Public Entrepreneurship- Harvard Business School MBA Program

Public Entrepreneurship

Course Number 1623

Professor of Management Practice Mitchell Weiss
Spring; Q3Q4; 3 credits
28 Sessions
Project or Exam

Career Focus

This course is designed for students who may found, join, or fund private startup companies that sell to (or around) governments to solve giant problems or who may want to become extreme innovators inside government at some point themselves.

The course may be of particular interest to students curious about AI, autonomy, blockchain, sensors, crowdsourcing, platforms, and related topics, as the cases feature a broad range of contemporary technology applications.

Course Content and Organization

Four modules make up the bulk of the course.

Ideas: What should public entrepreneurs work on? We tackle “problem-finding” and “solution-finding”. We touch on customer discovery to understand needs of citizens and public workers. We meet entrepreneurs who used the tools of design thinking and explore how they can be adapted for public problems.

Risk. How can public leaders and their private partners take on riskier projects? And how do we navigate obstacles to that? We consider whether lean startup techniques can be applied to these efforts. We investigate the notion of “hacking the bureaucracy” in cases where process appears to thwart innovation, and the potential downsides to those approaches.

Opportunity. How can businesses bring new products and services to the public? Are government buying practices the plodding processes out of procurement horror stories, or is that more myth than reality? We look at ways of choosing channels, customers, and modes of revenue-generation. We weigh selling to governments or selling around them.
Scale. We ask how do private and public leaders bring these efforts to transformative levels? We look at the idea of government as a platform and ways to leverage their network effects for growth. We consider whether there are ways to scale efforts in adjacent sectors as well.

We tackle these topics mostly through case discussion, and we spend time with many guests.

Grading and Course Requirements

Grading is based on class participation and each student’s choice of an exam or final project (where students are asked to describe in writing, prototype, and present an entrepreneurial opportunity in a public domain).