There are many entrepreneurship classes taught throughout the world, in some students talk about how what explains the success and failure of start-ups, and very often, such classes include a business plan competition, where groups pitch ideas for new companies. These classes often do help people start companies, and at the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, our faculty have taught classes that have helped future entrepreneurs in many ways. But this last term, two Stanford d.school faculty members (and experienced entrepreneurs and bosses) Michael Dearing and Perry Klebahn ran a class called Launch Pad where students were just expected to talk about starting a company, the focus on was on launching the company during the 10 week class. To be part of the class, student teams -- and many more applied than were accepted -- had to pitch their idea to Michael and Perry, and if they believed the idea was viable and the team was motivated enough, then they were accepted in the class to try to launch their company.
The class has been over for a few week and was one of the most successful things ever done at the d.school. (To be clear, a lot of what do fails, and I have been involved in some less successful classes with Michael and Perry, but they like most people at the d.school have the attitude that if you are failing a fair amount, you aren't trying hard enough or taking enough risks). Here is what the d.school website says about the class:From the first day, students pushed to both launch their own products, while using their experience and expertise to help classmates do the same. Throughout the quarter, teams constantly cycled through the design process, often making major changes to their initial idea in order to hone in on what their potential customers wanted, and what would be viable in the market.
The result? Eleven products or service were launched. Collectively, the teams had over $100,000 in revenue by the last day of class. Eight teams are now incorporated in four countries. Add in a bit of press from the New York Times and NBC, as well as a shout-out from Steve Jobs during his talk at the World Wide Developers conference, and you’ve got Launchpad: lifting design thinking teams into entrepreneurial orbit.
Not bad for a 10 week class, Huh? As just two example, check -out this story about Pulse, which Tech Crunch described as a "must have" app for the iPad, it is a news reader that you can but at itunes for 3.99, and is selling quite well. The students who founded it are Akshay Kothari and Ankit Gupta. They already have a company called Alphonso Labs, and two employees, and are the one's who got the shout out from Jobs -- note that they just graduated from Stanford two weeks ago and are off to quite a start! And check out this story on the d.school blog from as few weeks back, they were up to 50,000 downloads and were the #1 paid app at the iPad store.
A much different, but also very promising, is a service called Worker Express that was founded by Pablo Fuentes and Joe Mellin, which helps unemployed construction workers find jobs. Check out this story on on the local NBC affiliate and this one at Fast Company. I think the picture above is especially interesting because it shows how the prototyping process worked during Launch Pad, essentially, in the d.school space, the founders of the 11 companies had a "beta" or practice trade-show where they set-up booths and pitched their ideas to a a host of diverse people on campus and to the classes coaches and teachers too, so they could develop and refine their messages. The picture captures Pablo and Joe pitching their service.
I am very proud of all the students in the class, of Michael and Perry, as well as d.school Fellow Corey Ford, who were part of the teaching team that made this all happen. Great work.