Launching Technology Ventures - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Launching Technology Ventures

Course Number 1755

Senior Lecturer Jeffrey Bussgang
Entrepreneur-in-Residence Sam Clemens
Spring; Q3; 1.5 credits
14 sessions
One short essay, based on project work

See the course blog for more detail.

Note: Meetings for section 02 will be from 1:55 PM - 3:15 PM.

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 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 cope with 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 case studies and panel discussions, LTV will explore the entrepreneurial manager’s toolkit during the early "search and discovery" stage across all functions, including:

  • Product Management: When and how should an early-stage startup-especially one with a strong, product-oriented founder-introduce formal product management processes, e.g., project prioritization and tracking systems, product roadmaps? How do product managers deal with typical sources of conflict with engineering, e.g., tradeoffs between cost/time-to-market on the one hand and functional performance/quality testing/breadth of features on the other?
  • Growth: What do growth managers do in startups and what are the most effective techniques for driving and measuring growth initiatives?
  • Engineering: How can managers in a seed-stage startup mitigate risks with outsourced software development? What are the tradeoffs with different approaches to software development?
  • Sales: When should a seed-stage startup recruit its first sales professionals, and what hiring criteria are appropriate? What are the attributes of ideal beta customers for radical new innovations? How can sales managers and their counterparts in other functions respond to enterprise customers' demands for product customization? What are best practices for setting up and managing channels?
  • Marketing: How can a resource-constrained early-stage startup optimize the use of different customer acquisition methods, e.g., SEO, SEM, affiliate programs? What considerations are relevant in pricing a radical new innovation? What are best practices for managing public relations and the trade press?
  • Business Development: How should the business development team prioritize smaller "easy wins" versus blockbuster deals that could significantly improve a startup's position? How can the team protect the startup's interests in the face of asymmetric bargaining with powerful partners? What are best practices for managing "turnkey" relationships with large numbers of small partners, for example, developers who leverage a platform's API?

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.