OK, this was one of the courses which I was looking forward to from my first day in the business school.
Many people take this course in their last semesters, after finishing all the foundational courses. I took it after finishing half my credits. My rationale was that if the business idea I work on, finds some legs then I’ll have some time to use Haas resources to work on it further. At the end of the course, I would recommend the latter approach if you are serious about pursuing the business opportunity. If you want to take it only to understand the workings of starting a new business then the first approach would work better.
I took the class with Fuchs, Zafar and Price, and it was awesome. The class interaction, the insight from the professors, the workshop nature of the class. I loved it! The three guys work as a very cohesive team, but they add value in different aspects. There were 4 other mentors in the class for more personal attention to the teams.
The whole course focuses on – identifying an opportunity, identifying the best way to take it to market and then what the $ potential of the business is. In the end, the business plan is presented to a panel of real VCs. The VCs judge the team presentation like they would evaluate a real start-up team. The presentation and the business plan is most of the grade. The presentation is quite stressful since the VCs are quite critical.
I wanted to work on a business idea which marketed renewable energy solution in India, and that is what I ended up doing. I worked with a terrific team with 4 other guys. Team in this course is as important as in a start-up. We ended up spending 5-6 hours outside the class, every week, throughout the semester. We heard of many teams which did not gel well. We also heard of people who did not like the idea they worked on, and I would not advise that either. I would also recommend coming into the course with some pre-cnceived idea or at least an idea of what space you want to work in. In the first 3-4 weeks the idea as well as team has to be finalized. Its hard to do both together. Having said that many ideas in our class changed till the last few weeks.
The course can be as good as your team and the work you put in. I was very fortunate in both respects. We got rave (meaning RAVE) reviews for our presentation and our teamwork. In fact a couple of the VCs in the panel showed real interest in our idea even after the presentation. At this point I am not sure what will come out my post-course interactions with the VCs but getting to this point, and getting in their radar is a good thing to get some real feedback on the idea.
This is a truly awesome course, which makes you use everything you have learnt in the business school. It is very real with real life potential impacts. I would recommend it VERY HIGHLY to anyone interested in entrepreneurship.