Field Course: Launching Technology Ventures - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Field Course: Launching Technology Ventures

Course Number 6750

Professor Tom Eisenmann
Winter; Q3Q4; 3 credits
Weekly early-evening 90-minute sessions
Project
Enrollment limited to 45 by application

Overview and Career Focus

Working in teams of two or three, students in Field Course: Launching Technology Ventures (FC: LTV) complete a field-based project - either self-sourced or assigned to them - that applies tools/techniques relevant in the product, marketing, sales, or business development functions of new technology ventures. In addition, students attend weekly early-evening sessions featuring skill-building workshops led by outside experts and peer-to-peer feedback on project work-in-progress.

FC: LTV is designed for students who, after graduation, will launch a business, join a startup, or work in an established technology company. FC: LTV complements Launching Technology Ventures (HBS course number 1755), a Q3 1.5-credit case-based short course that examines management challenges in technology startups. Students are welcome to enroll in both courses, but the short course version of LTV is not a prerequisite for FC: LTV.

Students who define specifications for a software application during the fall term field course Product Management 101 (HBS course number 6701) may wish to continue developing the application in FC: LTV.

Projects and Deliverables

Through their course project, students will apply one or more tools/techniques used by functional managers in a new venture. In addition to project-based learning by doing, students will learn from feedback delivered by peers and alumni mentors; from "how to" workshops led by outside experts; and from in-class presentations by other teams. FC: LTV will not include any sessions devoted to case discussion. The following list illustrates, by topic area, the types of tools/techniques that students could apply in their course projects:

  • Business Model Design: structured ideation; business model hypothesis generation; development of hypothesis testing plan; analysis of unit economics; analysis of LTV/CAC; patent search; etc.
  • Product Management: customer discovery interviews; focus groups; customer surveys; analysis of rivals' features; usability testing; wire-framing; MVP testing; development of personas; drafting user stories; development of feature prioritization criteria; development of a product roadmap; post-launch traffic analytics; etc.
  • Business Development: ecosystem mapping; analysis of rivals' deals; proposed deal terms/pitch approach; etc.
  • Marketing: targeting plan for personas; conversion funnel optimization; inbound/content marketing plan; cohort analysis; etc.
  • Sales: criteria for selecting beta customers; criteria for qualifying leads; criteria for prioritizing accounts for sales calls; conducting sales calls; etc.

A downloadable document provides more detail on tools/techniques that might be applied and suggests resources that might be helpful to students. Consistent with FC: LTV's hands-on focus, we will steer clear of projects that only entail drafting a business plan.

Working in teams of two or three, students will deliver several end-products during the term: 1) an initial work plan for their project; 2) "snippets," due every two weeks, that briefly summarize their activities; 3) periodic in-class presentations of work in progress; 4) a final report outlining project objectives, methods, and results; 5) a final presentation at a project fair open to the local startup community; and 6) a blog post reflecting on lessons learned from the course.

Application Process

Most projects will be student originated and will relate either to students' startup ideas or to opportunities within existing startups or new ventures inside larger tech companies. Since students will work in teams of two or three, the course's design requires a balanced number of students who originate their own project ("originators") and students who work on peer-originated projects ("auxiliaries"). To maximize peer-to-peer learning, we will aim for a broad mix of projects reflecting: 1) new ventures of different types (e.g., student startup ideas vs. existing startups); 2) different stages of development (i.e., early vs. later stage); and 3) different functional areas (e.g., product vs. marketing vs. business development).

The course can subsidize expenditures by some teams with qualifying projects, based on instructor review of funding requests. Qualifying projects include FC: LTV students' startup ideas that have not: 1) received a subsidy from other university programs (e.g., a Rock Accelerator grant or a new venture competition prize); or 2) raised outside funding. Projects for outside organizations will not qualify for subsidy. Not all qualifying projects will receive a subsidy; applying many of the tools and techniques relevant to the course does not require cash outlays. For example, teams engaged in early customer discovery interviews should not need a subsidy.

Ensuring an appropriate mix of projects and participants requires an application review process. On December 1, an online application form will be posted on this course description web page with detailed instructions. Applications, which must be submitted by January 9, will then be reviewed by Prof. Eisenmann. Applicants will be informed of enrollment decisions on or before January 22, that is, before add-drop period commences a few days later. Successful applicants will be asked to commit to the course by noon on January 24 and will then be enrolled; students will then use the Add/Drop process as needed to adjust other credits for the term.

Applicants who propose projects (i.e., originators, who may apply as a team of up to three students) will be asked for details on their idea's status and, if their proposal is not accepted, whether they wish to be considered as auxiliaries. Auxiliary candidates will be asked to submit a paragraph explaining why they are interested in the course.