Field Course: Launching Technology Ventures
Launching Technology Ventures (LTV) is designed for students who are actively working on their own startups or who will work at early-stage startups, launching information technology products. The course material is, in particular, focused on new businesses in the Internet, mobile, and enterprise software sectors, although the lessons from these sectors are quite generalized.
Extending concepts introduced in the MBA Required Curriculum course, The Entrepreneurial Manager, LTV explores in greater depth "lean startup" management practices as well as scaling challenges in startups. The course takes the perspective of not just the founder but also functional leaders in product management, sales, and business development. LTV will emphasize implementation rather than strategy issues, and will avoid overlap with concepts covered in Entrepreneurial Finance and Founders' Dilemmas.
Course Content and Organization
LTV is organized into classroom and project sessions. Senior Lecturer Jeff Bussgang will lead a series of case discussions that explore execution challenges before and after a startup achieves product-market fit, i.e., a match between its product solution and market needs. Topics explored in the cases include: 1) the importance of launching early and conducting experiments using a minimum viable product (MVP), i.e., the smallest set of features necessary to rapidly validate a hypothesis about a new venture based on customer feedback obtained through A/B tests, interviews, usability tests, customer support interactions, etc.; 2) the use of metrics to gauge whether hypotheses have been validated, e.g., viral coefficients, customer retention rates, unit economics; 3) the process of pivoting, i.e., modifying a product/business model based on market feedback; and 4) challenges in "crossing the chasm" from early adopters to mainstream customers; 5) challenges in scaling a direct sales force; 6) tradeoffs for startups relying on business development partnerships with large companies; and 7) why, when and how startups should introduce formal product management processes, e.g., project prioritization and tracking systems, product roadmaps.
Project sessions in the Batten Hall hives will entail a series of team exercises supervised by Senior Lecturer Bussgang and Professor Eisenmann, as well as startup mentors, including HBS Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. Through these exercises, a team of students will specify, for one team member's startup idea, business model assumptions and rigorous tests to validate those assumptions, leveraging tools and techniques covered in the LTV's case sessions. Students will present their projects the end of the term and draft a short essay, optionally published on the LTV course blog, about what they learned.