For our 14th Business Model Challenge (BMC), we are collaborating with our partners Accenture on the theme of Skills to Succeed. With this special edition, Impact Hub and Accenture aim to prepare the next generation to thrive in the new economy. Together, we will support the selected BMC startups in developing business models on redesigning our educational system to match the future of work, using the talents of newcomers for positive impact and creating a more inclusive workforce. 

Read this interview with Accenture Management Consultant and Startup Ambassador Elena Elias to find out how Accenture helps coach our Business Model Challenge participants. And apply for the BMC by 10 March! 


Why did you decide to become a BMC mentor?
At Accenture we are very focused on innovation. One of the great things about this focus is the opportunity to connect and work with startups. On top of this, the company’s corporate citizenship initiative, Skills to Succeed aims to improve entrepreneurship outcomes at scale – including those of impact driven startups.

As someone who is passionate about innovation and cares about doing good, the Business Model Challenge seemed like the perfect combination – I could contribute to making a positive impact together with the startups I coached while still working on innovation.

You coached BMC participants such as winner The Girl and the Machine, finalist Rokbar and participant B. Found. How did you support these entrepreneurs?

Every startup had different needs. Let’s take Rokbar. Their startup was in its early, seed stage and really needed to go from idea to business. I helped them to create a solid structure for business model, as well as map out next steps for making their products – bars of chocolate – and putting together a team.

Meanwhile, The Girl and The Machine’s founder had a lot of potential, but needed confidence. So my coaching focused on giving her an outside-in perspective and encouraging her. I also connected her to relevant Accenture colleagues, such as experts in digital, data management and analytics.

B.Found was further ahead and had a fully fledged business model. So we worked together on preparing a business pitch for potential launching partners.

You mentioned connecting BMC participants to other Accenture professionals. How else can Accenture help?

Indeed, as a company with expertise in areas such as innovation, digital and business models we can offer valuable connections to the entrepreneurs. When I start coaching a startup, I determine where exactly my colleagues could jump in. We also have a monthly Startup Ambassadors meetup, where coaches can share challenges and ask for help.

Another way we can help is through bringing in that external perspective. As a budding entrepreneur, you see your business idea as your baby and you might lose objectivity. At Accenture things move fast and we work hard to be the frontrunners of the market. This helps me – and other startup coaches – figure out the BMC participants are building an idea that adds value and covers a current need for consumers.

And last but not least, the Accenture experience itself is very helpful. After a few years as a consultant you develop a pragmatic approach and are able to provide entrepreneurs with a storytelling structure, business modelling tips, profitability checks and ideas on how to make a prototype.

Drawing from your successful BMC coaching, what would you advise impact entrepreneurs who are starting out?

My top advice would be: make sure there’s a problem your innovative product or service will solve. You need to understand if there’s a need in the market; a lot of entrepreneurs provide a solution for problems that don’t exist.

Once you have your problem-solution match, you should define your target audience. And after your target is crystal clear, you have to follow up a good story and build credibility.

So make a prototype, test it with your audience, get feedback and repeat. Fail often and fail fast and keep trying until you have something that works.

What about advice for other BMC coaches with a corporate consulting background?

During my first run as a mentor, I had to learn to really listen to the needs of the entrepreneurs As consultants, we’re used to solving problems even before we meet with our clients.

But when you coach someone, you should ask yourself: what does the main character want? Now, every time I meet an entrepreneur whom I will coach, I first sit with him or her and ask ‘What do you need from me?’, ‘How can I help you?’