Learn How To Become A Successful Entrepreneur From Stanford Professors, For Free.Share
On the Venture Lab platform you will not only have access to lectures by Stanford professors, but you will also be able to form teams with people around the world and work on projects that have an impact.
Venture Lab is one of the primary platforms used by Stanford University to offer free online courses. Venture Lab's philosophy is to make online courses more fun and engaging by making them more experiential, interactive, and collaborative. The first class on technology entrepreneurship attracted around 40,000 students from over a hundred and fifty countries.
The new course starts at October 15 and we encourage you to sign up.
1. Could you describe what students should expect after signing up for the class?
After signing up for the class, you should expect something different from most massive, online, open courses. Rather than doing the assignments on your own and interacting with your fellow students only through anonymous, text-based forums, you’ll be forming teams of your choosing with fellow students from your region and around the world. You should expect to learn from the video lectures, but to learn ten-fold more from working on real-world problems and projects, interacting with teammates, and in some cases, working with experienced mentors. We find that this provides for a more effective, engaging learning experience and builds important, lasting social networks among the students.
2. Can we “pick and choose” classes?
Yes, you have the freedom to choose any classes you would like and that would be most useful to you.
3. Do we have to pass exams? Do you offer any type of diploma/certificate?
Instead of exams and quizzes (which we sometimes use), we feel that students learn much more through team-based, experiential education – learning by doing! We do offer a certificate of accomplishment at the successful completion of the course.
5. Why should students choose the class at Stanford Venture Lab? What makes this platform so unique?
The Stanford Venture Lab platform is unique in focusing on how students learn best – through interactive, innovative, real-world projects that you work on with an international body of fellow students. Rather than working on quizzes alone, you should expect to be video chatting with your team as you figure out how to apply the class material to innovate in real applications. Venture Lab is making the world of innovation flatter by providing a highly interactive classroom experience with students from over 150 countries working together, learning from one another and building lasting friendships and networks that go far beyond the course. Our platform generates communities of learning and connects past students to generate the benefits of an alumni network.
4. Could you describe a couple projects executed during the last year’s edition?
TeleHealth completed by Arturas, JB, and Sally. They are no beginners when it comes to building a product. The trio met five years ago at Morgan Stanley while working in quantitative finance, and they have remained friends and neighbors since. They each have backgrounds in computer science and engineering, and have worked on many side projects. After spending long years immersed in the financial world, they realized that the fat pay checks from their Wall Street jobs didn’t yield them the personal satisfaction of contributing to society, and they began hunting for new projects in sectors such as healthcare. While brainstorming ideas, JB recalled his first experience as a parent and how he nervously and incessantly checked up on his newborn. Why not make a simple, portable device that would monitor the baby’s vital signs and transmit alerts to the parents’ smartphones? The team proposed the idea at last year’s Bluetooth competition. To their pleasant surprise, they were selected as finalists and BabyMon was born. Using personal funds, they started building a prototype device that would measure the baby’s heart rate; the device would be small and comfortable, while having a very long battery life for convenience. Upon completion, they were invited to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to present their work, as well as an event hosted by Pre-Scale, a company that develops MEMS devices. It was after this point that the team decided to join Venture Lab to continue work on BabyMon.
Venture Lab proved to be a critical turning point in BabyMon’s development. Coming from expert technical backgrounds, the team had remained product-oriented before joining the class. Venture Lab changed that and “forced us to think about the customer segment,” says JB. As part of the class assignments, the team was pushed to conduct surveys and face-to-face interviews with friends, students, and medical professionals. Their valuable advice gave the team second thoughts about many aspects, including the very functionality of the product. For example, they realized their core value proposition of monitoring vital signals may not be as valuable to parents as monitoring the motion or psychological stress in babies. In particular, parents may be concerned about the orientation of the baby, and may wish to be alerted immediately if the baby turns and begins sleeping on its stomach, which has been associated with risks for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Following this research, the team changed the product prototype to include an oscillometer to detect motion. In future versions, as suggested by customer research, the device will also include features like detecting psychological stress through measurements across the baby’s sweat glands. The team credits Venture Lab for opening their eyes to customer research, which was critical to the evolution of their product. Arturas says, “Chuck taught us the importance of the word ‘pivot’ in product development, where you turn your ideas from one to another. That happened to us.” In a finance-focused region like New York, JB comments that Venture Lab exposed them to entrepreneurial culture and “gave them the opportunity to breathe remotely Silicon Valley air.” The team has now completed a new version of the product prototype and is actively working on the mobile interface.
After a long day, Renat Rafikov finally returned home from his trip. While he was exhausted from the flight home, he was also elated at the new opportunity he had found. The freelance web designer’s two-hour flight to a nearby Russian city began with the hope of gaining insight into the mechanics of a pizza delivery service for his Venture Lab project, Kit Menu, but ended with an unlikely job offer. Many miles away in a different Russian city, Andrey Kuzmin, Renat’s partner on Venture Lab, was also working hard. Also a freelance web designer, Andrey was not a newcomer to the startup scene. He had already put together a webpage with beautifully rendered menus of various local restaurants. Unfortunately, with little money for advertising and limited experience, Andrey’s startup had been floundering for the last two years. He signed up for Venture Lab hoping to brush up on his entrepreneurial expertise.
Their ambitious Venture Lab project is Kit Menu, a Software as a Service (SaaS) for restaurant owners. In recent years, the Russian restaurant industry has quickly advanced to accommodate customers wishing to make orders online, but the software backend and user interfaces are often ancient relics. This opportunity drew in Renat and Andrey, who wanted to revolutionize the industry by designing a modern SaaS platform to handle all of their technological needs. They decided to build an interactive menu through a web interface. Kit Menu then processes delivery orders that customers make through the interactive menu, allowing restaurant owners to focus on cooking good food rather than sorting out a complicated software backend. This all makes ordering online more fun for the consumer and efficient for the restaurant than previously had been possible.
Despite the support from Venture Lab, their initial lack of experience in the restaurant industry posed a major obstacle. Local restaurant owners were skeptical and refused to give them feedback for their ideas. The team was soon struggling with the Venture Lab assignments: despite having already made preliminary mock-ups of their product, they were unable to perform sufficient market research on the potential users. Even though they were unable to complete the Venture Lab assignments, they realized the importance of a solid understanding of their target market and of establishing relationships with clients. The team realized that they would have to delay their venture to seek the necessary restaurant industry experience to better understand the market and to garner the attention of potential clientele.
Renat tracked down an experienced contact who ran a pizza delivery service, who offered to let Renat shadow him for a day. The two hour flight to meet his contact ultimately paid off better than Renat could possibly have hoped for. What had begun as a homework assignment soon became a career-changing visit: he returned with a new job as an information systems designer to help launch a new restaurant franchise. Renat hopes that this offer will allow him to gain a foothold in the industry.
In the meantime, Andrey will continue developing his restaurant catalog website. Venture Lab has helped him find new forms of revenue potential for his startup, beginning with his plans to revitalize his profit model by offering customized delivery services for end-users.
They both agree that none of this would have been possible without Venture Lab. According to Renat, while entrepreneurship is officially encouraged by the Russian government, there is still much to do in terms of providing resources and developing a startup culture. Venture Lab successfully helped Renat and Andrey pinpoint their weaknesses and nudged them in the right direction. “Unlike rote learning from books,” Renat notes, “Venture Lab emphasizes practical learning and forces students to take initiative, which made for a better learning experience. It has also been a great way for meeting new people with shared interests.”
Many teams on venture lab have emerged with ambitious plans and finished products. While Kit Menu has been put on hold, Renat and Audrey have gotten just as much out of their Venture Lab experience. The team says that Venture Lab “meant much more than just teaching new things about business. We discovered new partners, new opportunities, and even new jobs.” Venture Lab was merely the beginning for the ambitious team: Kit Menu is most certainly still happening. The duo just want to make sure that they get it right.