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July 14, 2020 | Tom Ballard

James Senter continues to evolve idea for LaunchWhenReady

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth and final article in a series spotlighting the start-ups that participated in the latest “What’s the Big Idea 48-Hour Pitch Competition” organized by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and held on March 1 at Knoxville’s Scruffy City Hall. Today’s spotlight is James Senter and LaunchWhenReady.)

LaunchWhenReady will launch when it is ready,” says James Senter, the creator of the idea that he presented at this year’s “What’s the Big Idea 48-Hour Launch Pitch Competition” (WTBI) hosted by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.

The Oak Ridge native and graduate student in computer science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville told us in a recent interview that he liked to design video games but realized he could not make that his career.

“I spend a lot of time focused on business ideas . . . what has not been done,” Senter says, adding, “I discard most of them.” One might note that he’s also willing to take an idea and morph it based on valid input from others.

One concept that Senter vetted for a while was Adventure Dining. He described it as “going out to eat with random people (where) the restaurant provides incentives to try it. As I was trying to launch the idea, I realized the biggest challenge was getting people on board.”

That realization – he needed 1,000 people and 10 restaurants to launch – is frequently referred to as customer discovery. Would people take time to eat with someone they did not know? Would restaurants support the concept with incentives?

As Senter worked on the idea for Adventure Dining, he decided there was a more fundamental opportunity, and that resulted in him pitching LaunchWhenReady at the WTBI on March 1.

The idea that he presented was straightforward. Entrepreneurs need ideas vetted, and there are potential customers and investors who populate a community. It’s a matter of connecting the two in an easier way.

We interviewed Senter right before the shelter in place/stay at home orders were imposed, and he said was going to follow his own procedure of customer discovery and validation to determine if his latest idea had legs. Between that late March interview and early May, Senter’s idea has been modified to reflect valuable insights he received in the six-week period.

“I realized after conversations with mentors that there was not a lack of technology to do what I wanted to do,” he said. “The problem was driving people to the webpages of people with new ideas needing vetting.”

Today, LaunchWhenReady has morphed into a blog to help inventors and entrepreneurs promote their new ideas.

In the case of entrepreneurs, Senter writes on his website: “You have a new business idea, but there’s a chicken and egg problem. You need a critical mass of customers for your business to succeed, but you need a successful business to attract customers. How will it work? LaunchWhenReady will feature one new idea per day and encourage readers to sign up if interested. You’ll connect with early adopters and receive feedback. Succeed quickly and cheaply, or fail quickly and cheaply.”

Senter told us he planned to spend the summer vetting the idea to see if he could get a sufficient number of people with ideas who are willing to use the site. If he reaches a critical mass, he’ll go forward. If the idea does not gain traction, Senter says he’ll be able to fail quickly and cheaply. That also one of the benefits for other entrepreneurs that he believes LaunchWhenReady can provide.

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