Newswise — Babson Professor Heidi M. Neck and Alumnus Anton Yakushin ’08 have launched an educational tech company called VentureBlocks, created to serve as a new and innovative resource for higher entrepreneurial education. The company’s first educational “block”, ‘The Nanu Challenge’, was officially released in January 2015.

The Nanu Challenge is an immersive 3-D simulation for customer and opportunity discovery meant to be played as part of a related classroom curriculum. Within the gaming experience, students are given the opportunity to interview consumers and develop insights by identifying their needs. By role-playing within the fictional setting of a small town called Trepton, students assume the role of a nascent entrepreneur pursuing a potential business opportunity, and learn the necessary habits and skill-set it’ll take to make it as a successful entrepreneur outside of the classroom.

“Teaching Entrepreneurial Thought and Action® through a fun and interactive simulation allows for an entirely new and relatable student experience,” said Professor Neck. “Anton and I are excited to share this pioneering approach to classroom activity with faculty and students here on campus, and beyond.”

About The Nanu Challenge

The Nanu Challenge, powered by VentureBlocks, is a powerful teaching tool through which students can:

• Play without guidance from instructors through a self-guided in-game tutorial• Experience the power of asking good questions, the downfall of asking poor questions, and the agony of rejection• Learn to identify customer needs that drive new business opportunities• And have fun with the competition of their peers by playing for the top spots on a real-time leaderboard.

The analytics of the game give instructors an instant snapshot of how well students understand the process of customer discovery, and allow for the customization of students’ reflection questions collected throughout the process. Instructors are also given the ability to change the game’s missions in order to suit course-needs.

Those interested in adopting The Nanu Challenge for a course should request a free demo by visiting the VentureBlocks website​​ and creating a new instructor account.

About Heidi M. Neck

Heidi M. Neck, Ph.D. is the Jeffry A. Timmons Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Babson College. She teaches entrepreneurship at the MBA and executive levels. Her research interests include entrepreneurship education, entrepreneurship inside organizations, and creative thinking. Neck is the lead author of Teaching Entrepreneurship: A Practice-Based Approach – a book written to help educators teach entrepreneurship in more experiential and engaging ways. Additionally, she has published 40+ book chapters, research monographs, and refereed articles in journals such as the Journal of Small Business Management, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, and International Journal of Entrepreneurship Education. She is on the editorial board of the Academy of Management Learning & Education journal.

About Anton Yakushin ’08

Babson College Alumnus Anton Yakushin ’08 is a technology entrepreneur and software engineer. He has worked with organizations of all sizes in the education, financial, government, healthcare, and other industries to develop custom applications, architect systems, develop software, build databases, manage projects and re-engineer applications. ​​​

About Babson College

Babson College is the educator, convener, and thought leader for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds™. The College is a dynamic living and learning laboratory, where students, faculty, and staff work together to address the real-world problems of business and society—while at the same time evolving our methods and advancing our programs. We shape the leaders our world needs most: those with strong functional knowledge and the skills and vision to navigate change, accommodate ambiguity, surmount complexity, and motivate teams in a common purpose to create economic and social value. As we have for nearly a half-century, Babson continues to advance Entrepreneurial Thought and Action® as the most positive force on the planet for generating sustainable economic and social value. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Visit

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