Enterprise and the Entrepreneur
The objectives for this course are not easy to define. I teach the course because I appreciate the importance of entrepreneurship in our society and others. Among other things, I want to encourage some of our students to become entrepreneurs -- to become innovators and managers of the technology that will define our future. I enjoy working with students who are excited by the spirit of entrepreneurship. Perhaps the primary objective of this course is to encourage and refine that spirit.
Additionally, I try to develop or enhance skills that raise the probability of success for students who aspire to someday become involved in entrepreneurial ventures. This objective can be further subdivided into a number of categories:
· Awareness of the entrepreneurial environment, including the role played by law and contracts, personnel and other labor management issues, fundraising, marketing and sales techniques, and so forth.
· Stressing the importance of planning and strategy and the devices for implementing them, such as the business plan, timelines, project management, etc.
· Exposure to certain business fundamentals that an entrepreneur should know before starting out.
· Exposure to issues of character, personality, and moral responsibility.
· The capacity for promotion and becoming a tenacious champion of the Koz (traditionally stressed very strongly in this class).
What do we do in this class?
This is a course that combines reading, lectures, class discussion and team presentations.
If you look at the course calendar you will see that I have reading, lectures and discussions arranged by topics, such as discussions of financing, building the team, sales, etc. We will begin these segments with class discussions about the reading assignments for the week (see the section below on Reading with lectures about the material being considered). There will be a class discussion of the reading assigned for that week on Tuesday of that week. (The exception will be on weeks when we have a guest lecturer on Tuesday - on those weeks the discussions will be on Thursday). Therefore you must have all of the assigned reading completed for the week prior to coming to class on Tuesday. Then I will usually give a lecture or two on the same subject.
We are going to study examples of entrepreneurial success and failure. I present a lot of some "cookbook" material based upon my business experience and that of others, especially Mudders. We will have a number of visitors in this class who will come will come and tell insightful stories and offer insights based upon experience.
You will simulate an entrepreneurial start-up by developing and pitching team projects at the end of the semester.
Because this is a seminar course, there are no exams. Your grade will be based upon written work (a business plan) and active class participation (more about that is explained below and will be explained in the first lecture). In case you're reading this fast, let me write it again: I expect active class participation. Very active! Additionally, unlike my other classes, full time class attendance is absolutely mandatory. Although I will forgive missed attendance for illness or necessary appointments (like job interviews) you must otherwise attend every session of this class.
During the last five weeks of class, you will be divided into teams of five and given the task of developing the plans for a start-up enterprise. The final result will be a written business plan and your team will present a verbal project proposal to outside visitors. You will receive both an individual and team grade for this effort. As the project is developed, individual team members will make progress reports. Details on this assignment will be provided in class.
Reading in this course is essential. There are two books assigned for this course: (1) Engineering You Start-up: A Guide for the High-Tech Entrepreneur, by James A. Swanson and Michael L. Baird, 2nd edition, Professional Publications, ISBN 1888577916 (code S&B in course calendar), and (2) The Launch Pad: Inside T Combinator, Silicon Valley's Most Exclusive School for Startups, Penguin, ISBN 978-1-101-6011440 (Note: You can wait until September 24 to get a paperback version of this, which is much cheaper, on Amazon). Review the course calendar for the reading assignments. You are expected to have completed the assigned reading for each week prior to the beginning of class on Tuesday for that week. Each Tuesday, with few exceptions, we are going to discuss that reading. On that day, one or two students will be chosen randomly to lead the discussion and your grade will depend, in part, upon how well you do that. Failure to be prepared will result automatically in a low grade.
One third of your grade will be determined by your class participation in discussions and presentations, including the discussion of the readings assigned for each week, as described in the paragraph above. When you speak and submit written assignments, I write things down and I remember what you've done. (This is the way it is done in a corporation and in the kinds of public contact one makes when one is an entrepreneur - you don't take tests in real life, except for when you're getting your driver's license).One third of your grade will be determined by the grade given for your team's business plan, which is due at the end of the semester. One third of your grade will be determined by the team grade that I give your team based upon your end-of-semester oral presentation.
As time permits, I try to bring visitors from the entrepreneurial community into class to talk to you and tell you their stories. These include alumni and trustees who have started and succeeded at business and financiers who fund and sometimes manage entrepreneurial startups. At the end of the course, when you make your team presentations, one or two of the listeners will probably be venture capitalists. These visitors play a very important role in this class and they provide a wonderful opportunity for students to meet people who work with business startups.