Who would dominate the drone industry? It was an open question back in 2012, as two fierce rivals battled for market share: Berkeley, California–based 3D Robotics (3DR), and Dà-Jiāng Innovation Science and Technology Co. (DJI), of Shenzhen, China.
Culturally and organizationally, the two ventures couldn’t have been more different. 3DR was flat and relied on the bottom-up ingenuity of a large open-source community of drone enthusiasts. DJI, meanwhile, was hierarchical and dominated by the vision of its founder, Frank Wang.
Those different organizing strategies grabbed PhD candidate Robert Bremner’s attention as he worked with his advisor Kathleen Eisenhardt, Stanford W. Ascherman M.D. Professor in Stanford’s Department of Management Science & Engineering. He began to examine how organizational design and experimentation can help or hinder ventures. “Depending on how you structure your company, that can play a big role in its success,” he says. In the face-off between 3DR and DJI, he had an ideal case study.
Bremner’s analysis, drawn from interviews he conducted, news articles and other public records, revealed that, although DJI proved to be the ultimate victor in the drone industry, each company’s approach had strengths and weaknesses. Both flat and hierarchical structures can succeed, Bremner found. It just depends on what kind of problem you’re trying to solve.
For instance, 3DR’s bottom-up approach is useful for finding a path forward when it isn’t clear what is blocking your company’s or product’s success. “An example in the drone industry is the drone architecture,” Bremner explains. “DJI was focused on helicopters, but safety was a huge issue that wasn’t fully recognized at the time.”
For 3DR, the answer to the drone architecture problem arrived serendipitously as members of the open-source community started using quadrotors instead of helicopters or planes. The quadrotor design had existed since the early 1900s, but 3DR implemented it in a way that was more affordable than ever before. That kickstarted the company’s growth, and the quadrotor spread through the industry like wildfire.
Sometimes, though, it’s obvious what problems need to be solved for a new technology to take off in the market. “The challenge might be finding the right solution or just implementing it,” Bremner explains. In cases like these, hierarchy wins.
In the drone industry, the obvious but unsolved problem was figuring out who wanted and needed drones. The quadrotor made drones more accessible, but it was obvious to industry insiders that the technology was still missing a “killer app.” In solving that problem, Bremner noticed that DJI’s approach excelled. “Hierarchy is good because it enables organizations to quickly and systematically test different alternatives,” Bremner says.
DJI experimented with ideas including public safety, utilities inspection, and agriculture, attending trade shows and working closely with experts in each field. Ultimately, the team settled on marketing drones to filmmakers and video producers. “What we saw was, at that point—when the bottleneck to growth in the industry was clear but there was still a lot of uncertainty as to how to solve it—DJI’s approach worked really well,” Bremner explains.
DJI’s hierarchical structure helped the company in other ways as well. “An issue that the team at 3DR ran into was the challenge of building a complex hardware product, like a drone, when you have a distributed team of part-time engineers working for you,” Bremner explains. “They were all brilliant—3DR had a ton of engineering talent—but when employees have free reign over what to do and how to do it, it becomes a struggle to rally them to work through really complex issues.”
Inspired by events in the drone case study, Bremner has turned his attention to experimentation in the video game industry. “One thing that was common in the drone industry, and certainly elsewhere, was rushing to get a prototype on the market to see if it would stick,” Bremner explains. “For DJI, this really worked. But sometimes it really backfired.”
Traditionally, video game developers have relied solely on internal user testing to determine whether a new game was ready for prime time. In the last decade, however, many companies have turned to a new development model called early access, in which they launch an unfinished game to test it on the market. The model is similar to the lean startup method, which emphasizes “being as lean as possible, saving resources and just getting your product out there in the market,” Bremner explains.
For developers with limited budgets, early access is an appealing option. “It’s easier to launch the game, get market feedback … and then improve it or move on to something else from there,” Bremner says. “The question is, what are the risks for taking this type of approach?”
To answer that question, Bremner has begun a quantitative study, which looks at how many people purchase and play each game each day, as well as how long they spend playing. “There is a pretty clear pattern where, over time, games launched in early access start to engage a higher proportion of users than regular games,” he explained.
The catch is, for certain types of developers, these improvements don’t translate into sales. Small independent developers, Bremner’s observed, might take a reputational hit by releasing early versions of not-quite-ready games. “Gamers might simply stay away because of the negative impression formed by a few early players,” he says.
Though the research is still in progress, Bremner says it suggests one reason why entrepreneurs should be cautious when applying concepts from the lean startup method. “I think it’s easy to get carried away in the hype of something like lean startup or early access, so that we forget that there might be situations where the process might not work as intended,” Bremner explains. And there may well be other scenarios where different methodologies are better suited to startup success: “I’ve made it my mission to figure out what those edge cases are,” he says.
Business classes are not a prerequisite for entrepreneurship, and yes, some of the most storied startup founders were college dropouts. But many others say they benefited from academic courses and experiential learning opportunities that focused on the fundamentals of entrepreneurship.
Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the founders of Instagram, met as students in an entrepreneurship work/study program that combines classes, mentoring and other immersive experiences. They and other entrepreneurs who went through the nine-month Mayfield Fellows Program, also at Stanford, say it was the most insightful experience they had as students.
Other alumni of the program include startup founders like Kit Rodgers of Cryptography Research, Avid Larizadeh of Bottica and Google Ventures, David Merrill of Sifteo and Bobby Lee of BTCC. Each one of them possesses innate talents and drive, that along with insights they gained as students, propelled them to entrepreneurial success.
Elon Musk may embody the notion of a naturally gifted entrepreneur, but the aforementioned founders are proof that the necessary skills and mindset can be learned. The thought-leaders seminar and fellowship program are both offered through the entrepreneurship center in Stanford’s Department of Management Science & Engineering.
The late Peter Drucker, one of the leading management thinkers of the 20th century, said it best: “The entrepreneurial mystique? It’s not magic, it’s not mysterious, and it has nothing to do with the genes. It’s a discipline. And, like any discipline, it can be learned.”
Yes, some will argue that entrepreneurship is still more art than science, at times requiring improvisation in the face of unique and uncertain situations. But there are obvious characteristics that successful entrepreneurs tend to share. Among them are:
a personal passion to solve a problem
a vision for what’s innovative
the skills to build a product or service, and a business around it
the tenacity to constantly seek feedback, iterate and pivot
the ability to empathize with and inspire those around you.
Emergence of entrepreneurship education
Donald Kuratko, a professor of entrepreneurship at Indiana University, Bloomington, traces the history of the academic field back to 1971, when the University of Southern California first launched a concentration in entrepreneurship for MBA students. By the early 1980s, more than 300 universities offered courses in entrepreneurship and small business, and over the next decade, that number grew to 1,050 schools, Kuratko states in his article, “The Emergence of Entrepreneurship Education: Development, Trends, and Challenges.”
When it was published in 2005, entrepreneurship education had exploded to more than 2,200 courses at over 1,600 schools around the country. Kuratko also counted more than 100 established and funded entrepreneurship centers at the time, noting emerging trends in “experiential learning” such as class projects, startup competitions and field trips exposing students to industry.
“Today, the words used to describe the new innovation regime of the 21st century are: dream, create, explore, invent, pioneer, and imagine!” Kuratko wrote. “Entrepreneurship educators must have the same innovative drive that is expected from entrepreneurship students.”
However, Kuratko notes — as do others — that more progressive universities are offering entrepreneurship courses across a wide range of schools and departments. In particular, “it is critical to expand entrepreneurship education to engineering and science departments where most of these technologies originate,” entrepreneurship professors Tom Byers (Stanford) and Andrew Nelson (University of Oregon) state in the Chicago Handbook of University Technology Transfer and Academic Entrepreneurship.
Byers and Nelson, along with Richard Dorf, an engineering professor at the University of California, Davis, wrote the textbook Technology Ventures: From Idea to Enterprise. And in it, they explain why they focus on the tech sector, and on educating science and engineering students as well as those studying business:
“The technology sector represents a significant portion of the economy of every industrialized nation. In the United States, more than one-third of the gross national product and about half of private-sector spending on capital goods are related to technology. It is clear that national and global economic growth depends on the health and contributions of technology businesses.”
At the university that spawned Silicon Valley, Stanford’s engineering school offers courses, fellowships and other learning opportunities to help students develop the knowledge, skills and behaviors to be entrepreneurial in life. And through Stanford’s involvement with the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation – known simply as the Epicenter – students and faculty far beyond the valley have brought entrepreneurship and innovation to their campuses and curriculum.
Funded by a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the Epicenter led initiatives that turned thousands of college students and faculty around the country into inspired advocates for bringing a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation to engineering education — touching about 300 U.S. institutions over the past five years.
The Epicenter’s leaders recently sat down and discussed how far entrepreneurship education has come in the last 20 years, and what the future holds for integrating more of it into engineering curriculum.
Creating innovators, not experts
In one instance, an entire engineering college is devoted to graduating innovators by tearing down the academic silos that have historically kept students narrowly focused on their major. Olin College of Engineering, in Needham, Mass., does this in recognition that the next Steve Jobs won’t be an expert in just one discipline — and that the late CEO of Apple didn’t even major in engineering.
At a recent Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders talk at Stanford, the president of Olin College described how the traditional model of higher learning separates the disciplines and forces like-minded students to stick together. When instead, Richard Miller said, what aspiring innovators need is to be exposed to a diversity of perspectives.
Citing research out of Stanford, Miller explained that innovation happens where three objectives overlap: feasibility, viability and desirability. But at a typical university, most of the students who focus on feasibility (can it be done?) are in the engineering school, while the students concerned with viability (is it financially possible?) are working on MBAs. Meanwhile, the students who care most about desirability (people’s emotions) are usually found in the humanities and social sciences.
“If we’re going to create innovators, we need to do a better job of integrating these in the same head, so that one person can see the whole picture,” said Miller, a leader in the movement to revolutionize and reshape engineering education. “The big message for engineering schools: No amount of doubling down on math and science courses is going to improve the output of innovators.”
The point is that the most important traits in entrepreneurship aren’t necessarily inherited or the result of total luck. While charisma and happenstance certainly play a role, prominent educators agree that people can learn to be entrepreneurs.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of programs, organizations and universities that want to prepare the next generation of innovators – and the need for them has never been greater.
I require my students at Stanford to write a failure résumé. That is, to craft a résumé that summarizes all their biggest screw-ups — personal, professional, and academic. For every failure, each student must describe what he or she learned from that experience. Just imagine the looks of surprise this assignment inspires in students who are so used to showcasing their successes. However, after they finish their résumé, they realize that viewing experiences through the lens of failure forced them to come to terms with their mistakes and to view them as a great source of data about what works and what does not.*
On the most basic level, all learning comes from failure. Think of a baby learning to walk. He or she starts out crawling and falling before finally mastering the skill that as an adult we take for granted. As a child gets older, each new feat, from catching a baseball to doing algebra, is learned the same way, by experimenting until you are finally successful. We don’t expect a child to do everything perfectly the first time, nor should we expect adults who take on complex tasks to get it all right the first time.
So, how do you prepare yourself for inevitable failures? People who spend their time on creative endeavors know that failure is a natural part of the creative process and are ready when it happens. Jeff Hawkins, founder of Palm, Handspring, and Numenta, gets worried when things go too smoothly, knowing that failure must be lurking around the corner. When he was running Handspring, everything was going swimmingly for the release of the original “Visor”, a new personal digital assistant. But Jeff kept warning his team that something would happen. And it did. Within the first few days of the release of their first product they shipped about 100,000 units. This was remarkable. But the entire billing and shipping system broke down. Some customers didn’t receive the products they paid for, and others received three or four times as many units as they ordered. This was a disaster, especially for a new business that was trying to build its reputation. So what did they do? The entire team, including Jeff, buckled down and called each and every customer. They asked each person what he or she had ordered, if they had received it, and whether they had been billed correctly. If anything wasn’t perfect, the company corrected it on the spot. The key point is that Jeff knew something would go wrong. He wasn’t sure what it would be, but was prepared to deal with anything that came their way. His experience has taught him that failure is inevitable, and that the key to success is not dodging every bullet but being able to recover quickly.
Jeff Hawkins, in 2009, sharing this story at the DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar.Most individual’s paths are riddled with small and enormous failures. The key is being able to see these experiences as a chance to evaluate valuable data, and to move on. For most successful people, the bottom is lined with rubber as opposed to concrete. When they hit bottom, they sink in for a bit and then bounce back, tapping into the energy of the impact to propel them into another opportunity. A great example is David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue. David initially started an airline called Morris Air, which grew and prospered, and he sold it to Southwest Airlines for $130 million. He then became an employee of Southwest. After only five months David was fired. He was miserable working for them and, as he says, he was driving them crazy. As part of his contract he had a five-year non-compete agreement that prevented him from starting another airline. That seemed like a lifetime to wait. But after taking time to recover from this blow, David decided to spend that time planning for his next airline venture. He thought through all the details of the company, including the corporate values, the complete customer experience, the type of people they would hire, as well as the details of how they would train and compensate their employees. David says that getting fired and having to wait to start another airline was the best thing that ever happened to him. When the non-compete period was over, he was ready to hit the ground running. He was able to turn what seemed like a terrible situation into a period of extreme productivity and creativity.
David Neeleman, in 2003, shares this story at the DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar.Tackling new challenges in all domains requires a willingness to take risks, and a high chance of failure. However, risk taking is not binary. Each of us is comfortable taking some types of risks and find other types quite uncomfortable. You might not even see the risks that are comfortable for you to take, discounting their riskiness, but are likely to amplify the risk of things that make you more anxious. For example, you might love flying down a ski slope at lightning speed or jumping out of airplanes, and don’t view these activities as risky. If so, you’re blind to the fact that you’re taking on significant physical risk. Others, like me, who are not physical risk takers, would rather sip hot chocolate in the ski lodge or buckle themselves tightly into their airplane seats than strap on a pair of ski boots or a parachute. Alternatively, you might feel perfectly comfortable with social risks, such as giving a speech to a large crowd. This don’t seem risky at all to me. But others, who might be perfectly happy jumping out of a plane, would never give a toast at a party.
By my accounts, there are six primary types of risk: physical, social, emotional, financial, intellectual, and ethical. For example, I know that I’m comfortable taking social risks but not physical risks. In short, I will readily start a conversation with a stranger, but please don’t ask me to bungee jump off a bridge. I will also happily take intellectual risks that stretch my analytical abilities, but I’m not a big financial risk taker. On a trip to Las Vegas I would bring only a small amount of cash, to make sure I didn’t lose too much.
I ask my students to map their own risk profile. With only a little bit of reflection, each person knows which types of risks he or she is willing to take. They realize pretty quickly that risk taking isn’t uniform. It’s interesting to note that most entrepreneurs don’t see themselves as big risk takers. After analyzing the landscape, building a great team, and putting together a detailed plan, they feel as though they have squeezed as much risk out of the venture as they can. In fact, they spend most of their efforts working to reduce the risks for their business.
If you do take a risk and happen to fail, remember that failure is a natural part of the learning process. And, most important, if you aren’t failing sometimes, then you probably aren’t taking enough risks.
If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that entrepreneurship is an uncertain and risky journey where surprising discoveries often lead to breakthrough progress. So, how do we set ourselves up to be open to these “aha” moments and learn from them?
In our daily lives, we tend to have certain expectations about what will happen in any given situation. But it’s when actual results don’t line up with those expectations that we should learn to really pay attention. Let’s take Intuit as an example. In the video below, Scott Cook, co-founder of the accounting software maker, describes how he ignored one bit of customer feedback year after year because it didn’t make sense to him … until it finally did. And once he accepted the unexpected data, it opened the door to a whole new market.
Welcoming cognitive dissonance isn’t trivial. As we’ve now seen, for entrepreneurs, puzzling findings can lead to lucrative opportunities. And this can also hold true for the venture capitalist who invests in them. Here in Silicon Valley, where perhaps the world’s highest concentration of VCs hear pitches from an equally high number of potential founders throughout the year, it’s easy to see how startup investors eventually adopt a “seen it all before” swagger.
But it’s the ones who resist thinking that way, and remain open to letting their beliefs be challenged, that increase their chances of discovering the next big thing. Rebecca Lynn, co-founder and general partner at Canvas Venture Fund, emphasizes the importance of paying particularly close attention when something doesn’t make sense. She explains that her ability to hone in during these moments has opened her up to some of the most interesting ideas she’s ever come across.
Even opportunities for self-development come by way of opening up ourselves to contrarian views. As Mike Rothenberg of Rothenberg Ventures discusses in the video below, growing as an entrepreneur hinges on relentlessly inviting feedback from others. And beyond listening intently when we experience cognitive dissonance, Rothenberg says we should express our gratitude for the new learning.
The truth is, expectations, beliefs and worldviews are uniquely personal and, as a result, are bound to vary from one person to the next. But as entrepreneurs and growing individuals, moments of utter surprise that challenge our deeply held beliefs should be reframed as valuable opportunities to pause, listen and learn. Insights about how to grow our careers, our businesses and, most importantly, ourselves come disguised as experiences that cause cognitive dissonance. The key is to embrace the anomalies, not ignore them.
Too many of us use the terms “going to school” and “getting an education” interchangeably when, in fact, a formal education is just one part of it. The experience of classical schooling is multi-faceted and encompasses a mix of acquiring academic knowledge and softer, more abstract skills. Though fundamental knowledge serves as the foundation for any innovation, being an entrepreneur takes much more than just book smarts alone.
Once, in the midst of his own academic pursuits, Albert Einstein beautifully captured all that an education is: “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” That’s not to say school isn’t important — it is. But perhaps the biggest takeaways are retaining the thirst for knowledge beyond graduation, and building upon the life skills that helped get us there. While impressive, graduating from a prestigious college with a slew of classes aced and a degree in hand doesn’t necessarily say anything about a person’s ability to succeed professionally. In the video below, Stewart Butterfield, co-founder and CEO of Slack, dispels the notion that an elite education guarantees excellence.
So what else should we look for in an education? The true test should be that we are able to demonstrate our learning and showcase the skills we acquire. And perhaps grades alone can’t adequately capture this. Then what can? In the following clip, Sal Khan describes a new model for education from his book The One World Schoolhouse. The founder and executive director of the free learning platform Khan Academy highlights that walking out of school with a portfolio of work, projects and accomplishments says more about one’s ability — both as a student and as a member of the workforce — than grades and a degree do alone.
This is already the case at Stanford and campuses across the country, where experiential education is being emphasized just as heavily as traditional learning approaches. There is obvious value in both, but differing opinions abound on the importance of domain-specific expertise versus the development of someone who can just jump in and learn along the way. The debate is particularly fascinating when you pose that question to scholars and practitioners sitting right next to each other – as we see here:
A formal education remains incredibly important for a variety of reasons: It offers a venue for exposure to a wide breadth of topics and offers us the opportunity to make connections across disciplines. For entrepreneurs, school not only provides subject-matter knowledge, but also the frameworks necessary to remain a lifelong learner. Academic institutions are incredible places where curious minds gather to learn for the sake of learning. Ultimately, however, let’s not forget that classes, schooling and degrees are just part of the education equation.
One way to find out what makes a good entrepreneur is to, well, ask a successful entrepreneur. And if that person has done well in your chosen field, then it’s highly likely what she says will be relevant to you.
But if you want a more basic understanding, in terms of the right mindset and skills needed to succeed, it might make more sense to ask people who observe and invest in entrepreneurs on a regular basis. Through repetition and experience, these people can see patterns emerge in the traits of those who excel and those who don’t.
When you ask these experts, as we do every week in the DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders (ETL) speaker series, they don’t call an entrepreneur good or bad based solely on their net worth. Rather, they talk about the individual’s work ethic, enthusiasm and intelligence.
Pattern recognition is one sign of intelligence. But beyond the ability to see when something occurs again and again, the flip side of pattern recognition is noticing where things aren’t happening. The business-strategy term “blue ocean” refers to just that: a wide-open market that no one else has yet noticed, and so abounds with opportunities.
And in his recent ETL talk, venture capitalist Mike Rothenberg — whose seed-stage fund identifies, invests in and cultivates tech entrepreneurs — has just two words for those with serious startup aspirations: Start swimming.
As the longtime host of this seminar series, Stanford Professor of the Practice Tina Seelig has spoken to hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years and learned what traits the best ones have in common. She shares these lessons in her new book, Insight Out: How to Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World, and in the classes she teaches in Stanford’s Department of Management Science and Engineering.
She also spoke about it at ETL last fall, presenting a model that lays out the knowledge, attitudes and skills that are crucial for any would-be entrepreneur. In a framework she now calls the “Invention Cycle,” Seelig says the journey from imagination to implementation begins with engagement — noticing opportunities in your everyday environment.
As co-founder and partner of one of the most prominent venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, Ben Horowitz, also knows a thing or two about what makes a good entrepreneur. He, too, wrote a book that sums up his insights, The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers. As the title implies, it aims to be a no-nonsense guide for entrepreneurs, explaining brutal truths and dispelling common myths.
It all starts with being able to build a great product, Horowitz said when he spoke at ETL last fall. If you can’t build something that consumers want, Horowitz explained, you’re not going to be able to build a great company. The co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz spent a lot of his talk describing how many of the non-technical skills that entrepreneurs need — people skills, management skills — are not intuitive. But they are absolutely essential to succeed and scale up.
Now in its 25th year, Management Science & Engineering Course 273 remains one of the most highly rated courses in the School of Engineering.
Big Switch Networks, Skybox Imaging, WiFiSlam, Sourcegraph — the list of startups launched by Stanford students soon after taking the course “Technology Venture Formation” goes on. That’s because the class, formally known as Management Science & Engineering 273, is so much more than a series of lectures.
MS&E 273 is intended for graduate students with serious entrepreneurial aspirations, and there is just no way to learn the fundamental skills and processes for successfully launching an innovative and sustainable tech company simply by listening and taking notes.
The key to the course’s success begins with its teaching team: a trio of highly accomplished practitioners of entrepreneurship who teach in the Stanford School of Engineering. Together, they bring decades of experience in all aspects of high-tech entrepreneurship: from founding and investing in startups to leading companies as board members and executive officers.
The course’s founding faculty member, Mike Lyons — a veteran entrepreneur and chair of a network-security startup with offices in Silicon Valley — figures that more than 200 tech startups have been launched by alumni of MS&E 273 since it was first offered in 1988. Also a co-developer of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, which offers MS&E 273, Lyons said the course gives students “actionable tools” that allow them to understand the startup process and the risks they must minimize in order to ensure success.
“You want to start a high-tech company? You are going to learn how to do it — by doing it.”
“We use scenario-based education,” said Lyons, a consulting associate professor in the engineering school’s Department of Management Science & Engineering. “You want to start a high-tech company? You are going to learn how to do it — by doing it.”
Specifically, students in the class form teams and then propose and assess a technology concept or service in the framework of a business opportunity. The 10-week course demands that the proposed technologies have “a critical innovative advantage that will provide sustainable differentiation.”
The class sessions are only three hours a week, with various experts invited to speak on Tuesday nights about practical strategies ranging from go-to-market techniques to building financial models and getting a company financed. Later in the course, the student teams stand before a group of Silicon Valley CFOs and explain their business model and proposed financial operations.
The 45 students in the current class are now in their final week, when they make their pitches to a panel of partners at top venture-capital firms. However, the panelists serve not as investors, but as experts in evaluating business plans and opportunities.
Stated plainly, it’s not enough to have a cool technology idea that no one has thought of before. There has to be a viable business opportunity for the technology, and MS&E 273 focuses on assessing and defending its commercial viability, according to fellow course developer and instructor Audrey MacLean.
“That whole process is something that’s valuable to students, whether they ever start a company or whether they work for a big company.”
“That whole process is something that’s valuable to students, whether they ever start a company or whether they work for a big company,” said MacLean, also a consulting associate professor in MS&E. MacLean has four decades of combined experience in the computer and communications industries, with leadership roles as a founder, CEO, seed investor and board member.
She belongs to Fortune’s Most Powerful Women group, has been named by BusinessWeek as one of the 50 most influential businesswomen in America, has made the cover of Forbes and been featured multiple times in the magazine.
To illustrate MS&E 273 as something more than a class, MacLean says that in the case of entrepreneurship, the lab is the real world: “And if you look at Stanford as a research institution,” MacLean explained, “you obviously want to have the professors who are teaching the subject to have spent time in that lab.”
Jack Fuchs, the third and newest member of the teaching team, adds that the students must prove that the technology they’re pitching has true technical differentiation. The team also demands that the venture itself takes a novel approach in its execution, and that the students present a clear vision of what their businesses would look like five years on.
“But for the people who are entrepreneurs, it is a way of opening up your life and your career that is different from anything else …”
Fuchs, an adjunct faculty member in MS&E, said he wants to see a good fit between the student and the particular business opportunity he or she wants to pursue. “The number one lesson I would like students to take away is that entrepreneurship is not for everybody,” he said. “But for the people who are entrepreneurs, it is a way of opening up your life and your career that is different from anything else that you can possibly experience in the business world.”
According to Fuchs, one of the most important things the course does is expose all the potential founders to the commercial side of entrepreneurship. “We prepare the students’ minds for the vagaries of that journey,” he said. “Even if many of the students only ever become technical leaders in the companies, their appreciation of the commercial side will serve them extremely well.”
While all three instructors have had great success in their careers, it’s clear that they continue to teach MS&E 273 because they are passionate to pass on real-world lessons to the next generation of innovators. Fuchs, who also teaches entrepreneurship at the University of California-Berkeley, says he is inspired by exposing brilliant and motivated engineers to high-powered venture formation. For her part, MacLean says MS&E 273 is the course she wishes was offered when she first started out.
And for Lyons, ultimately, his commitment to the course stems from a deep belief in the positive impact that entrepreneurship can have on the world. “One of the reasons we’re very interested in this is because we all believe — certainly in the engineering school — that the way to build a powerful economy is to increase entrepreneurial activity that’s successful, that produces economic gains for societies and improves the standard of living for the individuals and the societies connected with it.”
Before she went on to co-found venture-capital firm Floodgate, Ann Miura-Ko served as a teaching assistant in MS&E 273 for four years, lecturing in the class while also working toward a Ph.D. in the School of Engineering. She said the most successful students were the ones who saw the course, not simply as a class, but as an experience.
“They learned not just what it is to be an entrepreneur,” Miura-Ko explained. “They actually became an entrepreneur in that class.”
Management Science & Engineering 273: Technology Venture Formation is open to graduate students only, but welcomes registrations from across engineering and other Stanford schools.
November is Entrepreneurship Month in the United States, and Stanford has a spot-on kickoff to this national designation in Startup Weekend, being held Nov. 1 to 3 in the skybox of the university’s football stadium.
When asked if the athletic venue was a good fit for the 54-hour entrepreneurial marathon, co-organizer Andrew Scheuermann – an associate at the Stanford venture incubator StartX and Ph.D. candidate in materials science and engineering – told The Dish Daily: “Athletics is acknowledging entrepreneurship as the ‘other’ varsity sport at Stanford.”
According to the event organizers, 135 participants will compete, and famed tech entrepreneur, executive and investor Keith Rabois will deliver the keynote address on the first night.
On a Saturday night, a student sits motionless in front of a laptop, except for his fingers frantically tapping out code in the basement of a building at Stanford. A hemisphere away, students who were complete strangers just a few days before gasp in unison as they approach a massive glacier in an inflatable boat.
Though the two images are literally a world apart, both are glimpses into just the kind of deeply immersive experiential-learning activities that have become an increasingly essential part of entrepreneurship education at Stanford.
The first scene is from a two-day event known as Startup Weekend, in which student teams have 52 hours to turn an idea into a startup. The second was a highlight from a five-day ocean adventure in which students from Stanford and South America came together last March on a vessel known as the EntrepreneurSHIP.
[quote_right]“The best learning is experiential.”[/quote_right]“The best learning is experiential,” said Tina Seelig, executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), who first floated the idea for the ship. “As the entrepreneurship center at Stanford University’s School of Engineering, our role is to deliver engaging courses and perform scholarly research, as well as create one-of-a-kind learning experiences that enhance entrepreneurial skills.”
This is especially true when teaching entrepreneurship – where rapid prototyping, overcoming obstacles and responding to critical feedback are inevitable. Education needs to include equal parts coursework and exercises outside the classroom that allow students to apply what they’ve learned in real time.
For Startup Weekend, an annual event hosted by several entrepreneurship programs at Stanford, students have from 5 p.m. Friday to 5 p.m. Sunday to form teams, bring a business idea to life and compete for top honors. Most students have never worked with each other before and must subject their projects to the scrutiny of entrepreneurs, investors and other Silicon Valley professionals who volunteer their time.
The event – presented last year by StartX, STVP and the Entrepreneurship Club at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business – is a blur of an experience from the get-go. Students warm up with improvisational exercises and ice breakers, then form teams, set up workspaces, develop pitches, meet with mentors and hone presentations – breaking only for meals.
All the while, they sharpen their interpersonal skills and refine their ideas on deadline. “Experiential learning allows students to be bold, but in a relatively safe environment,” said Angela Hayward, who has managed the Stanford Entrepreneurship Network. “It lets them get used to failure and the iterative process, and lets them get used to working with people they’ve never even met before.”
Startup Weekend returns this autumn and will welcome any Stanford student to apply. Last year, more than 500 students applied for 115 slots, resulting in 16 teams that turned the basement of the Huang Engineering Center into a beehive of activity.
“When you’re used to sitting in class and taking notes, it can be difficult to appreciate the real-world application of entrepreneurship,” Hayward said. “But when you’re in a group, and you’re working on something real, students get the opportunity to apply what they’re learning.”
Entrepreneurial Thinking at Sea
Now, take Startup Weekend and put it on a 64-cabin cruise ship bound for the southern tip of South America, and you begin to get a sense of a one-of-a-kind, experiential-learning adventure offered to students over their 2013 spring break.
About 20 students from Stanford took part in the EntrepreneurSHIP voyage, which brought them together with close to 60 students from Chile for five days of inspiring talks, hands-on activities and, naturally, excursions into the icy waters of Patagonia.
STVP, in collaboration with two of its Global Partners (Universidad del Desarrollo and Pontifica Universidad Católica de Chile) organized the trip. Seelig and other Stanford faculty – from STVP, the d.school and the School of Engineering’s Department of Management Science and Engineering – led exercises in team building, design thinking, prototyping and storytelling.
Educators and experts from Chile discussed social issues confronting their nation: from environmental protection and economic development to challenges in K-12 education. Students were then tasked with having to come up with solutions, overcoming language barriers (and occasional bouts of seasickness).
“The projects that the student teams took on provided them with a framework to challenge themselves,” said Forrest Glick, one of STVP’s associate directors. “Working within teams, developing a point of view, leading a project, pivoting an idea and getting feedback – those are the kinds of entrepreneurial skills we wanted them to learn by doing.”
Granted, experiential learning has long been recognized as an effective way to supplement and solidify in-class curriculum. And entrepreneurship educators at Stanford emphatically say such activities are downright essential for their students.
Just ask Lauryn Isford, who enters her junior year this fall as co-president of the Stanford Women in Business. She is majoring in management science and engineering in the School of Engineering and got involved in entrepreneurship at Stanford after going on a field trip to Google with her computer-science class.
Being in Google’s offices and seeing all the employees at work was one thing. But ending the day by being able to sit down with co-founder Larry Page for 45 minutes of question and answer impacted her in a way that few lessons can. Then a freshman, Isford asked Page what he wish he had known when he first entered college.
“As a freshman,” Isford recalled Page saying, “he wish he had known that it’s OK to take risks and not to be afraid to fail – because when you take those risks, even if things don’t go perfectly, you learn from those mistakes. And you can move forward with that experience.”
In the world of academia, a sabbatical is a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future, take on a major project, and explore new directions in one’s career. In 2011, Joseph Tranquillo – an associate professor of biomedical and electrical engineering at Bucknell University – was searching for a place where he could immerse himself in a culture that would challenge him on all three accounts.
Tranquillo found exactly what he needed this past year at the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation. Also known as the Epicenter, the national initiative’s office at Stanford University served as his academic home-away-from-home during his sabbatical.
As a member of the engineering faculty at Bucknell, Tranquillo was already attuned to the importance of instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in his students. So, as a visiting scholar in Stanford’s Department of Management Science and Engineering, Tranquillo conducted research at the Epicenter in which he interviewed leaders in entrepreneurship education to collect best practices and help develop a framework for diffusing them out to engineering faculty.
The Epicenter was fortunate to have such an enthusiastic educator do research that supports its mission to unleash the entrepreneurial potential of undergraduate engineering students across the United States. With his 10 months at the Epicenter and STVP recently ended, we asked Tranquillo to discuss what insights he gained during his 10 months at the Epicenter and STVP – and what his plans are for fostering entrepreneurial education back at Bucknell.
STVP: What compelled you to want to spend your sabbatical as a visiting scholar at the Epicenter?
JT: I first met Tina Seelig [Executive Director of STVP] at the 2011 NCIIA OPEN conference. The following year, I met the STVP team at the 2012 OPEN conference. The 2012 conference was also where the Epicenter was unveiled. I immediately saw the culture I wanted to be a part of and a way to contribute to the faculty development initiative of the Epicenter.
STVP: What were some of the findings from your Epicenter work?
JT: My primary project with the Epicenter was to interview leaders in entrepreneurship education to collect successful practices and tools and to help develop a framework for diffusing them out to engineering faculty.
One of the most important themes that arose from the interviews was that engineering faculty members will need both inspirational stories and concrete resources and tools to move them to integrate entrepreneurship into their engineering curricula.
A second interesting finding was the mapping of faculty “archetypes” to the traditional adopter types used by marketers – for example, what a faculty early adopter might look like. It has changed my view of how to motivate faculty.
STVP: What was the most valuable lesson you learned?
[quote_right]”The simple idea that I’m an academic entrepreneur has changed the way I think about my job as a professor. Where as before I was not consciously approaching new initiatives as an entrepreneur, I now have a series of tools and a mindset.”[/quote_right]JT: There are too many lessons to communicate here, so I will focus on only three. First, I began thinking of myself as an entrepreneur. In one of my first STVP meetings, I did not self-identify as an entrepreneur. I was quickly corrected and reminded that I have created a number of academic prototypes, ranging from simple lesson plans to entirely new programs, such as the Bucknell Biomedical Engineering Department and KEEN Winter Interdisciplinary Design Experience.
The simple idea that I’m an academic entrepreneur has changed the way I think about my job as a professor. Where as before I was not consciously approaching new initiatives as an entrepreneur, I now have a series of tools and a mindset.
Second, I was able to see up-close the power of a “yes, and …” culture. I had read a lot about the idea and had used it in my classes and committees, but I have never been in a place where everyone has a “yes, and …” attitude. I found that this really fostered a “try it” attitude, and I was amazed how often an idea was expanded from a silly initial seed to a profoundly important contribution.
Third, I learned how fruitful it can be to recombine hobbies and interests with professional activities. I have always had multiple interests, but typically my private and professional lives have remained separate from one another. STVP, and Stanford in general, has such permeable boundaries that it inspired me to break down the walls between my interests. For example, I started to write a book called Moving Analogies on the combination of my love of dance and teaching engineering concepts.
STVP: What was the most surprising?
JT: There were so many surprises, that again, I cannot possibly list them all. Perhaps the most profound surprise was how generous members of the Stanford community were with their time. Tina, as well as Stanford faculty and Epicenter leaders Tom Byers and Sheri Sheppard listened to my wild ideas, encouraged me to take risks and invest in new approaches. I was able to meet some of my heroes – from Terry Winograd, a pioneer in artificial intelligence, to having regular lunches with Ron Schafer, whose classic textbook in digital-signal processing I waded through as an undergraduate.
A second surprise was my contact with groups from Aalto University in Finland and Universidad del Desarrollo and Pontificia Universidad Católica in Chile. I first met with faculty from these three universities at Stanford but later had the opportunity to visit their campuses. It was an unexpected treat to see how other universities and countries are fostering innovation ecosystems.
Third was how I was able to bring out one of my passions – dance. I did not expect to lead a contact improvisation class at Google, or consult for the Capacitor Dance Company on one of their latest projects, Synaptic Motion, or have the thrill of working with Aleta Hayes and the Chocolate Heads. Aleta and I later teamed up to teach one of the inaugural pop-up classes at the Stanford d.school, “How to Be a Cyborg.”
STVP: What’s your plan for fostering entrepreneurial education at Bucknell University?
JT: I am excited to return to Bucknell for a few very big professional reasons. First, Bucknell like many other schools, is incorporating entrepreneurship throughout the curriculum. And that extends far beyond engineering. For example, Bucknell has introduced a new minor in “arts entrepreneurship,” which will help students weave marketing and business principles – along with other skills – into their artistic efforts.
There is also energy and a great deal of work that has already gone into building a Medical Innovation Ecosystem centered at Geisinger Health Center and Bucknell. With my experience in the STVP, I am well positioned to contribute to these new initiatives in important ways.
I have also taken on the co-directorship of Bucknell’s Institute for Leadership in Technology and Management (ILTM). The program has been very successful for the past 20 years, and I have taken on the role at a particularly interesting time. Several other similar programs are forming and ILTM will serve as a template. Again, I know I will use a lot of what I learned at STVP in helping these new groups get off to a good start.
STVP: How successful do you think you’ll be?
JT: The most important mindset I took away from my sabbatical is to measure success by the metrics of impact and learning. I spent a good portion of my life with a fixed mindset – having static goals that were often defined by someone else. Before my sabbatical I was inching toward a growth mindset, one where goals are not as black and white. I was able to fully embrace this mindset at STVP and the Epicenter.
I don’t know yet if my efforts at Bucknell will be successful by fixed measures, but I am very confident that I, and Bucknell, will learn a great deal in the process, and that our efforts will be impactful.
Entrepreneurship education is in high demand across the globe. And in the face of headlines bemoaning economic challenges, particularly in Europe, greater numbers of governments and universities are racing to embrace the promise of entrepreneurial skills for students and graduates. However, not all efforts are the same.
To effectively boost the long-term value of these initiatives, a growing number of universities are focusing on a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to entrepreneurship education. One of the finest examples exists at Finland’s Aalto University, host of the upcoming Roundtable on Entrepreneurship Education (REE).
“Aalto University is an incredible model, where three established universities have combined to form the perfect entrepreneurship combination … business, technology and design,” says Tom Byers, professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, who will be attending REE. “I look forward to learning from their experiences and process, as they continue to influence the ecosystem in Finland.”
From September 5 though 7, REE attendees from around the world will convene in Helsinki, Finland, to participate in interactive workshops and engaging presentations to discover the latest approaches to delivering high-growth entrepreneurship education. Leading engineering, business and design faculty will not only be sharing some of their best curricular programs, but looking to connect with other faculty taking entrepreneurship and innovation learning to the next level.
“The REE community explores new opportunities and possibilities,” says Alistair Fee, visiting professor of marketing and innovation at Queen’s University, Belfast. “I want to hear new ideas, get inspired and become energized.”
The theme of this year’s conference is entrepreneurship education as a platform for cross-disciplinary collaboration to bring people together from across subjects, interests, and backgrounds in a university setting. With the energy continually building behind this approach, entrepreneurship has taken its place at the forefront of a new era in education, says Byers.
“This gives us, as educators, the opportunity to think about how to optimize classroom learning. Entrepreneurship educators are often on the vanguard of new teaching methodologies and techniques, and this will be no different.”
For more than a decade, faculty from around the world have connected through the REE experience to discover the latest strategies in experiential entrepreneurship learning. An added bonus in this year’s event is the opportunity to engage within the unique and thriving Aalto/Helsinki ecosystem, where student involvement has driven the entrepreneurship revolution.
A key to the entrepreneurship revolution around Aalto University, and in Finland, was the organized passion of Aalto students when they formed the Aalto Entrepreneurship Society in 2008. The purpose was to bring together engaged students and researchers interested in entrepreneurship. Since then, the Aalto ecosystem has continued to blossom with the development of new programs and offerings, such as the Aalto Venture Garage and the Aalto Ventures Program.
“I am eager to learn more about the robust entrepreneurial ecosystem at Aalto,” says STVP Executive Director Tina Seelig, who also teaches creativity and innovation at Stanford. “I’m also interested in gaining more insights into the opportunities and challenges faced by colleagues across Europe.”
REE Europe 2012 may prove to be a catalyst for generating new ideas around how to address the economic future of Europe. According to Hervé Lebret, senior scientist with the College of Management of Technology at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, this may include, “a recognition that Europe does not have strong enough clusters, so that joining forces might be an option.”
No matter what changes come to the larger regional political and economic structures of Europe, the power of entrepreneurship education is here to stay, which according to Fee, is contributing to a new vibrancy throughout Europe.
“People in every country are pushing the entrepreneurship envelope. There has never been a greater need for targeted, active, entrepreneurship – we have a duty to stretch ourselves and our communities to do it better,” says Fee. “Entrepreneurs need lifetime support and access to ideas, material and hope. REE must contribute to the ecosystem.”
Want to see why Helsinki is a top landing spot for entrepreneurs? Watch this video to see why the new era in Finland is built on an influx of bright minds and Aalto University’s open community approach to new ideas.
As spring quarter 2012 comes to close on the Stanford campus, here are some announcements and resources we are excited to share. Campus life may begin to slow down, but entrepreneurship activity, education and professional development continue to move at high speed.
New Research Honors
Earlier in May, STVP Co-Director Professor Kathleen Eisenhardt traveled to Stockholm, Sweden, to receive the Global Award for Entrepreneurial Research. The prestigious honor is awarded by a collection of major Swedish institutions, who seek to increase interest in the study of entrepreneurship around the world. We congratulate Kathy on the honor, recognizing her work on “strategy, strategic decision making, and innovation in rapidly changing and highly competitive markets.” See a short video from the ceremony>>
STVP Ph.D. student Douglas Hannah is the winner of the 2012 Gerald J. Lieberman Fellowship. Lieberman was a distinguished scholar and teacher for over 40 years at Stanford, and the fellowship aims to “recognize and promote doctoral students who demonstrate the potential for becoming academic leaders.” Doug joined the STVP Ph.D. program in 2009 and his research focuses on collaborative firm innovation processes and inter-firm networks. Check out Doug’s profile on the STVP website>>
If you missed any of the spring quarter’s DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders seminars, summer is the perfect time to catch up with the latest videos and podcasts. This quarter featured startup founders, social entrepreneurs and leaders from the publishing and entertainment sectors. Check out the recently added content on ECorner>>
Each quarter STVP offers a number of courses to help students build the vital entrepreneurship and innovation skills and experiences needed to start new ventures or to become innovative employees and citizens. Our course lineup for spring quarter 2012 is below, featuring courses in marketing, innovation, entrepreneurial management and more.
Plus, all students interested in entrepreneurship should register for the DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar, a one-unit class that offers the unique opportunity to hear the first-hand insights and experiences of an incredible collection of entrepreneurial leaders. Watch and listen to previous DFJ ETL lectures on ECorner.
Only available to students selected for the Mayfield Fellows Program, this first section of the three-part MFP course sequence focuses on understanding management and leadership within high technology startups. Students work with engineering faculty, founders, and venture capitalists, as they explore issues of organizational development, financing, recruitment and market strategy. Learn about the 2012 Mayfield Fellows.
MS&E 178: The Spirit of Entrepreneurship
Instructor: Toby Corey
This course teaches students to think like a successful entrepreneur by learning how to analyze key parts of various startup business models. The course uses the speakers at the DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leader seminar (MS&E 472) as the source of the companies to be explored.
Students meet before and after each DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders seminar to prepare and debrief, respectively.
This course examines classical and contemporary organization theory. Students will explore the behaviors of individuals, groups, and organizations, and come to understand why certain behaviors impact the management of organizations.
Enrollment preference is given to MS&E majors.
How do you market technology-based products to a global audience of customers? Learn how in this course that examines cases of startups and other technology firms that are doing this work.
Students will not only learn how to target markets and build partnerships, but will also tackle issues of sales, negotiations, outbound marketing based on real-world examples.
Prof. Tom Byers
MS&E 276: Entrepreneurial Management and Finance
Instructor: Tom Byers
Limited enrollment. Prerequisites: MS&E 140 and ENGR 60, or equivalents.
This course places an emphasis on managing high-growth ventures, especially those based on technology products and services. Students will develop a set of skills and approaches to becoming effective entrepreneurial managers. Topics covered in the course will include opportunity recognition and selection, raising capital, financial management, operations and organizational administration.
This popular and highly experiential course explores the variables that stimulate and inhibit creativity and innovation in individuals, teams and organizations. Through classroom activities, design challenges and interactions with visiting experts, students will learn that every problem is an opportunity for a creative solution.
The DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar is a weekly speaker series that presents innovators from across the business, finance, technology, and philanthropy sectors, to share their insights with aspiring entrepreneurs. Through MS&E 472, students have the opportunity to learn real world knowledge from prominent leaders and entrepreneurs.
DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar Speakers – Spring 2012
April 11: Jeff Church – Co-Founder, NIKA Water
April 18: Gale Anne Hurd – Television/Film Producer & Screenwriter
April 25: Frank Quattrone – Founder & CEO, Qatalyst Partners
May 2: Rebeca Hwang – CEO, YouNoodle & Elizabeth Samara-Rubio – Founder, StorWatts
May 9: Brian Murray – President & CEO, HarperCollins Publishers
May 16: Daniel Ek – Co-Founder, Spotify
May 23: Adam Lashinsky – Author, Inside Apple
May 30: Drew Houston – Co-Founder & CEO, Dropbox
From now through March 7, member organizations of the Stanford Entrepreneurship Network are presenting events as part of Entrepreneurship Week (E-Week) 2012. Members of the Stanford community, as well as the general public, can enjoy lectures, workshops, networking events and conferences, all celebrating entrepreneurship-related activity.
The entrepreneurial spirit runs strong at Stanford, and the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP) is offering a number of opportunities for students and others interested in developing their entrepreneurial mindset.
There are two ETL seminars taking place during E-Week. The lectures are open to the general public, and will take place on Wednesday, February 29 and March 7, respectively. DFJ ETL seminars run from 4:30 – 5:30 pm in NVIDIA Auditorium at Huang Engineering Center. This series is generously sponsored by DFJ.
On February 29, Kristina M. Johnson, former undersecretary for Energy at the United States Department of Energy will speak at ETL. At the DOE Johnson focused on bringing greater cohesion to energy and environmental programs at the federal level. Prior to that role, she served as provost at Johns Hopkins University, and as dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. A Stanford alumna, Johnson will be sharing insights on leadership from her time in the public, higher education and private sectors.
On March 7, E-Week 2012 will wrap-up with a special ETL presentation from a mother and son tandem of entrepreneurs. Join us as Sandra and Andy Kurtzig speak to discuss their own entrepreneurial journeys as founders. Sandra Kurtzig transformed the manufacturing software industry when she founded ASK Computer Systems in 1972. Over the next two decades, she would go on to grow the company into one of the largest software companies in the world. She is now the current CEO and chairman at Kenandy.
Andy Kurtzig founded the expert answer website, JustAnswer, in 2003, and previously served as CEO and co-founder of eBenefits, which was acquired by an Inc. 500 company. As well as being a serial entrepreneur, Kurtzig is an active and successful angel investor and philanthropist.
Stanford students are invited to sign-up for E-Week Coaches-on-Call mentoring sessions to be held at STVP. During these “office hours,” students can gather advice from industry professionals representing different fields and areas of expertise. Please note that availability is limited.
Here are coaches available for E-Week 2012:
Feb. 28 – Mark Reinstra, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Take part in a design thinking workshop on Friday, March 2, aimed at discovering ways to help the Epicenter achieve its mission to create a nation of entrepreneurial engineers. The Epicenter, the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation, is an exciting new initiative dedicated to infusing entrepreneurship and innovation into undergraduate engineering education across the United States. The Epicenter is based at Stanford, and is directed the Stanford Technology Ventures Program.
In this hands-on, fast-paced workshop, participants will apply the design thinking process to tackle the challenge of sparking enthusiasm and engagement from engineering faculty and students to embrace and implement the Epicenter’s mission. Students and faculty of all disciplines, as well as entrepreneurs, engineers and designers are welcome, however, availability is limited for the event and registration is required.
Stanford students have exciting opportunities to build their entrepreneurial mindset in winter quarter 2012. As the entrepreneurship center in Stanford’s School of Engineering, the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP) is proud to offer courses, programs and resources that help unlock the Stanford entrepreneurial spirit.
Below you will find course descriptions for the winter quarter, with links to course websites and instructor bios. For course information covering the entire academic year, you can also view the STVP Courses webpage.
[quote_right]”With all of the problems that need solving, the world needs more graduates trained to develop an entrepreneurial mindset of turning problems into real opportunities.” —Assistant Prof. Chuck Eesley[/quote_right]How do you create a successful startup? How does an entrepreneur form a team and gather the resources necessary to create a great enterprise? This class mixes mentor-guided team projects, in-depth case studies, research on the entrepreneurial process, and the opportunity to network and ask questions of Silicon Valley’s top entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
How do companies and organizations of all sizes maintain creativity and innovation? In MS&E 175, students explore avenues for problem solving in organizations, and develop creativity and innovation skills.
Learn the thinking tools used by creative organizations, teams and individuals to create communities with a lasting culture of innovation.
MS&E 178 The Spirit of Entrepreneurship— 3 units
Instructor: Heidi Roizen
This course teaches students to think like a successful entrepreneur by learning how to analyze key parts of various startup business models. The course uses the speakers at the Entrepreneurial Thought Leader seminar (MS&E 472) as the source of the companies to be explored.
Students meet before and after each Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders seminar to prepare and debrief, respectively.
ENGR 245 offers students the chance to apply emerging entrepreneurship principles, including the “lean startup” and “customer development” frameworks, to prototype, test, and iterate a product. Students will also discover if a profitable business model exists for the product.
Students will work and study in teams or, in rare cases, alone. A proposal is required during first week of the quarter, and can be for software, a physical good, or a service of any kind. Projects are treated as real startups, so students are encouraged to prepare for intense work.
Watch Steve Blank and Ann Miura-Ko discuss lean startups, financing and the product development process.
Students will learn skills needed to market new technology-based products to customers around the world. The course includes case method discussions on examples from startups and global high-technology firms.
The coursework covers targeting markets and customers, product marketing and management, partners and distribution, sales and negotiation, and outbound marketing.
MS&E 280 Organizational Behavior: Evidence in Action — 3-4 units
Instructor: Robert Sutton Limited enrollment; priority to MS&E students.
This course examines organization theory and explores concepts and functions of management. Additional topics to be covered include behavior of the individual, work group, and organization. Work within the course will emphasize case studies and related discussion.
Watch Professor Sutton discuss why organizational structures can often inhibit a manager’s ability to hear the truth.
MS&E 472 DFJ – Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar — 1 unit
Instructors: Tom Byers, Thomas Kosnik, and Tina Seelig
Required web discussion. Course may be repeated for credit.
The DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar is a weekly speaker series that presents innovators from across the business, finance, technology, and philanthropy sectors, to share their insights with aspiring entrepreneurs. Through MS&E 472, students have the opportunity to learn real world knowledge from prominent leaders and entrepreneurs.
DFJ-ETL Speaker Lineup for Winter 2012
Jan 18: Deborah Hopkins – Chief Innovation Office, Citi
Jan 25: Alexander Osterwalder – Entrepreneur & Author
Feb 1: Ted Zoller – Senior Fellow, Kauffman Foundation
Feb 8: Gale Anne Hurd – Film Producer & Screenwriter
Feb 15: Sukhinder Singh Cassidy – Founder & Chairman, Joyus
Feb 22: Reid Hoffman – Co-Founder, LinkedIn; Partner at Greylock
Feb 29: Kristina Johnson – Former US Secretary of Energy
Mar 7: Sandra Kurtzig, AskGroup & Andy Kurtzig, JustAnswer
Enjoy these popular clips from Entrepreneurial Thought Leader seminars in 2011.
MAYFIELD FELLOWS PROGRAM Application Period: December 9, 2011 — February 1, 2011
[quote_right]”Entrepreneurship courses at Stanford have a great reputation for having an appropriate mix of theory and hands-on learning. The Mayfield Fellows Program is legendary on campus, and after several friends recommended MFP, it was too hard to resist applying.”
– John Melas-Kyriazi ’11, MFP[/quote_right]The Mayfield Fellows Program (MFP) is our nine-month work/study program designed to develop a theoretical and practical understanding of the techniques for growing technology companies. Starting in the spring quarter, the program combines an intense sequence of courses on the management of technology ventures, a paid summer internship at a startup company, and ongoing mentoring and networking activities.
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Aalto University’s ecosystem brings muscle to Finland’s growing entrepreneurship scene
In Espoo, outside of Helsinki, the entrepreneurial waters are churning thanks to new initiatives connected with Aalto University’s technology and engineering campus. In fact, the Aalto ecosystem is helping to set an exciting new course for the Finnish economy, and entrepreneurship as a whole, throughout the Baltic region. Not sure you know any Finnish startups? Perhaps you’re more familiar with solving puzzles by launching irate birds at evil green pigs.
Yes, Finland is home to Angry Birds, the worldwide gaming sensation from Rovio Mobile. And Rovio’s founders were graduates of the Helsinki School of Technology, one of three schools that now make up the newly established Aalto. However, the university’s students, faculty and staff have even bigger plans for Finland, with their sights set on an entrepreneurship future that blasts past the bird-launching, pig-crushing phenomenon.
While other universities might consider their entrepreneurship work done just by setting up an incubator, Aalto is discovering real momentum by connecting the essential dots between entrepreneurship education, access to funding, student organizations for early development, and the creation of a culture that is open to outsiders. One catalyst for the Aalto entrepreneurship explosion is the intense passion held by students. “We were interested in building companies and changing things,” says Kristo Ovaska, founder of the Aalto Entrepreneurship Society (AaltoES). “We saw the need for something that wasn’t there.”
AaltoES was founded in 2009 as a privately funded, student-led initiative that focuses on building a startup community, not just for Aalto, but also for Northern Europe. Ovaska and his colleagues dreamed of a Silicon Valley-style culture in the Nordic region, a culture that offered students with big ideas the resources and mentorship to create cutting-edge startups in Finland. But when AaltoES was quickly inundated with requests for space from startup teams, the need for an additional organization became clear.
With some seed funding and access to space from the university in 2010, the Aalto Venture Garage (AVG) opened as a co-working space within the Aalto community. Participants in the Aalto Venture Garage work side-by-side with other teams trying to develop and iterate on their products and ideas. Along with their interactive (and attractive) co-working space, AVG has also created Startup Sauna, a self-described “Y-Combinator-esque” accelerator program that identifies promising startups from throughout the Baltic and Nordic regions, and brings them together for an intense six-week entrepreneurship boot camp.
“The students [love discussions] of risk-taking and learning to fail fast. The young people are looking for ways to make cultural changes in their country that will open it up to more entrepreneurship.”
During a teaching trip to Aalto, STVP adjunct faculty member Donna Novitsky saw the excitement that Aalto students have for different aspects of entrepreneurship. “The students loved the discussions of risk-taking and learning to fail fast,” says Novitsky. “The young people are looking for ways to make cultural changes in their country that will open it up to more entrepreneurship.”
While students can drive passion from the ground up, the secret sauce to building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem also requires real support from institutions and the larger society. This is where the Aalto Center for Entrepreneurship (ACE) comes in. Established in 2010, ACE seeks to pull more ideas out of the Aalto community and help them to see the light of day as new products and companies.
ACE serves as a one-stop shop for the teaching and research of entrepreneurship, technology transfer assistance, intellectual property management, and early-stage startup support. According to Will Cardwell, who leads the Aalto Center for Entrepreneurship, the center is tackling issues of great importance to Finland. ACE’s activities, and its 15-member team, are funded approximately 60 percent by Aalto University and 40 percent by TEKES, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.
“The nation needs to speed up the commercialization of technologies to capture more long-term value for both Finnish society and the global society,” says Cardwell. “We’re trying to create fans — corporate, investors and other stakeholders who are interested to interact with the innovations and startups that come out of Aalto. And we’re also seeking to get more Finns to think entrepreneurially.”
“We’re trying to create fans — corporate, investors and other stakeholders who are interested to interact with the innovations and startups that come out of Aalto. And we’re also seeking to get more Finns to think entrepreneurially.”
This point takes on deep significance in light of current trends in the Finnish economy. The longtime flagship of the Finnish technology sector, Nokia, is still struggling to find its footing. At the same time, the mobile gaming sector is taking off fast, led by Rovio’s bird-flinging success. Cardwell clearly sees Finland’s challenges as new opportunities for Aalto-based entrepreneurs.
“As market demands and employment levels are in transition, our idea is to encourage and attract talent to bear on the creation of new startups and the powering of current ventures,” says Cardwell. “At Aalto, we want to be a platform for the rest of the country, and ultimately for the whole region.”
Working with a multimillion-dollar budget and significant support from the Finnish government and the private sector, ACE is looking at business proposals from inside and outside Aalto, including founding teams and ideas emerging from the Aalto Venture Garage. From the past year’s 300 proposals to ACE, 60 percent came from Aalto’s paid researchers and 40 percent came from Aalto students or parties outside the university. This dynamic mix reflects Finland’s interest in being perceived as a welcoming center for developing new ideas in Europe.
“We need to be competitive in Finland to create the type of environment where companies would want to develop,” says Cardwell. “No matter where a startup chooses to plant itself, Aalto’s commitment to being open allows us to put our best foot forward.” Proposals identified for support by ACE travel through a multi-level funding process, progress in which is determined by market size, concept feasibility and intellectual property opportunities. At every stage in the process, each idea must show improvement around these factors to move on to the next level of funding. “We’re very ready to fail with these projects in the early stages, if they’re not hitting on these attributes,” says Cardwell.
Some projects will be identified for “fast track” development and be connected with large corporate partners, such as Nokia and Microsoft. Others will continue forward in the evaluation and development process within ACE. The center seeks to develop a portfolio each year that consists of at least 15 startups, 15 new patent families and a growing set of intellectual property licenses that will produce regular revenue to fund the next wave of startups.
“Finns can be stubborn and independent, so they avoid mimicking others. They often don’t really care what others do. I think this independence is a fundamental characteristic for entrepreneurs…”
Stanford Management Science and Engineering Professor Riitta Katila, a native of Finland who teaches a popular course on creativity, innovation and change, sees entrepreneurial advantages in the national mindset. “Finns can be stubborn and independent, so they avoid mimicking others. They often don’t really care what others do,” says Katila. “I think this independence is a fundamental characteristic for entrepreneurs…” While no perfect system exists for establishing an effective entrepreneurial ecosystem, the laser-like focus of the Aalto community points to hot times for entrepreneurship in the Arctic North.
Incredible things happen when entrepreneurial skills are layered on top of deep technical knowledge. New products are created that solve real world problems. Markets and industries spring up where none existed before.
And while all individuals reap the benefits of developing entrepreneurial skills, when engineers engage with this type of knowledge, tremendous potential for economic and societal growth is unleashed. Here are some viewpoints on what happens when entrepreneurship skills and engineering collide.
Engineers Come to Understand Customers
The most radical thing a new company can do is sell their product, says serial entrepreneur Steve Blank. He believes that the company founders — not the sales team — should be the first to try to turn a profit, as they will learn firsthand about their product’s shortcomings and usability. Great engineers should directly understand what their customers need. Of course, this idea should also be true for scientists.
Remain Passionate About Entrepreneurship
Renowned entrepreneur and investor Vinod Khosla believes entrepreneurship is the driving engine of the economy. However, the path to entrepreneurial success will be littered with traps of self doubt and setbacks. Khosla reminds engineers to stay committed to their dreams with a passion, as this is an essential ingredient to becoming a change-maker in the world.
Engineers Can Learn Entrepreneurship Skills
Engineers, and students from other technical fields, can learn entrepreneurial skills covering finance, organizational strategy and business model generation, says investor Randy Komisar. These skills are useful for engineers because they provide context about the personality and character of entrepreneurship.
However, according to Komisar, entrepreneurial skills are only part of the equation. In the following clip, he argues that possessing a suitable entrepreneurial character will also come into play. While we believe students can improve their comfort levels for working in environments full of uncertainty and ambiguity, Komisar sees this attribute as an inherent trait that only some individuals possess.
Right now, the economy is looking up in Silicon Valley. For a number of possible reasons, this special place appears to be escaping some of the economic woes plaguing economies in other parts of the world. So what can Silicon Valley offer to help alleviate these issues for others? We think programs such as the STEM Center and the Innovation Corps are a terrific start, however, there may be something else we can export… an entrepreneurial mindset.
Thanks! That mindset is really going to come in handy when I need to feed my family and all the jobs have left town. I know… telling someone to build an entrepreneurial mindset is like telling someone to stay positive. However, even if the advice seems soft and intangible, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying to follow.
What if the big companies never come back to town? What if no more manufacturing plants show up and hire 5,000 people? What do you do then? The government looks for ways to stimulate the economy, but at the end of the day, the government can’t employ everyone forever. So what do we do? Perhaps it’s time to accept that all careers in the future will be entrepreneurial.
One of the least talked about attributes of successful entrepreneurs is an ability to work in environments fraught with ambiguity. While this skill is important for leaders, thriving amidst ambiguity is a skill that is valuable for everyone. And in these economic times it’s more important than ever. You’re not alone when it comes to building your entrepreneurial mindset, but it will be up to you to reach out to others.
In the following video clip, serial entrepreneur Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn, PayPal) talks about the power of networks to share knowledge, information and resources. As you watch the clip, consider how can you build new networks of knowledge in your community? It’s likely that other members of your community have skill sets you need, or ones you can leverage, to work on new ideas and projects.
Rather than sitting and waiting for someone to give you a chance, embrace ambiguity and connect with others around you to create new opportunities. That is being entrepreneurial and working with an entrepreneurial mindset. Echoing an idea shared by Hoffman, individuals do not create competitive advantage by coming up with a great idea, but by being the ones in motion toward achieving it.
The autumn 2011 edition of the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar (ETL) kicks off Wednesday, October 5. Join us at ETL on Wednesdays, from 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm, in the NVIDIA Auditorium at the Huang Engineering Center at Stanford, to enjoy this quarter’s engaging mix of innovators and entrepreneurs.
Stanford students can sign-up for MS&E 472 to earn one unit of credit for the course, and those who enroll should attend an information session on Wednesday, September 28. Members of the public interested in earning credit for this quarter’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar should contact the Stanford Center for Professional Development. Visit their online catalog.
A new quarter of ETL means more opportunities to hear first hand from entrepreneurial leaders and pioneers in different industry and technology sectors. And for those of you not able to attend in person, this also means new lecture podcasts and videos available for free on the Entrepreneurship Corner (ECorner) website. You can also enjoy ECorner on-the-go with our free iPhone app.
In 2006, David Friedberg founded WeatherBill, which offers customers the ability to purchase customizable weather insurance, based on global weather simulation modeling and information from local weather monitoring systems. Prior to founding WeatherBill, Friedberg worked as a founding member of Google’s corporate development team and a business product manager for Google AdWords. He has also invested in dozens of technology companies, and previously worked at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
As the CEO of Evernote, Libin leads the company’s effort to offer customers the ability to easily collect and search ideas, notes, or moments of inspirations, captured on the user’s device of choice. Libin’s background includes leading multiple Internet companies from startup to rapid growth and commercial success. Prior to joining Evernote, Libin founded and served as president of CoreStreet, which provides credential and identity management technologies to governments and large corporations. Libin was also the founder and CEO of Engine 5, a software development company acquired by Vignette Corporation.
Brad Feld has more than 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur and early stage investor. Prior to the Foundry Group, Feld co-founded Mobius Venture Capital, and Intensity Ventures, which launched and operated several software companies. Feld currently serves on the board of directors of numerous companies, including Gist and Zynga. He is also a co-founder of TechStars, a mentorship-driven seed stage investment program, and he is the author of Do More Faster and the widely read blogs at feld.com and askthevc.com.
Over his 20-year career designing consumer products, Summit’s work has included innovations for Apple, Nike, Palm, and other major brands. Summit has held faculty positions teaching design and process at Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon, and Singularity University. Additionally, Summit writes for Time Compression Magazine on the art and technology enabled by additive fabrication.
Nov. 2: Mårten Mickos – CEO of Eucalyptus; Former CEO of MySQL AB
Mickos leads Eucalyptus Systems’ efforts to deliver on-premise infrastructure-as-a-service clouds to IT departments within enterprise organizations. During Mickos’ seven year tenure as CEO of MySQL AB, he grew that company from a small startup to the second largest open source company in the world. After Sun Microsystems acquired MySQL AB, Mickos served as Senior Vice President of Sun’s database group. Mickos has previously held other CEO and senior executive positions in his native Finland.
In his role at Method, Lowry focuses on sustainable innovations for Method’s line of home care products. He also directs the sustainability aspects of product design, sourcing, production and marketing. Lowry previously worked as a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institiution, developing software products related to climate change modeling. He has been honored as one of Vanity Fair’s Global Citizens and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) Man of the Year for his pioneering work on sustainable business and product design.
Since joining KPCB in 2005, Mead has focused his work in the life sciences sector, building on his career success in identifying new medical technologies, developing new markets and therapies and building world-class management teams. Previously, Mead was president of Guidant Vascular Intervention, a billion dollar division of Guidant with over 4500 employees. Mead also serves on the boards of Apnicure, Corventis, Inspire Medical Systems, intersect ENT, Invuity, Navigenics, Pulmonx, Spiracur, Spinal Modulation and Voyage Medical.
Nov. 30: Jessica Mah – Co-Founder, Architect and CEO of inDinero
As the co-founder and CEO of inDinero, Mah drives the development of the company’s product strategy, software development, and design efforts. inDinero’s online software product offers business customers an easier way to see and manage their money. Since Mah and her partners orginal build of the core product in 2009, inDinero has raised seed funding from numerous sources, including Y Combinator. Mah has been programming since the age of nine and starting businesses since the age of 12.
Prof. Tom Byers
Recently, the National Science Foundation awarded a grant to our program at Stanford University to launch a national center for teaching innovation and entrepreneurship in engineering. We are deeply grateful for this opportunity to help our nation’s commitment to innovation and economic growth.
Connecting students with the best technology entrepreneurship minds and organizations is a key component of our entrepreneurship and innovation courses at Stanford. This includes a passionate commitment to experiential learning, balanced with exposure to the latest research and theory. The key here is to help bright young minds come to perceive their technical gifts as our greatest hope for creating positive economic and societal change in the world.
Another essential component to the education of 21st century engineers is learning how to move research from the lab, to the classroom, and then into the world. With the United States seeking to maintain its innovation edge, developing more engineers and scientists who understand the value of concepts such as business models and product development is of the upmost importance.
[quote_right]”Our aim is nothing less than to fundamentally change how engineers are educated in America.”[/quote_right]Our program believes these concepts are a major key to unlocking the full potential of students to become world-changing innovators. With this grant, we hope to encourage this idea and share the wealth of dynamic entrepreneurship education insights being generated at universities across the US. Our aim is nothing less than to fundamentally change how engineers are educated in America.
Along with Stanford Professors Kathleen Eisenhardt and Sheri Sheppard, my fellow principal investigators on the project, we hope this center will catalyze changes in undergraduate U.S. engineering programs by developing an education, research and outreach hub for the creation and sharing of resources among the almost 350 U.S. engineering schools.
The center, launching operation in September 2011, will focus on three critical goals:
Create the next wave of American innovators and entrepreneurs who will build lasting economic growth and job creation.
Provide offerings tailored to address the distinct innovation education issues across all engineering disciplines.
Leverage an open platform to connect students and faculty across U.S. engineering schools to share the latest tools and insights related to entrepreneurship education.
The center’s efforts to deliver the latest research and insights into classrooms will not only benefit students, but will also allow participating faculty to leverage the center’s network to disseminate research on the efficacy of entrepreneurship education. This accelerated approach will also impact the future development of the center and its processes, and we will actively engage participation by U.S. faculty and students to understand our impact. The center will develop, disseminate and deliver content across the US, and we are fortunate to be partnering with the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) in this effort.
To augment NSF funding and ground our center in real world experience, we are establishing a growing list of corporate partners, including some of the most innovative companies and venture capital firms in the United States, such as Raytheon, Microsoft, MWH Global, Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ), Edison International, Accel Partners, the X-Prize Foundation and Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers. These partners will provide resources for curriculum development, dissemination tools and student access to industry mentors.
While we encourage all students who have a desire to start their own companies, not everyone who takes entrepreneurship courses will end up founding a company or becoming a serial entrepreneur. However, entrepreneurship education provides broad skills that complement a technical education, empowers citizens to create their own futures in uncertain times and encourages development of the innovative problem-solving abilities necessary to solve our nation’s most daunting challenges.
Prof. Tom Byers
In 2011-12, STVP will present an entirely new series of Accel Roundtable on Entrepreneurship Education (REE) conferences, in partnership with regional hosts on five continents. REE conferences bring together business, science, engineering and design faculty, with business and policy leaders, interested in building leading-edge entrepreneurship programs and ecosystems.
Someone who truly understands the power of these events is STVP Co-Director Tom Byers. As a dedicated entrepreneurship educator at Stanford’s School of Engineering, Byers is excited by the ever-growing wave of interest for entrepreneurship and innovation education around the world. Byers sat down with us to discuss the benefits of the REE conference experience and how each conference offers something unique for regional attendees.
New conference dates have been announced for the 2011-12 season. Where is REE headed this year?
Byers: Our schedule for the upcoming year is really fantastic. We are kicking things off in Puerto Rico, where Interamerican University will host REE Latin America in October. The 2010 REE Latin America conference was a packed house, so we’re excited to build on that success, this autumn, in San Juan. We also have upcoming REE conferences scheduled in Asia, Europe, the Middle East/North Africa region, and we will also hold REE USA in San Francisco, in partnership with the NCIIA’s OPEN conference in March.
How would you describe the REE conference experience?
Byers: Focused and collaborative. The educators and leaders from business and government who attend REE know these are very special gatherings. You get the chance to meet and work side by side with leaders in the field. You are surrounded by colleagues who are passionately committed to driving innovation and entrepreneurship education. And attendees leave with an infectious desire to be change-makers once they return home. Plus, REE conferences are intimate enough to offer attendees solid face-to-face time to network and build relationships with peers.
Is that intimate environment created by design?
Byers: It’s one we definitely encourage, and I think that each conference reflects this attitude to some extent. REE conferences are very interactive, with less emphasis on the presentation of scholarly papers than at traditional academic meetings. And each REE also has a unique character that reflects the host region’s culture and entrepreneurial ecosystem. We love to see new ideas presented at REE, and watch them be tested and examined through a region’s specific cultural lens.
Do you see similarities from region to region when it comes to entrepreneurship education?
[quote_right]Today’s educators want their research and coursework to have a sustaining power to affect change in the real world.[/quote_right]Byers: Absolutely. Every university would like to have deep impact within their local or national entrepreneurial ecosystem. At REE, we don’t see a lot of faculty or institutions solely interested in abstract or esoteric aspects of entrepreneurship. Today’s educators want their research and coursework to have a sustaining power to affect change in the real world.
What does change mean in this context?
Byers: It really depends, as entrepreneurial focus can vary from program to program. Some schools are looking to focus solely on training founders or being an incubator for their region. While this is not the purpose of our program at Stanford, we understand many international faculty are working within entrepreneurial ecosystems that are still early in their development, and with student populations with far less exposure and inherent inclination for the entrepreneurial life.
Can you describe a best-case example of experiential entrepreneurship learning?
Byers: At Stanford we try to infuse experiential learning into as many of our entrepreneurship and innovation courses as possible. This may be most evident in our Mayfield Fellows Program, which I have the sincere pleasure of teaching. Each spring a select group of our students take a deep dive into entrepreneurship through a series of classes and a hands-on internship in a developing technology company. This frontline exposure provides a lifetime of insights for the students.
Is it possible for faculty at other schools to build this type of program, particularly outside Silicon Valley?
[quote_right]I think it’s just as important, if not more so, for programs outside Silicon Valley to build course experiences that connect students to major technology firms in a region.[/quote_right]Byers: I think it’s just as important, if not more so, for programs outside Silicon Valley to build course experiences that connect students to major technology firms in a region. While we would encourage all students who have a desire to start their own companies, not everyone who takes entrepreneurship courses will end up founding a company or becoming a serial entrepreneur. However, entrepreneurship education provides broad skills that complement a technical education, which can then empower students to become innovative professionals in larger, established organizations, as well.
How should an entrepreneurially-minded faculty member go about developing a program?
Byers: A major key is for educators to identify the business, science and technology leaders who are successful in their home region. These leaders run the companies that can provide support and mentoring opportunities to get a program off the ground. Of course, designing a regionally-informed curriculum that fits the needs of the ecosystem is also a critical component. That’s why we started the Roundtable on Entrepreneurship Education conference series in 1998. At REE, educators can connect with one another and share the latest strategies and most-effective techniques for teaching entrepreneurship. The insights and tools you learn at REE can be put to work immediately.
In all the excitement around creating a new product or starting a fresh company, even seasoned entrepreneurs can lose sight of the importance of connecting with customers. Maybe customers aren’t that interested in what you’re selling. Maybe your product doesn’t actually solve a problem they have. Maybe listening to customer feedback is the key to turning your ho-hum offering into a product they just can’t live without. To keep these very important people in the front of your mind, enjoy these excellent insights on connecting with your customers.
Use Technology to Enchant Customers
In the clip below, entrepreneur and author Guy Kawasaki explains how technology implementation affects a company’s ability to enchant customers. Kawasaki urges companies to “remove roadblocks” when it comes to helping customers interact with a product, and he also offers tips on the best types of interactions and information to offer to be successful in social media environments.
Acting on Customer Discovery
Customer feedback simply cannot be outsourced, according to serial entrepreneur Steve Blank. Here he shares an anecdote demonstrating the importance of speaking directly to customers. Blank recalls how an entrepreneur was forced to listen to customer needs and tried to alter his product accordingly. These changes turned single-digit sales into the thousands, and resulted in an eventual $400 million company sale.
Acquire Customers with the Right Model
Originally, Box.net customers were charged for online storage when they signed up with the company. However, CEO and Co-Founder Aaron Levie realized the opportunity to grow the customer base by lowering barriers to product adoption. In this clip, Levie describes the company’s successful implementation of the “freemium” business model, which not only increased their number of customers, but also served as a future differentiator from larger competitors.
Is it possible to have an amazing product, but have no idea who it’s for? Absolutely, according to Idealab Founder and CEO Bill Gross. Before starting Idealab, the tech incubation firm that started Picasa and Overture, Gross started an educational software company called Knowledge Adventure.
In the early 1990’s, Knowledge Adventure was selling a reasonable number of their multimedia CD-ROM products, but as Gross explains in the video below, the company struggled to explain who their products were actually for. Gross even admits one product’s packaging claimed it to be, “fun for ages 8 to 108.”
While this is an understandable approach in trying to capture a larger audience, the result was less than effective in targeting specific customer groups. To attack this issue, the company mobilized their workforce into “weekend warriors,” deploying employees into retail outlets to demonstrate the products and gain direct customer feedback.
“We would have never, ever discovered it, if we had not been in the stores, seeing the confusion of [customers] in the aisle.”
While this initiative boosted sales, more importantly, the effort illuminated a customer pain point that would become the basis for a major pivot. After each weekend excursion, employees shared stories and insights from their experiences with customers. One major observation was that parents were confused as to which product to purchase for their child. Was the cool Space Adventure product in their hands meant for their five-year-old or ten-year old child?
Knowledge Adventure subsequently built and marketed a product specifically for children just entering kindergarten. The result: the age-specific product sold “20 to 50” times as many units as the company’s other products. Off this success, the company would eventually build targeted products for children entering the first through sixth grades.
Pursuing valuable customer feedback allowed for the discovery of this major pivot, which Gross admits, “We would have never, ever discovered… if we had not been in the stores, seeing the confusion of [customers] in the aisle.”
As core components to economic recovery and stimulation, entrepreneurship and innovation are more than buzzwords at many colleges and universities across the globe. When members of the higher education community convene at the 15th Open Conference in Washington, D.C., from March 24 – 26, 2011, they will focus on the latest strategies and successes for developing learning in these critical areas.
NCIIA, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance presents Open 2011, and for the first time, STVP’s Roundtable on Entrepreneurship Education (REE) will take place as part of the Open conference. The combination of Open and REE creates the premiere event for faculty and students engaged in entrepreneurship and technology innovation in higher education.
On point with the national discussion around sustaining focus on innovation, Dr. Kristina Johnson, former U.S. Undersecretary of Energy, will present a keynote address on how the innovation landscape can provide a pathway to economic recovery. In another address, Startup America Partnership CEO Scott Case will discuss his organization’s initiatives and how they impact the work of higher education faculty who teach innovation and entrepreneurship.
Open 2011 offers panel discussions and lectures that focus on aspects of developing technology innovation education, in areas such as design, assessment, and the commercialization of student ventures. There will also be numerous workshops that offer attendees tools and techniques that can be used in their own programs and courses.
Enjoy this video showing some of the sights and sounds of Open 2010.
Our REE USA conference is proud to be taking part in Open 2011. As a “conference within a conference,” REE USA offers an engaging mix of events focusing on the future of entrepreneurship education in the US and abroad. REE sessions will explore the student perspective of entrepreneurship education and examine concepts for building entrepreneurship across universities. Here are some highlighted REE USA sessions:
Fantasy Island: Brainstorming the Future of Entrepreneurship Education How will entrepreneurship education change and evolve over the next five or ten years? As the demand for entrepreneurship education continues to grow, how can successful courses and programs scale to reach a larger audience? In this interactive brainstorming session, take part in defining the future of the field.
How Are We Doing? The Student Innovator’s Perspective Colleges and universities expend a large amount of effort building entrepreneurship and innovation into new programs. Have these efforts been successful in supporting students’ ability to develop new ideas and ventures? Hear from a panel of student innovators to learn the resources they find to be most beneficial to their work.
Moving Beyond the Inertia of the Business Plan Researchers do not agree on the relationship between venture success and completed, tome-like business plans, so what role can planning play to create momentum for new ventures? This interactive panel discussion addresses startup planning as an effective exercise in momentum generation.
Global Entrepreneurship Education: Around the World in 90 Minutes Does entrepreneurship education translate across international borders? This workshop and panel examines the similarities and differences of how entrepreneurship education is taught throughout the world. Audience participation will be encouraged as the session explores the unique variables and opportunities that exist in the US, Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
Toward a New Model of University-wide Entrepreneurship What does it take to build and integrate campus-wide entrepreneurship programs? Based on successful university entrepreneurship examples, this workshop examines components of infrastructure and curriculum development, technology commercialization, and community engagement.
Aaron Levie is a young man with some very big ideas on improving how enterprises share and work with information. Levie started Box.net out of his college dorm room, upon realizing fellow students shared his need for cheap and accessible online storage. Along with identifying this pain point, he also recognized major changes occurring in business and computing. With data storage efficiency continuing to improve at a rapid pace, and greater calls to enhance data access for remote workforces, Levie saw a serious opportunity he needed to jump on before someone else did. In this video from Levie’s visit to the DFJ ETL speaker series, he discusses the decision to make the leap.
Constantly Changing Business Models
According to Levie, Box’s business model would go through nearly constant changes in the early days. The young company examined numerous ways to build revenue and grow their customer base. At the company’s inception, users were charged for online space, a model that had some initial success. Box also considered sponsorship agreements with media companies, an idea that was met with little interest. The company even considered licensing the technology, allowing partners to rebrand the service as a white-label product. But Levie and his team were also focused on finding ways to reduce friction and increase product adoption. The successful answer, as Levie explains in the following video, was the introduction of a “freemium” model.
Deciding to Focus on the Enterprise
Once Box saw huge increases in their customer base, the company needed to drill down on where they could best compete in the burgeoning “cloud” computing space. Looking at the major companies that were entering the space, or would have the resources to do so at any moment, caused a question to arise. Would Box have better chances of success staying as a consumer offering, or becoming a targeted service for the enterprise market? Box settled on enterprise, based on a number of factors that Levie shares in the video below. The most interesting of these was Box discovering they could out innovate much larger competitors by releasing product iterations at a much faster rate than industry-standard three-year product cycles.
Compete Through Product Iteration
Levie believes the success of a startup is directly tied to an organization’s ability to try many things on the market, and to quickly shut down the ones that don’t work. Beyond this concept of “failing fast,” Levie believes startups need to find ways to compete that are impossible for bigger competitors to accomplish. In this space, for a company such as Microsoft, they would need to cannibalize multiple revenue streams to better compete, according to Levie. Of course, this option may not be possible for a large firm, so Box can take advantage of this situation by maintaining focus on their product, and staying agile to respond to future threats. While the use of cloud computing continues to blossom across many industries, this agility may be Box’s most competitive advantage. In this video, Levie explains this competitive position.
At STVP, we work to develop “T-shaped” individuals. Within Stanford’s School of Engineering, that means helping students with strong skill sets in a technical or engineering discipline to also develop broad entrepreneurship and innovation skills. Learning these new “top of the T” skills allows students to more easily approach problems as challenges.
The generation of novel and unique solutions to problems are easier to develop when you gain the big picture perspective that comes with entrepreneurial thinking. However, the value of an entrepreneurial mindset increases for those who work hard to attain that initial deep well of knowledge in a particular area of study.
Tom Conrad, Pandora’s chief technical officer, has worked for major organizations with different views on whether employees should be “renaissance” thinkers, or should stay tightly focused on a specific role. Entrepreneurial skills benefit employees in both types of environments, but Conrad urges individuals to find out what they are great at, and to always look for opportunities to go deep.
The desire for change is an easy concept to capitalize on in America. A society that embraces consumerism-based “retail therapy” and has an endless appetite for self-help products indicates a robust market. However, how hungry are people and organizations for actual change on a transformative level? The desire for change, the taking of action to create change, and the lasting commitment to achieve change are three entirely different things.
In 1989, when Wendy Kopp came up with an idea to try and end inequities she saw in America’s education system, she was only at the first stage. Kopp would come to learn hard lessons about creating change as CEO of Teach For America, the social entrepreneurship organization she built to tackle these major issues. Whether you’re a fan or foe Teach For America’s efforts to change education in some of the nation’s most disadvantaged communities, Kopp’s experience still provides solid lessons on staying committed to change.
Not Everyone Wants Your Brand of Change
When an organization tries to make change, a plan is developed and put into action. However, even with the most thorough planning, new information and unexpected situations will present themselves upon the plan’s execution. When Teach For America released its first 500 teachers into schools, according to Kopp, many of these bright and passionate agents for change ran straight into walls. These new teachers found themselves in the midst of rigid, traditional school districts throughout America, populated with teachers and administrators that took offense at the idea that a person with just a summer’s worth of pre-service training would know how to better teach students than more experienced educators. Kopp quickly realized that affecting change in such entrenched systems was going to be an even harder task than originally thought.
Learning Curves Never End
Teach For America learned that having a plan for change is not enough. In the video below, Kopp describes the various learning curves that she and the organization would come to face. An organization must be willing to constantly iterate their approach and processes to address new insights gained along the way. Teach For America continues to learn new things about recruitment, professional development, financing models, and working to affect change through classroom instruction and public policy initiatives. The great lesson is to accept that learning curves never end.
Leaders Must Commit to Change
Over her organization’s 20-year history, Kopp has come to identify certain factors that make environments more conducive to achieving transformational change. When asked for the most common factor, Kopp explains that within an environment the leaders must be absolutely committed to making change happen. This may seem an obvious point on the surface, but think of how often we see leaders walk back from early proclamations of change, such as department heads who pull funding from product teams when a project begins to stall, or politicians who back down when faced with political interference.
For Kopp, the leaders who bring about the most transformational change retain their tenacity for seeing the change happen, and also bring high-levels of energy and discipline to the effort. While Teach For America builds leaders in education, Kopp also sees these traits as similar to those observed in transformational leaders from other industry sectors. In the following video, Kopp elaborates on these traits, and identifies other important leadership qualities, including an obsession with building strong teams and systems, and the willingness to create cultures committed to continuous improvement — qualities all entrepreneurs should seek to build.
“Out of all the classes I took at Stanford, none has influenced my career to a greater and more positive degree.” – Albert Hsu
This is how Albert Hsu feels about his experience in the Mayfield Fellows Program, in which he participated in 2005. Offered through the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, the Mayfield Fellows Program (MFP) is a nine-month, life-changing entrepreneurship journey that takes its participants through a rich combination of intense study and real-world technology venture experience.
For 2011, the program is currently accepting applications from Stanford juniors, seniors, and co-terminal students. On average, the competitive program accepts only 12 students each year; and with applications due by noon on February 4, interested applicants have just a few more weeks to apply. MFP information sessions will be held at STVP’s offices in the Huang Engineering Center on January 20 and 26, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
MFP was founded at Stanford University in 1996, to provide students with exposure to entrepreneurial leadership in the high-technology sector. MFP is taught by STVP Co-Director Dr. Tom Byers and STVP Executive Director Dr. Tina Seelig. According to Seelig, the program impacts students’ lives well beyond the nine-month session. “The students who come through MFP develop innovative ways of seeing problems as real opportunities, a skill they can use to their benefit for the rest of their lives.”
[quote_right]”I learned that being innovative and entrepreneurial doesn’t necessarily mean starting your own company. It is a state of mind and a framework for solving problems.”
— Sandy Yu, MFP alum[/quote_right]During the spring quarter, Mayfield Fellows study entrepreneurship issues related to the areas of people, products, and resources. As most of the issues examined in the spring overlap more than one of these areas, this period of research highlights the engaging and complex decisions faced by technology entrepreneurs. With guidance from professors and industry professionals, MFP students also investigate business models and case studies to discover examples of both success and missteps by startup organizations.
During the summer quarter, students take a paid internship at one of a number of emerging companies in Silicon Valley. Over the years, Mayfield Fellows have been placed at a variety of firms, such as Facebook, Google, Plaxo, IDEO, Atheros, and Hara. Beyond working at a company that might go on to change the world, Mayfield Fellows gain access to mentorship from many of the visionary leaders and thinkers who start, and work at, these firms.
In fact, sometimes the relationship is so positive, students end up finding a home to start their careers. Alex Liu, a 2001 Mayfield Fellow, is a perfect example, having stayed with Atheros for the 10 years since his Mayfield placement. “Without MFP, I never would have had the platform of visibility, confidence, and scope that allowed me to start these projects. I am immensely grateful to MFP for my present success and satisfaction in work and life,” says Liu.
In the fall quarter, students return to Stanford to reflect on their experiences and share what they have learned with the other Mayfield Fellows. The students compare what they experienced during summer against the models and concepts they evaluated during the previous spring. As many unexpected events can occur during the summer job placements (product launches, IPOs, mergers), the fall quarter is also a time for students to appreciate that the paths of entrepreneurial leaders will not always follow a pre-determined plan, and are often altered by new challenges requiring a willingness to take risks.
With each subsequent year of the MFP, Dr. Byers continues to be impressed with each group of fellows. “Every spring, we are fortunate to begin with 12 exceptional Stanford students, who possess intelligence and poise. And over the course of the program, I am continually impressed by their growth and insights.”
In December, the 2010 class of Mayfield Fellows took part in a graduation ceremony at Stanford’s Huang Engineering Center. Surrounded by family, friends, summer employers, and professors, each of the graduates shared insights and memories from their Mayfield Fellows experience. Each one articulated how fortunate they were to take part in the program, but each also noted the priceless connections they built with their fellow classmates. The positive camaraderie, mixed with this unique entrepreneurship experience, continues to make the Mayfield Fellows Program such an attractive opportunity for a select group of Stanford students.
The Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar series begins on Wednesday, January 12, with Teach For America CEO Wendy Kopp. As the brainchild of Kopp while studying at Princeton, in 1989, Teach For America works for equity in American classrooms by recruiting some of the brightest college graduates to take on the duty of teaching. From its inception as a social entrepreneurship startup with a tiny budget, Teach for America is now an enterprise-size organization with net assets in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Her visit offers students the chance to hear from an entrepreneur who has traversed the successes and struggles of starting an organization and staying with it for the last 20 years.
The ETL seminar is actually a course hosted by the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University. Stanford students can sign-up for MS&E 472 to earn one unit of credit for the course, but all members of the public are welcome to attend the seminars on Wednesdays, from 4:30-5:30 pm, in the Huang Engineering Center at Stanford University. Of course, for those fans of ETL who may not be able to make it to the campus, you can enjoy all of our speakers’ entrepreneurship insights, lessons, and stories by visiting ECorner. Visitors can access podcasts, full-length videos, and highlighted clips from each of our speakers.
Here are a few sample videos from last quarter’s series.
For winter quarter the ETL Seminar presents visionaries and entrepreneurs from a number of cutting-edge sectors.
Mobile, Web, and Cloud Computing Technology
Aaron Levie (Jan 19), co-founder and CEO of Box.net, leads an organization seeking to let everyone have the freedom to share content, from anywhere, through the power of cloud computing. Beyond individual users and small businesses, Box.net has also shown the value of their platform to a growing number of enterprise customers.
Wenceslao Casares and Meyer Malka (Feb 9) are the founders and co-CEOs of Bling Nation, as well as founding partners of private investment firm, MECK, Ltd. Bling Nation’s mobile technology platform works to connect users’ online and offline customer experiences. Businesses can build loyalty programs, while consumers gain integration between smooth checkout experiences and their social media presences.
Can you use captured carbon-dioxide emissions to help develop sustainable building materials? Founder Brent Constantz (Jan 26) and his company, Calera, are doing just that. With Calera’s portfolio of technologies, the company is building a profitable model to create a new future for the environment. Constantz also serves as a consulting associate professor at Stanford.
As a successful serial entrepreneur and the founder of Idealab, Bill Gross (Feb 23) has a track record of bringing innovative technologies to market. As an incubator, Idealab focuses on technologies and products in the clean-tech, communications, Internet media, and automation categories. Gross also serves on the board of directors at eSolar, a solar power plant company, and the California Institute of Technology.
Susan Desmond-Hellmann (Feb 2) is not only chancellor of UCSF and an oncologist and clinical researcher, but she also served as president of product development at Genentech for much of the past decade. She was also named one of the world’s seven most “powerful innovators” by Forbes magazine in 2009.
As president and CEO of medical device company OptiMedica, Mark Forchette (Feb 16) leads the organization in its mission to deliver leading-edge technologies for the treatment of ocular disease. Some of the company’s most valuable offerings for the treatment of retinal conditions were initially developed right here at Stanford.
Special ETL Seminar to Close E-Week 2011
Author Guy Kawasaki (Mar 2) rounds out the series for winter quarter, discussing his new book, Enchantment. Kawasaki is a legendary visionary, tech evangelist, and serial entrepreneur. Video clips from his previous visits to DFJ ETL are some of our most popular content. As an added bonus, The Valley Girl, Jesse Draper, will be holding a post-seminar interview with Kawasaki. Be sure not to miss this special seminar on March 2. We look forward to seeing you at ETL throughout the winter.
As 2010 comes to a close, it makes sense to take a moment to consider how we have spent our time throughout the past year, and to choose what to focus on in 2011. Anyone planning entrepreneurial adventures in the coming year should be prepared to judiciously manage their time, as it’s one of an entrepreneur’s most precious commodities. Today’s guest post is on the real value of time, from STVP‘s Executive Director, Tina Seelig.
Most people look at their bank accounts with great attention and assess how much money they have to spend, to invest, and to give away… but, they don’t look at their time the same way, and end up wasting this incredibly valuable resource. In fact, time is much more valuable than money because you can use your time to make money, but you can’t use money to purchase more time.
Time is the great equalizer… each day has only 24 hours — nobody has any more than anyone else. Everyone, from poets to presidents, fills those hours, one after the other, until they are all filled up. Every single minute is unique, and once gone, can never be regained.
When you look at someone who has accomplished a lot, you can be pretty sure that he or she has spent considerable amounts of time mastering the required skills, filling hours upon hours with hard work. There are those who look at others’ accomplishments and say, “I had that idea, “ or “I could have done that.” But ideas are cheap and intentions are just that. If you don’t invest the time needed to achieve those goals then all you have are empty ambitions.
People often say, “I don’t have the time to…,” fill in the blank with whatever you like: exercise, make dinner, write a book, start a company, run for political office. What makes these people think that they have less time than anyone else? Of course they don’t. We all have the same 24 hours in each day and make real decisions about how we spend them. If you really want to get in shape, then carve out time to exercise. If you want to write a book, then pick up a pen and do it. And, if you want to run for president, then get started. It isn’t going to happen if you plan your day around your favorite TV shows or spend hours updating your Facebook page. These are entertaining distractions that eat up your irreplaceable time.
I teach a course on creativity and innovation at Stanford University. During a workshop on how to brainstorm I often give the following prompt: There aren’t enough hours in a day. Come up with creative solutions to this dilemma. The brainstorming results in an endless list of solutions — from the practical to the preposterous — demonstrating that there are lots of ways to extract more from each hour, each day, and each year. Some of the most interesting solutions involve figuring out how to do two things at once. I know many people who have successfully incorporated this approach into their own lives.
For instance, I met a woman named Audrey Carlson several years ago who was struggling to figure out how to spend time with her friends and take care of her growing family. She started a group called “Chop and Chat.” Every Sunday six friends got together to cook at a member’s home. Each member brought the ingredients to make a different recipe that was then split into six portions. Members took home six different main courses for the week. Chop and Chat was an inventive way for the women to cook together, socialize, and prepare meals for their families.
Another example is venture capitalist Fern Mandelbaum. You would assume that meetings with Fern take place in her office… and you’d be wrong. Fern is an avid athlete and her meetings take place on hiking paths. Everyone who knows Fern knows to wear walking shoes and carry a bottle of water to their meetings in anticipation of a strenuous hike. Fern finds that this strategy is a great way to get to know each entrepreneur while also getting exercise.
There is an oft-quoted saying that “time is money.” You can interpret this to mean that time is a valuable currency. In fact, each day another 24 hours is deposited into each of our “bank accounts.” We get a choice about how to spend these hours. We decide how much we spend right away, how much gets invested for the future, and how much we give away. The worst choice is to waste these hours by letting them slip away.
It is almost noon, and I have 12 more hours to invest today!
In the winter quarter, Steve Blank, along with co-teachers Ann Miura-Ko and Jon Feiber, will present ENGR 245: Technology Entrepreneurship and Lean Startups. This new course will present students with a intense and rewarding opportunity to try out the lean startup approach to entrepreneurship. In this post from Steve Blank’s blog, he explains his approach to the exciting new class.
I’ve introduced a new class at Stanford to teach engineers, scientists and other professionals how startups really get built. They are going to get out of the building, build a company and get orders in ten weeks.
Why Teach This Class? Business schools teach aspiring executives a variety of courses around the execution ofknown business models, (accounting, organizational behavior, managerial skills, marketing, operations, etc.) In contrast, startups searchfor a business model. (Or more accurately, startups are a temporary organization designed to search for a scalable and repeatable business model.) There are few courses which teach aspiring entrepreneurs the skills (business models, customer and agile development, design thinking, etc.) to optimize this search.
Many entrepreneurship courses focus on teaching students “how to write a business plan.” Others emphasize how to build a product. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know I believe that: 1) a product is just a part of a startup, but understanding customers, channel, pricing, etc. are what make it a business,
2) business plans are fine for large companies where there is an existing market, existing product and existing customers. In a startup none of these are known.
Therefore we developed a class to teach students how to think about all the parts of building a business, not just the product.
Students will start by mapping their assumptions (their business model) and then each week test these hypotheses with customers and partners outside in the field (customer development) and use an iterative and incremental development methodology (agile development) to build the product.
The goal is to get students out of the building to test each of the 9 parts of their business model, understand which of their assumptions were wrong, and figure out what they need to do fix it. Their objective is to get users, orders, customers, etc. (and if a web-based product, a minimum feature set,) all delivered in 10 weeks. Our objective is to get them using the tools that help startups to test their hypotheses and make adjustments when they learn that their original assumptions about their business are wrong. We want them to experience faulty assumptions not as a crisis, but as a learning event called a pivot —an opportunity to change the business model.
How’s the Class Organized? During the first week of class, students form teams (optimally 4 people in a team but we’re flexible).Their company can focus in any area– software, hardware, medical device or a service of any kind.
The class meets ten times, once a week for three hours. In those three hours we’ll do two things. First, we’’ll lecture on one of the 9 building blocks of a business model. Secondly, each student team will present “lessons learned” from their team’s experience getting out of the building learning, testing, iterating and/or pivoting their business model.
They’ll share with the class answers to these questions:
What did you initially think?
So what did you do?
Then what did you learn?
What are you going to do next?
At the course’s end, each team will present their entire business model and highlight what they learned, their most important pivots and conclusions.
Are you one of the over 12 million players of World or Warcraft, or WoW? If yes, according to Dr. John Seely Brown, your game play may prove the concept of exponential learning.
For those not fluent in the online world of Azeroth, WoW is a massively multi-player online role-playing game, or MMORPG, that allows thousands of players to interact within an online gaming world, at the same time. Individual players form guilds that work as collective units to achieve advanced goals, such as going on raids within the fantasy world. The wildly popular game just released Cataclysm, the fourth expansion pack in the WoW series.
As an Independent Co-Chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge, and former Chief Scientist at Xerox PARC, Brown believes a major knowledge economy exists on the edge of the WoW ecosystem. He argues that so much knowledge is created within the game each day, without the collective guild structure, individual players would be compromised by the onslaught of information to process and learn from. On an average night within the WoW universe approximately 12,000 new ideas are created — a pace that outpaces even biotechnology, according to Brown.
Whether you’re a spell-casting mage or a healing druid, Brown claims successful guild members work together to process all these new ideas each week, and then distill this information into actionable ways in which to act in the future. High-end guilds even go a step further by doing after-action reviews following each raid. This form of play requires players to craft their own dashboards to measure personal performance, as well as comment on the performance of fellow guild members.
Watch the video for a deeper understanding of the knowledge economy within World of Warcraft.
Just about everyone has heard the advice, “learn from your mistakes.” However, actually following this bit of wisdom is much harder to do. You may easily remember your mistakes, or the embarrassment and consequences that came with making them, but how do you actually deal with mistakes?
Marissa Mayer, Google’s VP of Geographic and Local Services, was a recent guest on a Digg Dialogg video interview. A number of the interview questions, submitted by Digg users, asked Mayer about Google’s biggest mistakes. Her answer offers a unique way of viewing the whole idea of mistakes. According to Mayer, because Google constantly experiments with new products and launches early, “mistakes” will always happen. However, Google then quickly reiterates the product based on user feedback during the initial release.
Rather than preventing mistakes, this process openly accepts mistakes as part of an innovative creative process. When Mayer spoke at our Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders seminar, she discussed this very point.
Watch the video, and then share how you deal with mistakes.