogs to advertisers.”
Each DIVE team member will spend more than 100 hours over four to six months working alongside entrepreneurs like Anderson to make their startup a success.
“While we’re working with the founders, I expect our DIVE teams to take some ownership and internalize the project,” said Associate Professor Saxton. “I expect them to be shoulder-to-shoulder; not face-to-face, arm’s length consultants or advisors, but really rolling up their sleeves and diving in.”