Launching Technology Ventures - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Launching Technology Ventures

Course Number 1755

Senior Lecturer Jeffrey Bussgang
Entrepreneur-in-Residence Sam Clemens
Fall; Q2; 1.5 credits
14 sessions
One short essay, based on project work

See the course blog for more detail.

Career Focus

Launching Technology Ventures (LTV) is designed for students who will join startups, start their own companies, or work in larger technology firms. The industry focus is on technology-based ventures in the Internet, mobile, and enterprise software sectors. Business models covered range from subscription to SAAS to freemium to developer-driven.

Educational Objectives

The course takes the perspective of founders in technology startups across all functional elements, with a particular focus on product, sales, marketing, growth and business development. For each function, we explore challenges that managers encounter before a startup achieves product-market fit, that is, a match between its product solution and market needs. We also study cross-functional conflict in new ventures as well as investor-founder conflicts and ways in which managers navigate such conflicts. LTV has a tactical, implementation bias rather than a strategic one and will largely avoid concepts covered in Entrepreneurial Finance and Founders' Journey. There is a modest overlap with Product Management 101/102 and Entrepreneurial Sales and Marketing, but LTV is solely focused on pre product-market fit and the perspective of the founder.

Course Content

Through a series of case studies, LTV will study the founder’s toolkit during the early "search and discovery" stage across all functions. Taking the perspective that a startup is an experimentation machine, we will explore:

  • Consumer Value Proposition experiments, such as experiments that explore hypotheses regarding who is the target customer, what is the pain that they are facing and how can the startup seek to address that pain.
  • Go to Market experiments, such as exploring hypotheses regarding the optimal sales model (direct vs indirect, outbound vs inbound), optimal choice of channels, the best partners and how to construct growth experiments.
  • Business Model experiments, such as the right timing for turning on monetization and how to construct the optimal pricing framework.

The class will continue to probe on how to determine which are the most critical hypotheses that should be tested and the most critical experiments that should be run in the context of an early stage startup that has a very short time fuse. Further, the cases explore how founders can build the functional capabilities to run effective experiments, such as hiring the first sales representative, the first marketing executive, creating a growth function and designing the optimal technology and operations model to optimize for experimentation.

The course has 13 cases along with a wrap-up session. In nearly all of the cases, the case protagonist will be a class guest. Case protagonists are 50% female, 50% male. In addition to meeting the case protagonists in class, coffees and lunches are arranged to allow for more intimate exposure to a wide range of startup founders and investors.