TALENT stands for Total Applied Learning for Entrepreneurs and is provided by the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy for all high school entrepreneurs. TALENT is designed to serve the needs of young people who want to learn by starting and running a business with a STEM focus (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
TALENT is an extra-curricular program with no classes or grades. Students in all high school grades meet together, learning from business projects of their own creation and interest.
Instead of a prescribed curriculum, TALENT creates the conditions for learning entrepreneurship through five programmatic design elements:
Monday Night Live
Most Monday nights September through February, participants meet in person and virtually with experienced entrepreneurs, mentors and investors to explore critical topics in developing, launching and running a new business. Sessions last 60 - 90 minutes and are webcast and recorded so presenters and students may attend remotely and anyone may replay sessions. During the past few years presenters have included Sam Yagan, pictured here (match.com - strategy), Genevieve Thiers (sittercity.com - strategy), Joe Abraham (BOSI DNA), Mike Zivic (myservista.com - SEO and marketing), Steven Terlizzi (wearephotographers.com - bootstrapping) and Juila Stamberger (GoPicnic - sales).
In addition to special guests, workshops and game nights round out the Monday Night schedule, allowing students to go into greater depth on topics such as team-building, incorporation, intellectual property protection, financing, negotiation, production and sales. Games and simulations developed by TALENT, such as Ventures to Vultures, involve students in developing and pitching new business ideas and projecting lifetime value and customer acquisition cost while having fun.
Our annual business pitch competition provides students with an opportunity to share their new businesses and business ideas with investors and business leaders. There are two levels to the contest: Prelims--in which all students may participate--and Finals--where the top six finalists from the Prelims compete for cash prizes (first place - $3,000, second place - $2,000 and third place - $1,000). The MIT Enterprise Forum features the Finals as their March event. Students prepare and deliver pitches drawing on what they learn from Monday Night Live events and mentoring.
Students in TALENT may intern with businesses at 1871, Chicagoland's incubator for digital start ups. IMSA is an 1871 member, giving students access to work with businesses, providing free services in programming and gaining invaluable start up experience at the same time.
Among the innovative approaches to preparing students for successful entrepreneurship, TALENT incorporates the BOSI-Entrepreneurial DNA assessment created by Joe Abraham. All students involved in TALENT take the BOSI survey to evaluate their strengths as Builders, Opportunists, Specialists or Innovators. This helps students to make better informed strategic decisions, such as how to create robust start up teams. One sign this is taking hold is the record number of 3- and 4-person teams competing in Power Pitch in 2013.
TALENT UPgrade Experience
Our two week residential incubator camp helps students turn ideas into tangible prototypes, products and websites. Students work with mentors to refine ideas, design and test improvements and pitch the results to the 1871 community. As a result of last summer's camp, WikiRoster.com launched their service and all the other businesses demonstrated working prototypes of alternative energy-generating products.
TALENT students and alumni may receive individual advising at any time. TALENT leaders and mentors are available to explore new ideas, outline next steps and make strategic connections with the Chicagoland entrepreneurial network.
IMSA TALENT in Crain's Chicago Business:
Despite the pressure-cooker atmospherics, the finalists seem as confident as Mark Zuckerberg as they make their pitches.
These are students used to winning any competition. IMSA "is like Hogwarts, except for math and science," says junior Sam Walder, whose nonprofit business idea was eliminated in the preliminary round a week before the finals. "I'm going to skip all modesty here — these are some pretty brilliant kids."
Leaving the students waiting, the judges retreat to a private conference table and vote by tossing fake $10,000 bills onto squares with the names of each contending business idea. Once the money is on the table, the first place choice is clear: a digital-sheet-music device conceived by IMSA juniors Lydia Auch and Kenzo Esquivel.
Second place is also obvious: Andrew Chen's idea to simplify online privacy policies and terms-of-service agreements. Third place is closer, but the leader is Shivansh Padhy, for harnessing energy generated by the human body to power devices such as cellphones.
The judges study the table, reflecting on their final vote. Despite coming in as expected favorites, IMSA students would get only one of the trophy spots. Mr. Chen is a senior at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, while Mr. Padhy is an eighth-grader at Aurora's Granger Middle School.