MadClass - An Introduction

Jeffrey Glazer
February 12, 2015

QuestionnaireMadClass is an internal (though, now, external) code name for a Clinic project that is attempting to quantify entrepreneurship. At its heart is a 74 question survey that takes about 10 minutes to complete. You can go check out the survey here. The questions are weighted and scored based on the responses. Each respondent is then scored in five categories; the category scores are added up to give an overall score that is, in theory, out of 100. It is not actually possible to get a 100 on the survey.

 

Over the course of this year (2015), the goal is to take the survey in its current state and do something with it. I'm not sure what that something will be; hopefully with some feedback, together we (you, the public, and I, Jeff Glazer) can figure it out. The goal of this first blog post is to introduce you to the project and what it started out as attempting to accomplish. I'm not sure its original intent is where it will ultimately end, but, maybe it will. Your feedback is critical to this process. So, please comment below or send me an email at jmglazer@wisc.edu

 

The MadClass Project began in the early Summer of 2013 as an in-class brainstorming session. 

 

At a Supervisors' Meeting we were discussing ways to teach law students about the process of entrepreneurship. This was the beginning of our summer semester, which is the first semester that we have our students. Most students are between their 1st and 2nd years, or between their 2nd and 3rd years of law school. Most students have not had much practical legal experience, let alone entrepreneurial experience.

 

We believe that it is important for students to not just know the law. In order to provide more well-rounded, comprehensive, and holistic legal advice, students also neeed to have an understanding of who their clients are and the work the client has to do to before they even get to a lawyer.

 

We developed an exercise where students would pitch a business idea and there would be a "vote" as to which pitch/business idea was "best." This would give students public speaking practice, but also give students a feel for skill of having to develop a pitch and explain business concepts in a limited period of time. Entrepreneurs have to pitch their businesses regularly, and we thought it would be a fun way to engage the students. We limited the range of ideas to "Ways in which the Clinic can make money" simply to limit the universe of ideas for the students; we didn't, initially, think the Clinic would adopt the idea for profit (or otherwise)

 

The vote at the end was to simply generate three ideas for the next phase of the exercise. The next phase was to divide the students into three teams; each team would be led by the person whose idea was voted one of the top 3 from the pitch session. This team would develop a Business Model Canvas for their idea.

 

The three "winning" ideas were intriguing: 1) a "magic sorting hat" that would send nascent entrepreneurs to one of three places - a class about topics in entrepreneurship (to be held by the L&E Clinic for a small fee), the L&E Clinic for free legal services, or to paid service providers for more sophisticated client (with L&E Clinic getting referral fees); 2) an online forum similar to Stack Exchange or Quora where clients can get legal questions answered by lawyers in real time; and, 3) a model form bank similar to LegalZoom.

 

Each of the three teams developed and presented their Business Model Canvas and a "winner" was again selected. The final step was for each of the three teams to take the "winning" idea and develop a "pivot" for the idea based on a series of problems that were identified that would or could prevent the idea from being implemented.

 

The "Winner" was the first idea: the magic sorting hat with multiple revenue streams. The "Company" had been dubbed "MadClass" by the student team. Of course, some of the problems identified were: holding classes by the Clinic would require not only using students to hold the classes (problems of authority and competence), but develop curriculum (they already have school work to do), and competition in the space from other organizations like the Small Business Development Center

 

MadClass was an intriguing idea for the Clinic. The idea of a magic, autonomous, objective "sorting hat" that could evaluate companies by their "readiness" for services is something that speaks to the Clinic. The sorting hat is interesting both from a volume perspective (current "pending" applicant list from the last month alone: 52 companies), but also from a client service perspective. Clients would not have to wait to get feedback on their readiness; applicants would be directed to the services most appropriate for them.

 

So, we set out to create the sorting hat and we are still calling that sorting hat "MadClass." The survey is 74 questions and in future blogs we'll get into the survey design, why we picked the questions we did, and how the math works. We'll talk about what works and what doesn't work about the survey. And, I want to explore ways in which it can be improved. MadClass is at a critical juncture where a decision needs to be made about its very purpose so that the survey and algorithm can be further optimized. Hopefully you find this as interesting as I do; if you have any comments or want some more information, please let me know!