Stanford campus photo from above

Course Description


Technology Entrepreneurship, Fall 2012
Charles Eesley, Assistant Professor, Stanford University


About the course


Course Objective

This online course introduces the fundamentals of technology entrepreneurship, pioneered in Silicon Valley and now spreading across the world.  You will learn the process technology entrepreneurs use to start companies.  It involves taking a technology idea and finding a high-potential commercial opportunity, gathering resources such as talent and capital, figuring out how to sell and market the idea, and managing rapid growth.

The class demonstrates the entrepreneurial mindset: where others see insurmountable problems, entrepreneurs look for opportunities in technology and business solutions. An entrepreneurial perspective is also a wonderful way of thinking in order to tackle new opportunities in social entrepreneurship, whether it is in government or NGOs.

By the conclusion of the course, it is my hope that you understand more specifically how to:


1.     Articulate a process for taking a technology idea and finding a high-potential commercial opportunity (high performing students will be able to discuss the pros and cons of alternative theoretical models).
2.     Create and verify a plan for gathering resources such as talent and capital.
3.     Create and verify a business model for how to sell and market an entrepreneurial idea.
4.     Generalize this process to an entrepreneurial mindset of turning problems into opportunities that can be used in larger companies and other settings.

How this Course is Taught

This course is taught online, via http://venture-lab.org and the instructor’s blog.  Students can choose to simply “audit” the course, by doing any or all of reading the blog posts, watching the videos, and participating in the discussions in the blog comments.  Alternatively, students can get more out of the experience by joining a team either offline or via venture-labs.org, and can work with their teammates on projects.  Teams can post links to their project material in blog comments, and can comment on each others’ work.   I hope to have robust discussions in the blog comments.  You can sign up for the commenting system at: http://disqus.com/.  The instructor may occasionally view projects, and may post comments, but there is no guarantee that he will view or comment on any particular student or team’s work.

Target Audience

This course is designed for all backgrounds and majors, including science, engineering, and humanities students who seek to understand what the entrepreneurial mindset and its key processes are about. Topics introduced in this course are relevant for future founders of enterprises, as well as the future employees of a independent or corporate startup.

Course Structure

The course is divided up into 2 main sections and each section has a team project in the form of a writeup and presentation. The first section is the Opportunity Analysis Project, where you will test whether the startup idea you have is worth pursuing and customers agree with the problem you are solving. The second section is the Opportunity Execution Project, where you test the rest of the aspects of the business model. Each session corresponds to one week. Each session gives you a different aspect of the business model that you should test for that week. Your team should update a blog each week with the hypothesis you tested, what experiment(s) you ran, and what the outcome was.

Course schedule

This online course in the area of technology entrepreneurship will be running from Oct. 15th to Dec. 20th. Then it will be archived. We may run a new course subsequently.

Due dates:
  • 10/20 - assignment 1 (brainstorm best/worst ideas - discuss in teams, submit individually)
  • 10/26 - assignment 2 (commercial - team submission)
  • 11/07 – Identifying the market opportunity / Low-fidelity Prototype due / Business model canvas / testing your value proposition with customers
  • 11/20 - Opportunity analysis project (team submission) - Your team will brainstorm an idea to work on for a startup project and test that idea with customers and market analysis. You will work on that idea (or you can switch to a new one throughout the remainder of the time.
  • 12/3 – Marketing page, tests / Higher fidelity Prototype due
  • 12/13 - Opportunity execution project (final team submission) - same teams and 2nd phase of the OAP, here you will be testing your solution and the rest of the business model
  • 12/20 - Personal business plan

Course Details:

Segment 1

Session 1

Course Overview: Silicon Valley and Key Frameworks

Session 2

Creativity and Improvisation

Segment 2

Session 3

From Idea to Opportunity:

Session 4

Customer Development and Lean Startups

Segment 3

Session 5

Entrepreneurial Sales and Marketing

Session 6

OAP Presentations

Opportunity Execution Project (OEP)

Segment 4

Session 7

Partnerships and Negotiations

Session 8

Intro to venture finance

Segment 5

Session 9

Session 10

Segment 6

Session 11

Financings and Teams

Session 12

Segment 7

Session 13

  • OEP Team Presentations
  • Upload to YouTube "technology entrepreneurship 2012" and/or venture-lab by 7/6

Session 14

Admissions and General Information

Course Objective
This course introduces the fundamentals of technology entrepreneurship, pioneered in Silicon Valley and now spreading across the world.  You will learn the process technology entrepreneurs use to start companies.  It involves taking a technology idea and finding a high-potential commercial opportunity, gathering resources such as talent and capital, figuring out how to sell and market the idea, and managing rapid growth.

The class demonstrates the entrepreneurial mindset ... when others see insurmountable problems, people look for opportunities in technology and business solutions. A technology entrepreneurial perspective is also a wonderful way of thinking in order to tackle new opportunities in social entrepreneurship, whether it is in government or NGOs.

By the conclusion of the course, it is our hope you understanding more specifically how to:

  1. Articulate a process for taking a technology idea and finding a high-potential commercial opportunity (high performing students will be able to discuss the pros and cons of alternative theoretical models).
  2. Create and verify a plan for gathering resources such as talent and capital.
  3. Create and verify a business model for how to sell and market an entrepreneurial idea.
  4. Generalize this process to an entrepreneurial mindset of turning problems into opportunities that can be used in larger companies and other settings.
Who is this Course For?
This course is designed for all backgrounds and majors, including science, engineering, and humanities students who seek to understand what the entrepreneurial mindset and its key processes are about. Topics introduced in this course are relevant for future founders of enterprises, as well as the future employees of a independent or corporate startup.


How Do We Teach this Course?
Through lectures and projects that cover high-growth ventures in information technology, electronics, life sciences, green technology and other industries, this course provides the student with the tools necessary to successfully identify a true business opportunity and to start, grow and maintain a technology enterprise.

We will cover material organized in four modules:

  1. The Entrepreneurial Perspective
  2. Opportunity Recognition and Evaluation
  3. Assembling Resources and Managing Growth
  4. Entrepreneurship and You
How Will You Learn?
Entrepreneurship is both an individual and team activity. Therefore this course incorporates both individual and group efforts. Students form project teams early in the quarter and meet regularly to prepare for class discussion. We encourage students to build groups with people from a diversity of majors and from the U.S. and abroad.

Each team will be required to complete written case analyses throughout the quarter. Teams are also required to complete two papers and class presentations regarding an "Opportunity Analysis Plan" as well as an “Opportunity Execution Plan.” In addition, students complete a "Personal Business Plan" using methods learned in the course. 

Group discussion is encouraged in preparing for both the team and individual assignments. Note that learning to successfully manage group dynamics, including conflicts and roles, is a key educational component of the course.


Course Materials
Primary Readings

  • Byers, Dorf and Nelson, Technology Ventures, McGraw-Hill, Third Edition, 2010
    • click here for 'Where to Buy'
    • you can also purchase an electronic eBook version of this title by visiting www.coursesmart.com (ISBN 0077305914) , a direct link is available from the 'Where to Buy' Link
  • Assigned Reading Links on the Web

Recommended Reading

Recommended Entrepreneurship Seminar Series

  • MS and E 472. Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders (ETL)
  • ETL offers an amazing opportunity to learn from the people who are leading technology innovation in the valley and beyond.
Policies
Think of this as an opportunity to stretch yourself and learn skills like teamwork, public speaking, persuasive writing, and defending your ideas, as well as the fundamentals of the entrepreneurial process. The teaching team will endeavor to create a supportive environment, where there is no penalty for taking a definite stance and expressing new ideas. 

Grading Policy and Assignments
There will be no grading, you will receive feedback mainly through your peers and fellow participants in the class as well as those who you recruit to mentor your team.


Class Sessions
Students will be evaluated on their participation in "classroom" discussions via the forum and commenting system, whether about the case under consideration or about the topic of the lecture. The grading of classroom participation is difficult because of an element of subjectivity not present in grading written assignments. Nevertheless, it is a vital part of the course. Most students feel comfortable in speaking up with thoughtful comments and questions, but some do not, and we wish to be fair to everyone. We will not be grading on "air time", but rather on the quality of the question or comment.  Participating in classroom discussions, freely and without fear, is strongly urged.  No opinion is held in disregard, and only through active discussion can we arrive at some consensus of reasonable action. It is never our intention to embarrass anyone -- if you are not prepared, let one of us know before class and we will not call on you. Being prepared for our class sessions is an important part of contributing to the class learning community. Thanks for your commitment to be an active contributor to the class discussions.


Recommended Readings
Supplementary readings are suggested that provide additional depth and richness for the topics considered each day. These readings are not required. While we hope that you will return to these readings as time permits, you are not expected to have completed the readings prior to class. As your time permits, we highly recommend skimming the recommended readings - an investment that we believe can be very rewarding.

Social Networks

Most of the class discussion should occur via the commenting / discussion forum below. There is also a Facebook group which you can join. If you would like to discuss further on Twitter, use the following hashtag 
#venturelab


Term Projects Descriptions


Key Deliverables

Each team (4 person) will create and maintain a website on which you will present your opportunity analysis and execution projects as they evolve.  You should post your key deliverables to your website as they become due. The key deliverables for the two projects are:

Opportunity Analysis Project (OAP):  For this assignment you will upload a 2-5 minute video to YouTube and tag it with "Chuck Eesley Technology Entrepreneurship class OAP" and then post the link to the video so that other students can watch these.

You will learn how to tell the difference between a good idea in a dorm or a lab and a great scalable business opportunity.  You will identify and define a market opportunity and pitch the opportunity in 5 minutes to your classmates and the teaching team.

You and your team should pick an opportunity and perform a first analysis to understand whether your opportunity can be turned into a scalable business. In your presentation and written analysis you should tell the "story" of your proposed venture by addressing the following:

  • Concept. Where did your idea come from (e.g., a Stanford lab)? Explain what the market opportunity is and what your solution might be. What makes your solution particularly compelling? How does it make meaning? Do you have personal experiences with this market? Is there existing intellectual property that you must license or new intellectual property you must develop in order to pursue this opportunity? Has anyone tried something like this before? If so, why did they fail or succeed, and why is the opportunity still attractive?
  • Market. What industry are you addressing? Why is this market attractive? What segment of the overall market are you pursuing? What market research data can be gathered to describe this market need? What are the total industry or category sales over the past three years? What is the anticipated growth for this industry? If this is a new market, what is the best analogous market data that illustrates the opportunity? Project the potential market size and growth for your opportunity.
  • Customers.  This is extremely important. You need to have a clear idea of who your target customer is. The only way for you to be able to do this is to "get out of the building" and speak with your potential customers. You will need to answer questions such as: What does the customer need? Why does the customer need it? What is the customer using today?  What is the customer willing to pay for your solution? Why? How will you reach this customer? You should include both primary (or first-hand) research and secondary research, emphasizing primary over secondary.
  • Business Model. Now that you have discovered an opportunity and talked to potential customers, how will you turn it into a business? How will you make money and when do you expect your venture to be profitable?   (You will get to think about this more in the Opportunity Execution Project.)
  • Competition. Who else serves this customer need? Who might attempt to serve this market in the future? What advantages and weaknesses do these competitors and would-be competitors have? What share of the market do specific competitors serve? Are the major competitors' sales growing, declining, or steady? What are the barriers to entry for you? What are the barriers to entry for additional competitors?

    The list above has no implied order. Some entrepreneurs start with a well-defined concept and then try to identify a market for their idea; others start by studying a market and then stumble upon an idea. Also, please keep in mind that the specific data and information you provide will vary according to the type of opportunity you choose to analyze.
We recommend five basic steps in the process of analyzing an opportunity:
  1. Identify potential opportunities. Combine your own personal experiences and creativity with external forecasts and trend analysis. How is the world changing with respect to new technologies? What is the impact of globalization on current solutions? What new requirements will those changes produce? Recent media articles on trends are often a good place to start. Additionally, you may want to look through Stanford's Office of Technology and Licensing for new technologies that have been developed at the University.
  2. Define your purpose and objectives. Identify your most promising opportunity, being careful to discriminate between an interesting technological idea and a viable market opportunity. Prepare an outline which will help you to determine what types of data and information you need to demonstrate the attractiveness of your chosen opportunity.
  3. Gather data from primary sources. It is crucial for you to obtain data from primary sources. Potential investors will place more trust in well conducted primary research than in stacks of data from secondary sources. There is simply no substitute for talking to potential customers from the target market in order to validate the opportunity you have identified. Consequently, we prefer that you spend time gathering data from primary, not just secondary, sources. Check out SurveyMonkey as well.
  4. Gather data from secondary sources. Countless secondary sources exist on the web and in Stanford's various library resources. The Jackson Library GSB Database Resources and the GSB librarians are especially helpful. Appendix C of the Dorf and Byers textbook offers a good summary of secondary research sources. Try not to get too bogged down in financial and accounting data.
  5. Analyze and interpret the results. Persuasively summarize your results.
Milestones
Team Formation Deadline. This team will serve as both your study group and your term project team.

Initial Positioning Statement. Fill in Geoff Moore's two-sentence positioning template for your OAP product or service concept. The template is:


Sentence #1
For (target customer)
who (statement of the need or opportunity),
the (product/service name) is a (product/service category)
that (statement of benefit).

Sentence #2
Unlike (primary competitive alternative),
our product (statement of primary differentiation).

Create two PowerPoint slides. One slide should simply list the name of your project team with all the team members and their majors. The second slide should have a succinct draft of your positioning statement above.  Post it in the comments/discussion forum.  Also post the slides to your team's website if you created one. For extra credit, please share how your potential venture will make meaning and not just money.

Opportunity Analysis Presentation and Written Analysis. By 9 AM, post your presentation and 750-word written analysis to the website. Your team is strongly encouraged to keep your written analysis to 750 words, as this is a good opportunity to learn how to be succinct in business communications.  However, if it is absolutely necessary, the word count may be increased 20%, up to 900 words.  Your team will have 5 minutes to present your opportunity and this time limit will be strictly enforced.

For this assignment you will upload a 2-5 minute video to YouTube and tag it with "Chuck Eesley Technology Entrepreneurship class OEP" and then post the link to the video so that other students can watch these.

Opportunity Execution Project (OEP):

For this assignment you will upload a 5-10 minute video to YouTube and tag it with "Chuck Eesley Technology Entrepreneurship class OEP" and then post the link to the video so that other students can watch these.

You will explore how to actually assemble a company – thinking through how your team would sell, create demand, attract a team, and fund the product. Then you will pitch the opportunity in 10 minutes to your classmates and the teaching team.

The Opportunity Execution Project is a chance for your team to think about how to take your idea from a business plan on paper and turn it into a real company. For this part, your analysis should include the following:

  • Fundamental Problem. What is the fundamental problem you are solving for the end user of your product?  What is the fundamental problem you're solving for your customer (if it is different from the end user)? Give a quick recap of your OAP - just a reminder of your key points and the takeaway.
  • Business Model. You now have had some more time to think about your opportunity.  Do you have any additional thoughts/changes about the business model?
  • Sales and Marketing Strategy. How would you sell your product? What distribution channels would you use? How would you create demand for your product?
  • Risk. Regarding financial, technical, people, and market risks; which one is of most concern?  Which would you choose to address first and why? How would you manage or minimize each of the high-priority risks going forward?
  • Partners and Allies. Who will be your major partners? How will your product be made? Will your company produce all of the parts, or will it use external suppliers? How would you go about attracting these partners and allies to work with your company?
  • Funding. How would you fund your venture? Would you bootstrap, take money from venture capitalists, take funding from a corporate investor, etc?
  • Team. Who would you need on your team in order to make this venture a success? What kind of experience and skills would your team need? How would you go about attracting them to your company?

Milestones

Opportunity Execution Presentation. Presentations are limited to 10 minutes per team including Q and A. The best presentations are often the shortest and most succinct. A summary at the end of the presentation is often very powerful.
 
DeliverablesAll teams, regardless of which day they are presenting, must post their PowerPoint deck or presentation video in the comments and/or to their website.

For this assignment you will upload a 2-5 minute video to YouTube and tag it with "Chuck Eesley Technology Entrepreneurship class OEP" and then post the link to the video so that other students can watch these.

 Session 20 Post your OEP through Venture-Lab.org or to the blog here.  On venture-lab you should use the report format there. If you have been following along just on the blog, not on venture-lab.org then your team can post a written (text) analysis, powerpoint or YouTube video, whichever format is easier. is strongly encouraged to keep your written analysis to 1500 words, as this is a good opportunity to learn how to be succinct in business communications. 

REMINDER
: As has been mentioned in class, the key to the OEP is the depth of your analysis and what you learned from it. If after careful research you have determined that your business idea is not as promising as you originally thought, it is totally acceptable to present an OEP that describes why your idea WON'T work rather than why it is the next big thing. An honest, rigorous analysis of an idea that didn't survive further  scrutiny is preferable to either (a) a half-baked  presentation of an idea you're unsure of, or (b) an enthusiastic pitch for your current idea, even though you know it is problematic.

Mentors

At Stanford, the instructors have assembled a group of professional mentors from all over Silicon Valley -- venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and others -- to work with teams in defining, developing, and honing the two term projects. Each team at Stanford is assigned one mentor "relationship," and that relationship will consist of either one or possibly two people, depending on whether a mentor is working alone or has chosen to work with another individual. 

We are assembling a group of mentors in Silicon Valley who will provide mentoring to the top teams after the OAP project submission. They will mentor approximately 30-40 teams leading up to the final presentations. I also encourage you to find your own mentor(s) locally for your team.

Suggested Resources

Video Links: 
Online at STVP’s Entrepreneurship Corner there is a wealth of film clips of entrepreneurial thought leaders discussing relevant themes. Feel free to scroll through ecorner.stanford.edu for insights and inspiration.  The following are just a sample:

Textbooks and Readings:
    Technology Ventures , Byers, Nelson and Dorf. 3rd Edition Chapter 2-5, 7, 11, 19
    Four Steps to the Epiphany, by Steve Blank.  Chapters 1-3

Startup Owner's Manual by Steve Blank (2012)
    The Monk and the Riddle, Randy Komisar.  Chapter 6, pp. 80-83, pp. 118-121.
    "How to Write a Great Business Plan," Sahlman, HBS Case #97409.

Hot technologies and trends:

    
Top 10 Strategic Technologies 2010
    
Entrepreneur.com Trends for 2010
    
PC World Tech Trends 2010
    
WSJ 2010 Technology Innovation Awards
    
JWT Intelligence 10 Trends 2010
SurveyMonkey: Past teams have found SurveyMonkey to be helpful in gathering primary data. The basic service is free and provides most of the features you’ll need. Visit SurveyMonkey at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/ 

Personal Business Plan Assignment

The Personal Business Plan assignment is due on the last day of the class. Again, this is ungraded but you should consider sharing it or a link to your personal business plan if you are comfortable doing so on the forum.



The entrepreneurial process is at its core concerned with "the pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources already under control." This process is as applicable to your career as it is to starting a company. The goal of this assignment is to identify where you want to be and how you will get there. Do not worry about your current resources. Think entrepreneurially!


Your personal business plan should include a long-term vision statement, the "external" opportunities that exist, your "internal" (personal) strengths, and a strategy for yourself and your life over the next two to three years. In addition, please share one "failure" from your past and what you learned from it in terms of maximizing your potential for the future. 
The assignment should consist of a one-page Executive Summary (up to 600 words in bullet points or prose) that summarizes the areas discussed below, as well as the one "failure" wherever you feel it best fits. 
  • Vision and Opportunity
    1. What are your goals (career and/or educational) after you leave Stanford?
    2. What is your purpose, your values and your mission? List the 3 key questions that guide your choices. These should be essential questions that serve as touchstones to direct your life and work. For instance, how can I have impact? What do I love? What do I fear? What engages my passions? How do I want to be remembered? The answers to these questions may well change over time, but when the questions themselves are fundamental they tend to last a lifetime.
    3. What is the market and opportunity that align with your goals? Don't restrict yourself to matters of career or work; think more broadly about your opportunities to make a difference.
  • Marketing and Implementation Strategy
    • Create your market positioning statement. This may be directed at a hypothetical employer, industry, organization, or the world at large.
    1. What compelling value will you offer to your employers and society?
    2. How will you differentiate from other Stanford students? How about from the broader populace?
  1. Risks and Mitigation
      1. What are the key milestones and checkpoints in your plan?
      2. How will you measure/determine if you have successfully attained these milestones? How do you define success?
      3. What external factors might affect (positively or adversely) your attaining success?
      4. Develop contingency and risk mitigation strategies.
    1. Personal "Board of Directors"
      1. If you could assemble any 3 people to advise and mentor you who would they be? They may be alive or dead, family or world leaders, friends or strangers. Why would you choose each? Is it their wisdom, their accomplishments, their words, their creativity, their character, their heroic deeds………..?

13 comments:

  1. Gustavo10:10 AM

    Hi Chuck. Thanks for making the course available to global users online (I live in Argentina).
    Is it possible that the quiz link is not working correctly? I´m getting this error message: Unable to log in with the information provided. (Error #DUP1)
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Gustavo, I haven't officially launched the quiz, but thanks for trying it out. Can you try clearing your browser cache and then registering again via the quiz link with a Gmail address. Let me know if that works.

      Delete
  2. Anonymous11:37 PM

    I have a few questions: I have a few friends I would like to collaborate with, but they haven't signed up for the course yet. Is it too late for them or can they still register? If so, where is the link for registration so I can send it to them?

    Also, one of my friends is traveling abroad during the month of April and won't be able to work as per US time, would that be a problem?

    And last, how long is the course? When does it begin and when will it end?

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, it's not too late. They should go to http://venture-lab.org

      That shouldn't be a problem. You can use Skype I would assume or Google+ Hangouts.

      It's 10 weeks and should hopefully start in a couple of weeks.

      Delete
  3. Anonymous3:36 AM

    Hi, I am interested too but currently I am outside of the US and I just would like to ask how this would work? I think that we are +12 hours from US Eastern standard time...

    Is this going to be like a recorded class where I can watch anytime or is it going to be live?

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ofer Prat3:59 AM

    Hi! I would like to take this course, but can't committ the time needed in this period. Will this course be offered again this year?

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  5. VERY excited about this class! Looking forward to starting.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Looking forward for the course to start!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Chuck Eesley Sir ,

    Can you provide links to all the relevant readings & recommended readings in the Venture-lab.org site?? It would be easy for us to follow & keep track of things there ..! Also it would be helpful if all the course content & videos are provided in the Venture-lab site itself ..!


    Kindly take this into consideration,

    Thanks & regards,
    Siva

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ok, I have been doing back flips here to try to make this work. After being told we could at least suggest people to be on our own team, none of mine were accepted for my team and I was assigned a group of random strangers. Wanting to make the best of of it anyway, I did my best to contact them and try to get people to work together, but there was little interest. Now with the new assignment, I was told we could browse through profiles and again request team members, but I don't see how this in done. Now I see that is says "teams will be assigned by midnight April 16" but there is no indication how they will do that. So after tons of delays, we are supposed to drop everything as soon as the instructor says he is ready and jump through hoops. This whole thing has seemed highly ineffective - an huge amount of work for a tiny bit of learning, at best. People - smart people- keep asking me "what is going on with that course" and I have to tell them I am still not really sure. Now, after waiting through all sorts of delays, we suddenly have to drop everything The videos for the course haven't even been released yet, have they? I'm not even clear where if this it the right way to make comments or or if we are supposed to do it on the venture lab site. I got a ton of people on Google plus interested in this, and from the messages I have been receiving, I can tell they are frustrated also.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry to hear Rob. The best I can offer is that you're free to circle back the next time through. I'm doing this in my free time here and there so I apologize for any confusion.

      Delete
  9. Yes, it's a good initiative , but a lot of things are indicating that there's a lack of organization... which is kind of demotivating.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Looks like a lot of work has been put into making this, so kudos to that. I look forward to getting started.

    ReplyDelete