New Course: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Public Policy

For a number of years, my partner Jason Mendelson has been teaching an extremely popular course at CU Boulder Law School with Brad Bernthal titled Venture Capital – A 360 Degree Perspective. While it’s a course taught in the law school, it’s (not surprisingly) become popular with the MBA students at CU Boulder.

Brad Bernthal, Phil Weiser (the Dean of the CU Law School), and I have been talking about a new course to complement VC 360 called Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Public Policy. We’ve decided to take a crack at a cross-campus course (law, engineering, and business) that focused on contemporary issues around entrepreneurship, would be a great introduction to any student who wants to immerse herself in entrepreneurship, and would enable us to create some unique content around this topic.

We envision a two hour a week course (over seven sessions) that has a heavy reading, class participation, and writing component. Our goal will be to put this up on the web as well to provide content (and potentially interaction) to a much wider community.

Following is a first draft of a syllabus. I’m looking for two types of feedback: (1) comments on the syllabus and (2) suggestions for web services to use to package this content up for broader distribution.

This one credit course, available to first year law students in their second semester as well as a select number of graduate students in the Business School students and School of Engineering, will explore a set of cutting edge questions around entrepreneurship.  Students in the class will be required to write a ten page paper as well as participate actively in the course (including on a class blog).  Since class participation is a core part of the course (counting for 20% of the grade, with the other 80% based on the paper), any missed class must be made up by writing a 1 page reaction paper.

1. Being an Entrepreneur. Reading: The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career (Hoffman, Casnocha). Five Minds for the Future (Gardner).

2. Leadership and What Makes a Great Founding Team. Reading: Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup:  (Cohen, Feld). Leadership Lessons From the Shackleton Expedition (Koehn).

3. Building and Scaling A Business. Reading: The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses (Ries).

4. Entrepreneurial Communities. Reading: Startup Communities: Creating A Great Entrepreneurial Ecosystem In Your City (Feld). Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity 1996 – 2010.

5. Financing Entrepreneurial Companies. Reading: Venture Deals: How To Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer (Mendelson, Feld). Improving Access to Capital for High-Growth Companies (Department of Commerce – National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship)

6. Entrepreneurial Leadership in Government. Reading: Alfred Kahn As A Case Study of A Political Entrepreneur (Weiser). Start-up Nation:  The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle (Senor and Singer).

7. Entrepreneurship and Innovation Policy: Reading: Accelerating Energy Innovation: Insights from Multiple Sectors (Henderson, Newell).

  • “suggestions for web services to use to package this content up for broader distribution”

    Why not simply here?  Ask folks like Fred, Bijan et al to mention it, put it on twitter + let it go.
    Khan might also be a good place.

    • For sure will do that but looking for other more persistent things as well as real time.

      • well, if the content is digitally structured, then put it on iTunes, like Stanford did.  CU cld can it’s own channel – hard to get more persistent than that.

        Real time?  Like StockTwits, but for the course(s) + students?

  • This sounds like a really well considered course filling a much needed gap in the market, the fact you are considering possibilities such as offering it online is really exciting for me personally, pencil me in if you run with it! 
    My one input would be could you consider a session on Rural or non-urban Entrepreneurship? ;  it’s a very specific area and skill set, dependant on building networks and markets outwith your immediate geography and developing methods of accessing finance, support and attracting skilled professionals for your team without the safety net of population density…  

    • Good suggestion. I’ll have to think about the best way to address this, especially since I don’t know much about it. Do you have any references / reading that you think covers this well?

      • Find a farmer or two + talk to them for a couple hours.  That’ll frame *lots* of thoughts around rural entrepreneurship, as farming is probably present in many a young, rural person’s early discussions of career choices.

        And accessing capital in/from rural areas is something farmers have done for a looong time.

  • James Mitchell

    I would recommend more books that tell a story, such as Charles Ferguson’s “High Stakes No Prisoners,” Jerry Kaplan’s “Startup” and Jessica Livingston’s “Founders at Work.”

    I don’t know how one credit courses compare with other courses, but the amount of reading seems very light.

    In terms of distribution, can’t you use MIT’s OpenCourseware platform?

  • John M. Mueller

    Where are you going to talk about opportunity discovery / recognition / creation? i.e. how (and why) does one come up with the business idea…. And what about collaboration and cross-polination of knowledge to develop business ideas?  With the subject being innovation, I would think it would be important to have a class on how one comes up with an innovation that they can commercialize (i.e. turn into a business based upon a business model that generates revenue and hopefully positive income).

    • Great suggestion. Also a really good place to weave in Steve Blank customer development and Eric Ries Lean Startup (I’ve already got a place holder, but this is even better). I’m annoyed with myself that I missed that – good call!

  • Anonymous

    Brad there’s some school called MIT that has an open courseware  setup, you may have heard of it;)  However I tend to agree with John Minnihan below to at least keep it mirrored here on your blog for those of us too lazy to go elsewhere. 

    Off to go get the three books on this list I haven’t already read now (reads ahead of the class).  
    So, extra credit if they study at the Feld Annex on campus?

    • I’ll definitely be blogging here about the classes. We’ll also try to get us much as possible up on line.

      • Brad Bernthal

        If anyone has a comparative experience b/t the MIT courseware + the Stanford experience during Fall ’11 in connection with the Artificial Intelligence course, this experience would be welcome.  I did not take the A.I. course, however, I test drove it with the assistance of an acquaintance who was enrolled.  It was impressive.  

  • Two thoughts on syllabus.  In regards to government and policy, a useful perspective would be to examine lobbying/political response to past disruptions (e.g. breaking up Bell).  If innovation is about disruption, entrepreneurs may want to learn of the techniques vested interests take to combat it legislatively.

    Regarding communities and innovation, some discussion of innovation ecosystems may be useful.  In this regard, the writings of Hagel III et. al, and Adner would be a nice complement.

    • 1. Past Disruptions – yes – awesome – will do.

      2. Hagel / Adner – good.

      • Brad Bernthal

        The lobbying playbook as it
        relates to legislative and administrative decisions affecting entrepreneurship would
        be an interesting inclusion.  This is a
        research interest of mine, Phil is among the nation’s leading telecom scholars,
        and of course Brad F. has been focused on some related issues, including the Startup
        Visa.  Worth considering.  Parenthetically, it probably won’t make the
        course, but for those interested, Baumgartner’s book Lobbying and Policy
        Change:  Who Wins, Who
        Loses, and Why 122-23 (Univ.
        of Chicago Press 2009) is a strong empirical study of the regulatory
        process.  There is a good section in for
        FCC Chairman’s Reed Hundt’s book, You Say
        You Want A Revolution, about incumbents’ activity and strategies amid the
        1996 Telecom Act.

      • Steve C

        maybe add works by  Clayton M. Christensen , for innovation/ disruption theory

  • Check out to host your courses online.

    I wonder how do you manage to get so many things done? Amazing

  • I have a more broad question about entrepreneurial education: what place do entrepreneurship courses have in MBA programs?
    I’m a big fan of entrepreneurial programs, (but it has to be done right). As a current MBA student, my program (to remain nameless) has very little for entrepreneurial or startup-minded folk in terms of coursework and focus, and I sense many other programs are similar. I understand there is a difference between “entrepreneurship” programs and “MBA” programs, but it feels like a lot of MBA programs (or at least mine) don’t see any overlap.In terms of “doing it right”, it seems like any MBA/entrepreneurship courses would need to address the perception that startups have of MBAs mentioned in this great blog post ( That perception: this person is going to write a report and tell me the best “strategy”, and not actually DO anything.

    • Brad Bernthal

      Programs that teach individuals to complete heuristic,
      non-routine, high skilled functions will produce people able to succeed.  Entrepreneurship education goes a long way toward cultivating these capabilities.  So I’d broaden the question to consider the role of entrep education across graduate programs, whether an MBA, a technical masters or PhD, or a JD.  To me, having entrepreneurship offerings available in a graduate program is a good 21st Century bet.  
      Regret to hear that  your experience has been suboptimal.  My suggestion to others considering graduate programs: kick the tires.  Don’t stop at a school’s web-site.  If possible, speak to professors about course offerings, definitely speak with students currently enrolled in the program, and if possible you might reach out to an alum or two to see how the program helped (or not) him or her professionally (e.g., “are there connections to the entrepreneurial community?  has it helped professionally? would you do the program again?” etc.).  In short, while there is no sure thing, diligence can help minimize surprises.  

  • Anonymous

    Two things come to mind: 1) essential mathematics for entrepreneurs, and 2) quantitative  approaches to new product/concept development and marketing/beta testing. (Can cover things like Gap analysis,  ATAR, Factor Analysis).

  • Anonymous

    This recommendation would require a pretty significant change to your plan, but I’ll throw it out there regardless…This class might be more appealing to MBA students if you could offer it as a 3 credit hour course (speaking as a recent CU MBA graduate).  A single credit hour won’t work as a substitute for a regular MBA elective, and would need to be taken in addition to the regular MBA course load.  On the other hand, you’ll be sure to attract very dedicated students to the class this way!

    The structure of the course sounds great to me.  My favorite classes in the program were always those that put a heavy emphasis on discussion and participation.  I’ll look forward to reading the class blog.

    • Phil Weiser

      As for a 3 credit version, we’ll start with this model and look forward to developing more intensive and comprehensive versions for the future.  Thanks for the encouragement.

  • Mcooch

    Sounds like a great program. I got my MBA at Babson because of their reputation in entrepreneurial education – loved the experience. The most popular class there was Managing a Growing Business with Ed Marram. The class was designed to put the student in the entrepreneur’s shoes and to get the students to think holistically about their decisions – “Do  you think she should raise another round of financing and expand internationally?, “if you make X product decision, how does that impact your financing requirements”, etc.

    Great class that I think would be a good addition.

    By the way, Ed has some friends at CU and has mentioned coming out here to teach a class or two. He might be a fun addition to the program – great entrepreneur that is passionate about teaching.

    Good luck!

    Mike Cooch

    • Can you introduce me by email ([email protected]) to Ed?

  • Beth

    This sounds really fascinating. You might think about including a section on conducting effective interviews. Entrpreneurs are only as good as their team of people, and very little attention is paid to how to effectively select candidates.
    Beth Smith. A-list Interviews

  • Brad,

    I think a section on what can go wrong or what has gone wrong would be a great topic as well. We have the survivor-ship bias when it comes to people who have been successful but what about those who lost their shirt being entrepreneurs? there is a whole list of what NOT TO DO from that Cohort which I think is very important. Every new generation thinks this time is different but failure is driven by the same principles as success. My 2 cents. Love the idea and program, I will approach University of Iceland and/or University of Reykjavik to see if they would like to partner to do something like this. 

    • I’ve got in my head that it would be very helpful to weave in a class on Failure so this is right on topic.

      • Brad,
        This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Not just with respect to entrepreneurship, but also (especially?) with respect to education and raising kids. If you have any recommended reading, please share.

        • No great book recommendations on kids but I’ve got to believe there are a bunch out there.

          • Thanks, Brad. More interested in books addressing failure as a path to success in general than specifically addressing as it relates to kids. I’m hopeful I’m smart enough I can make my own connections. *Hopeful.*

  • I think video of the classes would be awesome too…

    • Working on it! We are considering using something like SkillShare.

      • Skillshare is for offline learning. Isn’t Veri a more appropriate platform? Learn through Q&A?

        • I think Veri would be difficult for this one – it’s high concept and doesn’t lend itself well to structured Q&A.

  • Anonymous

    This sounds like a great course! These sorts of courses at Stanford GSB (where I’m a first year) typically have a much higher participation component (40-60%), and the reading, while there are some great selections in there, seems quite heavy for a 1-unit class. I’m not sure how many hours students are expected to spend on such courses at Boulder, but having so much work for a class that’s worth so little might deter students from completing the reading in its entirety. Once they fall behind, it would be hard to catch up with so much reading. Also, maybe you could throw some cases in there that you guys could put together from your wealth fo experience! Just my 2c.

    • Anonymous

      Regarding the distribution, Stanford has very recently (as of Jan 2012) started broad distribution of some of its most popular classes for free, online. Here are some examples:

      I’m not sure what platform they’re using, and I haven’t seen the result yet (though I’m signed up for a few), but I think something similar could work well for you guys. One of my classes at the GSB that I’ll be taking this quarter (a marketing class) is also testing out for distribution of reading materials within the course. Could be an option for you guys.

    • There’s a healthy debate going on internally about the amount of reading relative to the course credit. But – since there isn’t any other outside work (e.g. no project), I come down on the side of “if you aren’t signed up to do the reading, you shouldn’t do the course.”

      • Brad Bernthal

        Good caution, Khaled.  The ABA rule of thumb is 50 hours of work per credit hour, which will work out to 7-8 hrs prep per session.  We’ll likely be heavy but not wildly out of kilter with this guideline.  There are some solutions that I’ve used in the past to help strike this balance.  One is to ask students to read a book (i.e.,, it is all fair game), but to give advance pin-point direction to the pages / concepts that we’ll emphasize. Two is accountability mechanisms such as unannounced quizzes.  Perhaps surprising, in my experience, grad students tend to like this as it “keeps people on their toes” (typical feedback) and improves quality of discussion / contribution from others (minimizes wasted discussion in class).  Overall, a heavy load is probably not a bad thing to signal to students in this course that they should do it for the learning, not because they think it is a credit / workload bargain.   

      • Steve C

        I would be interested in taking the course, what where you thinking of charging? or is it free?

        • The CU Boulder course will be limited to CU students. But we are exploring making it a Skillshare course on the web – we’ll know more soon.

  • Hey Brad – great idea; I’m super excited about this class no matter how you decide to go with it. Have you checked out Udemy for putting it on the web? Skillshare sounds like a great idea for the in-person portion and Udemy would make it fairly easy for you to put it up online. We’d also be willing to e-mail it out to entire userbase, which I imagine would get 2-4K signups in the first few weeks…

    • We’ll explore Udemy.

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