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Last year the IBBT organized the first iBootcamp. iBootCamp is an initiative to coach a few selected would-be startups to formulate a business plan. There is a winning team, and they get an investment by IBBT themselves and a few VCs (in short, IBBT acts as an incubator).

I’ve got the pleasure to participate to iBootCamp this year – it’s 3 sessions of 2 days. Kristof Michiels, who’s my current boss, invited me to join his team, for which I’m grateful.

As you can imagine, we signed an NDA, and so we can’t talk about any of the startup projects present, and I’m not even sure we can talk in great detail about the coaching.

However, some of it is in the public domain: to be honest, it’s probably old hat for someone who’s had business engineering classes, but for a techie like me, it’s great. It’s one big wake-up call.

In ICT we often live in bubble wonderland, where we believe apps don’t need to make money as long as they work. But bubbles are out of fashion, and we can’t all be Googles. A business, any business, whether it’s selling shoes or running web apps, needs to make money. And relatively fast, because one needs to put food on the table and pay rent or mortgage.

Part of that to take a long hard look at the competition – is there any ? And the barriers to entry: I know we don’t like patents, but you’d better make sure that whatever you do is not protected by someone else – are there loopholes in the patents ? Is the patent holder a competitor, and what are they doing with it ? Are they big and bad, and liable to sue ?

Where does your value come from ? Are your suppliers your friends, or will they have a hold on you ? How large is the market segment you target ? How to get them hooked – is what you offer really better than any other alternative ? How much can you ask for what you offer ?

All those questions need to have an answer. And that answer better be good news, if your livelihood is going to depend on it.