Stanford d.school Project Wayfinder

Stanford, CA
Round
Spring-Summer 2017
Project Location
Stanford, CA
Project Type
Fast track
Project Focus
Business Plans,
Finance,
Market Analysis
Organization Type
Education

Organization

Project Wayfinder is housed under the K-12 Lab of the Stanford d.school. Over the past two years, Project Wayfinder has developed products and methodologies for guiding high school students to their sense of purpose – understanding what deeply matters to them. In turn, these students can be confident, intentional navigators capable of tackling the issues that they care about in the world. The Wayfinder methodologies, tools, and activities have been tested in several schools with uniformly positive results.

Situation

Project Wayfinder’s incubation period within the d.school is coming to an end in September 2017. At that point, the program will break away from the d.school and become its own nonprofit organization. The founder of Project Wayfinder has started several nonprofits in the past and is well on the way to securing a 501(c)(3) status for this entity. While the Wayfinder principals expect fundraising and gifts will support the organization for the work it does with underserved students, Project Wayfinder plans to have its first revenue-generating pilot high schools and programs operating in the 2017-18 school year. Anecdotal evidence suggests that school districts will be willing to subscribe to and pay for Wayfinder programs.

Project Objectives

Project Wayfinder asked an ACT team to put together a detailed financial model, which allowed the clients to better understand both different revenue streams and their costs. The team did research to help estimate likely pricing for certain products and services. The ACT team also researched likely costs in several different areas.

Project Overview

The ACT team created a detailed spreadsheet, which segmented Project Wayfinder into a nonprofit side and a for-profit side. The spreadsheet went through many iterations as the founder’s concept of how the organization might be structured evolved over the course of the project. Among other elements in this evolution was a change in thinking about the organization becoming a “hybrid” of a nonprofit and for-profit. As thinking changed about which parts would be on the for-profit side vs. the nonprofit side, the spreadsheet and financial model were adjusted. There were no direct competitors available to analyze for comparisons and “sanity checks” on some of the numbers, but the ACT team did research and summarize quantitative and qualitative information about a number of “analogous organizations” (primarily nonprofits). The team also gathered data on how other organizations priced Wayfinder’s products and services in various segments of the K-12 education market. Finally, the team did some research on printing costs for the distinctive “curriculum” materials that Project Wayfinder has developed. 

Key Recommendations

  • Focus on proving the effectiveness of the program in the first year
  • Work to validate as many of the key business model assumptions as possible during the first year
  • Stay focused on the initial plan/strategy, but as time and resources allow, be open to some experiments on some new ideas around possible new market segments and new distribution methods

Key Conclusions

The ACT team emphasized the importance of validating the various inputs to the financial model as the organization pilots its programs in the 2017-18 school year. The model necessarily has a lot of assumptions and some educated guesses. Since the organization is pioneering a new concept, there will be a lot of experiments around products and services, pricing, market segment targets, etc. The team gave some guidance on market research approaches to help resolve some of the key open issues, as well as guidance about how to use the model to manage the business and how to integrate a high-level business planning model with the more detailed financial tools Project Wayfinder will use to manage the business on a day-to-day basis.

Final Report Outline

  • Business model (spreadsheet and back-ups)
  • Using the model to manage the business
  • Observations about Year One priorities
  • Market research requirements