Launching Technology Ventures
Course Number 1755
Senior Lecturer Jeffrey Bussgang
Senior Lecturer Sam Clemens
Fall; Q1Q2; 3 credits
28 sessions, including a business model exercise and a financing pitch exercise
One short essay, based on project work
See the course blog for more detail.
Launching Technology Ventures (LTV) is designed for four types of students:
- Those who will start their own companies.
- Those who will join early stage startups (typically in a product manager, business development, sales, marketing, or growth role).
- Those who will work at growth stage technology firms (in a similar range of roles) that try to maintain a similar, nimble operating model as a startup.
- Those who are interested in investing in startups.
The course takes the perspective of founders struggling to achieve product market fit in their early stage startups. Our cases focus on founder decision during this search and discovery phase, both in the experiments that they design and run as well as the organizations they try to form.
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 Entrepreneurial Marketing, but LTV is solely focused on pre product-market fit and the perspective of the founder. In that regard, LTV is a complementary to Scaling Tech Ventures (STV), which focused more on post product-market fit startups.
Through a series of case studies and intimate conversations with startup founder, LTV students examine management challenges in early stage startups and the range of experiments that are conducted during this phase of development. Taking the perspective that a startup is an experimentation machine and that those experiments should cover all facets of the startup’s business model, we will explore four modules:
- Ideation and Customer 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, how to construct the optimal pricing framework, and how to evaluate the quality of the startup business model and appreciate the relative pros and cost of business model choices.
- Financing, Exits and Ethics. What is the best way to align financing needs with a startup’s operating plan, taking into account the key milestones and valuation inflection points ahead? What are the important ethical considerations that a startup founder needs to consider, particularly as they face key moments such as financing and exit opportunities?
Each of these modules study startups during a rapidly evolving organization. The founders are often joined by a handful of employees at the time of the case and the challenge of creating the organization from scratch is a backdrop to the founder’s process of business model experimentation. Building these functional capabilities to run effective experiments include 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 25 cases, 2 exercises (one focused on startup business model deconstruction using current student’s startups and the other on pitching pre-seed/seed stage financing) 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.