The “Learn2Launch” Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program @ UC Berkeley is an integrated program that provides students with an intensive, immersive and hands-on approach to the study of entrepreneurship, innovation, and startups. By the end of this semester-long program, students will have gained a deep understanding of the processes and activities entrepreneurs undertake to launch a startup, having formed teams and gone through the steps to actually launch their own startups.
The program involves in-class instruction from top UC Berkeley faculty, guest speakers that include entrepreneurs, investors, executives, designers and attorneys from the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, visits to companies and events in Silicon Valley, and a rigorous curriculum which includes class lectures, discussions, projects, student presentations, and regular hands-on workshops where students form startup teams, undertake the major activities needed to launch a new venture, and actively work to evolve and improve their concepts and ventures.
This program incorporates:
- Classroom education in the form of lectures, case studies and exercises from top faculty in entrepreneurship, innovation and related disciplines, drawing upon expertise in business, technology, design, leadership, finance, and law;
- Numerous guest lectures and speakers - including entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists, attorneys, investment bankers, marketers and branding experts, social media experts, and more - who bring their entrepreneurship, innovation and startup–building expertise and networks into the classroom to demonstrate and teach "how it is done" in launching and growing innovative, high-growth and high-value ventures in the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley;
- Deep immersion into the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley ecosystem with numerous visits to workplaces of companies ranging from early stage startups and accelerators to large enterprises, many of which have redefined the way much of the world interacts with and does business in the 21st century;
- A core "new venture startup project" where students form small startup teams and undertake the critical steps necessary to create and launch a new venture. These startup projects serve as customized case studies for the teams and each of the participants to enable them to experience the process and issues relating to launching a company in real-time. And, not surprisingly, some of these projects evolve into real companies that the founding teams continue to build after the conclusion of the Learn2Launch program.
Depending on the student and their course of study, the curriculum outlined in this syllabus will serve as a standalone innovation and entrepreneurship program, or it may be augmented with additional courses and other supervised study programs in technical disciplines or additional complementary courses of study. Based on the needs, types of ventures launched, and direction of the cohort – and the observations of faculty – the order and content of sessions may be adjusted, and additional curriculum or topics may also be added and incorporated.
The many topics, skills and activities that are included in this curriculum are integrated into our “Learn2Launch” framework. Here are the four major stages of this framework:
- Define - where the opportunity, concept, vision, values, and initial founding team are formed
- Learn - where basic prototypes are created and early customer discovery activities take place
- Launch – where the startup takes on more structure, products are refined, and initial customers/clients are created and revenues generated
- Accelerate – where the team undertakes activities needed to scale the company from a small startup to a growth stage venture to a major enterprise
The foundation and structure for this program is laid in the classroom. That said, and building upon the classroom education, much of the activity and learning takes place outside of the classroom as students and teams build demos and prototypes, interact with customers, evaluate funding alternatives, experience team dynamics, investigate partnerships, and develop and test various go-to-market strategies. In fact, “getting outside the classroom” as early and often as possible is one of the key objectives of this program.
More specifically, during this program students will experience and perform a broad variety of activities related to launching an entrepreneurial venture, in a very hands-on manner, including:
- Identify and screen promising opportunities,
- Experiment with "design thinking" and rapid prototyping,
- Create a minimum viable product and/or demo to share with the marketplace,
- Undertake "customer discovery" and “customer development” activities,
- Learn about recruiting and forming teams, team dynamics, and culture-setting,
- Understand the role of "failure” in developing products, customers, and new ventures in general, and how best learn from and build upon failures to attain long-term success,
- Learn core principles of effective branding and how to apply them,
- Develop an understanding of competitive positioning of products and companies,
- Develop an understanding of how and when “value” - as defined by the market in funding and M&A activities - is created over the life of an early-stage venture and implications for entrepreneurs in creating and evolving their strategies and tactics for funding and liquidity,
- Develop an understanding of how to "pitch" a new venture to investors and other stakeholders, including the development of key communication and selling tools and skills,
- Gain insights, tools and skills essential to effective leadership and communication in early-stage ventures and as companies grow,
- Develop an understanding of marketing and go-to-market strategies and tactics, including concepts around “growth hacking,”
- Learn about financial models and business models and how these models interact, along with the implications on building and funding new ventures,
- Develop an understanding of intellectual property protection of various types ranging from patents to copyrights to trade secrets,
- Gain knowledge of broader legal issues ranging from entity formation and types to strategies to limit the liabilities of organizations and entrepreneurs,
- Gain a deeper understanding of the many ways that startup ventures can succeed and fail, including identification of early warning signs, the implications of such signals, and options for corrective action.
- Learn more about yourself, your natural personal and leadership styles, and your capabilities and tendencies as a teammate and entrepreneur.
At the conclusion of this program, each team will formally present their venture to a panel of experienced entrepreneurs and investors, replicating the real world process that startup ventures undertake in Silicon Valley to launch their company and obtain funding for growth. In previous offerings of this and similar programs at UC Berkeley, some of the student teams have gone on to obtain angel and venture funding, matriculate to prestigious incubator accelerator programs such as Y Combinator and 500 Startups, launch successful products and services, and build scalable and sustainable enterprises.
Throughout the semester there will be frequent hands-on activities and exercises where students actively put to work a broad range of teachings and new skills, including those listed above. This is very much an “introduce, apply, receive feedback, and evolve” approach to teaching innovation and entrepreneurship, incorporating rapid iteration to drive improved performance.
In addition to all of the activities that students undertake to build their venture, they will participate in the following additional types of activities to instill greater learning and a better understanding of the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley entrepreneurial ecosystem:
- Attend meet ups, talks, demo sessions and other events on their own throughout the Bay Area,
- Act as independent consultants for one another, improving their ability to both offer and receive constructive advice,
- Keep logs of their activities and learnings, and present them to their fellow classmates,
- Develop demos, prototypes and videos to market their ventures, and also to capture their learnings in a way that can be shared and reviewed at a later time.
A San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley Entrepreneurship Mindset
Finally, this curriculum will actively incorporate and investigate the concepts of experimentation and learning from failure, and how best to engage directly and productively with failure. We will investigate and learn how resourceful and resilient entrepreneurs and organizations leverage these concepts to drive nonlinear and non-intuitive innovation, accelerate growth, and create more resilient organizations and long-term success. Some of the teachings will be adapted from the pioneering UC Berkeley Haas School of Business course “The Other F Word,” co-taught by Mark Coopersmith and John Danner, which is also the foundation for their Amazon best-selling book of the same name (“The Other F Word” is one of the required texts for the program).
Core Program Modules:
The overall program is divided into core modules that reflect a typical startup process. We also have a number of transition weeks. Modules range from 1-4 weeks in length. Each module will have a primary faculty member leading that module, with particular expertise in that topic. Plus regular involvement from core L2L faculty to ensure continuity and progress every week. At the end of each module, students and teams will receive feedback on how they performed in that module, and the module assessments will be incorporated into a semester-to-date view.
- Optimizing Performance: Self and Team
- Customer Discovery: Product Market Fit, Business Models
- Design Thinking and Prototyping
- Growth Hacking, Go-to-Market, Branding and Customer Experience
- Startup Finance: Assumptions, Projections, Cash Needs
- Storytelling and Pitching
The Core Modules are integrated across the entire Learn2Launch curriculum as follows:
- Orientation and Welcome to Berkeley
- Kickoff, Startup Simulation, Team Formation/Formalization
- Accelerating Performance: Self and Team (Module A)
- Opportunity Identification, Customer Discovery (B)
- Design Thinking and Prototyping (C)
- Path to Funding and Maximizing Value, Pitch Preview
- Customer (and Business Model) Discovery (B)
- Delivering a Great Customer Experience (D)
- Go-to-Market Planning, Growth Hacking , Branding (D)
- Startup Finance: Assumptions & Projections, Cash Needs (E)
- Storytelling and Pitching (F)
- StartUp Law: equity, IP, due diligence; and Course Wrap-Up
Team One-on-One Meetings:
By appointment – each team meets with an instructor at least every other week
At a minimum of twice a month, each team will schedule a one-on-one team meeting with one of our primary Learn2Launch professors, typically Whitney Hischier or Mark Coopersmith, plus other experts from time to time. This is an opportunity for teams and team members to present and discuss progress they are making, challenges they are facing, needs they may have ranging from introductions to mentors to specific skill sets, team dynamics and culture, and possible changes in direction or focus for their venture. Since each startup venture faces its own unique set of opportunities and challenges, these one-on-one meetings provide regular access to specific feedback and resources based on the conditions that each venture and team are facing.
“The Silicon Valley Ecosystem” - Immersion, Culture, Guest Speakers, Site Visits and Insights:
On Mondays or Fridays, typically a couple of times a monthly as scheduling permits both for guest speakers and also off-campus site visits. Sessions may be held on or off campus. Check bCourses online calendar regularly. (bCourses is our class website/learning management system)
Students will meet with and hear from innovators, investors, advisers, and more in Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area both on campus at UC Berkeley and also during site visits throughout the Bay Area. Speakers will share their successes and equally importantly their failures and how they responded to and learned from those failures. These sessions provide examples of the Silicon Valley mindset and how things get done, and help students create connections and develop insights with regard to the Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay Area entrepreneurship ecosystem. The speakers and topics will often share new perspectives on issues that the students are facing in their hands-on course work and projects in the core curriculum as they form teams, develop their MVPs (minimum viable products), create go-to-market plans, interact with potential customers and partners, and learn about the realities of building scalable startup ventures. In addition to speakers coming to UC Berkeley, site visits may also include trips to incubators and accelerators, venture capital firms, funding events, conferences or events, and more.