Resource Nights: From Idea to Product

This recap of the Business Plan Practicum (Resource Nights) course at UW features three tips all entrepreneurs need to know from Ambika Singh, CEO of Armoire.Each week you can read a recap of the previous Entrepreneurship Resource Nights (Business Plan Practicum) session. This past week, instructor John Zagula (founder, Ignition Capital) led a class focused on taking an idea to product stage with special guests Ben Gilbert, co-founder of Pioneer Square Labs and host of the popular venture capital podcast “Acquired“, and Jason Sokoloff, head librarian at the Foster Business Library at UW.


“You make the best products you can, and you grow as fast as you deserve to.” – David Ogilvy

“You almost always gain more value by telling others (about your idea) than you cannibalize by giving the idea away.” – Ben Gilbert


This class was an exciting next step as it closed out the first section of the course with an exploration of how to take an idea to a concrete, desirable product and use that as the basis for a business. We covered some very basic concepts: From “problem/solution” to “must have/nice to have” to “minimum viable product.” In other words, making sure whatever you’re building solves a real problem and addresses a real pain point for a real set of people (not just you). We also touched on why its important that this need is high enough on the list that your target is motivated to act. And finally, that you find ways to validate this stuff before you spend too much time and money.

We were then joined by venture capitalist Ben Gilbert, co-founder and CEO of Pioneer Square Labs (PSL). He shared his own personal experience as a student joining competitions and how that propelled his career forward. He also shared his key checkpoints for viability and some cases of testing this viability in the companies/ideas he and PSL started. This included using tools like Facebook ads and Google Keyword Planner.

Watch the class in its entirety now or skip ahead to 25:20 to hear more from Ben Gilbert like these tips:

Ben also co-founded Madrona Venture Labs and was named the 2017 Young Entrepreneur of the Year by GeekWire and 40 Under 40 by the Puget Sound Business Journal. He is the co-host of the popular venture capital podcast “Acquired” which analyzes landmark acquisitions and IPOs in the technology sector.

Two additional specific things he said that are good to point out:

  • If your product idea is not one you would personally use then you really need to validate it. If it is one inspired by your own need for it, then you better make sure the market is bigger than just you.
  • Beware of confirmation bias when going out and validating

Finally, Jason Sokoloff of the Foster Library demonstrated the amazing (and free!) tools you have at your disposal to do just this. Students should check them out here and use them!


Resource Nights (ENTRE 440/540 Business Plan Practicum) are each Tuesday starting January 7, 2020 from 6 to 7:50 pm in PACCAR Hall 192 (Shansby Auditorium). Can’t make it in person? Lectures will be recorded and the links posted to our website weekly. View the Resource Night schedule for links and complete listing of topics and guest speakers.


Tuesday, January 28 at 6:00 pm in PACCAR Hall, Shansby Auditorium (room 192)

In this sesssion, we shift from product to PLAN. In this session, we will discuss the “3 Cs” of playing field assessment, review how investors look at risk, and learn how to use a “SWOT” analysis to your advantage.

Our guest speaker will be Jim Xiao, CEO and founder of Mason. Mason was created to systematically remove any barriers preventing innovators from turning ideas into smart products. Cloud infrastructure gave developers modern tools to build digital empires. Mason is doing the same thing for smart products on the edge. Welcome to mobile Infrastructure-as-a-Service.

Learn about why Jim Xiao started Mason from this post on Medium, and check out this article on Geekwire.

Students will adjourn at 7 pm to attend Networking Night, part of the Science + Technology Showcase. This event is for students only, and is designed to aid in team formation. Students from all disciplines are welcome to attend! Click here to RSVP

Reminder, you can drop-in or catch the recording of this weekly course.


Apply for the Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge by Monday, Feb. 10 at
Apply for the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge by Tuesday, Feb. 18 at

Learn more about the Buerk Center student competitions at

Students can can apply to both the HIC and EIC! We see several student teams from around the region compete in one or both before advancing their idea beyond the prototype stage and setting themselves up for startup success in the Dempsey Startup Competition. Our competitions are open to undergrads and grad students at accredited colleges and universities across the Cascadia Corridor–Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia, as well as Alaska.

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