Economics of Innovation Syllabus

Spring 2015



Course description:

Students will explore the current “innovation revolution” by reading course texts, conducting case studies, investigating processes for ideation, prototyping, fundraising and operating a startup company, and debating microeconomic models.  Students will have the opportunity to launch mock startup companies that allow students to put theory into practice.  The course begins with a study of theories of innovation and an exploration into possible definitions of a startup.  Next, students will create goals around communication, networking, coding, and website development skills.  Students will spend time in and outside of class building skills, documenting mastery of skills in an online portfolio, and engaging in peer mentorship to support skill development.  Students will work in student-startup companies to learn and practice strategies for ideation, fundraising, and operations.  Student portfolios will be graded by the teacher and by peers based on process, progress, learning from failure and peer mentorship using the American Association of College and Universities’ Rubric for Lifelong Learning, student generated rubrics for peer mentorship and community-based assessment of the student startups.  Required course texts include Zero to One by Peter Thiel, How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, and Business Model Canvas by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur.


Required Texts:

Zero to One by Peter Theil

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

Business Model Canvas by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

Units of Study and Essential Questions

1) Theory

What is innovation? 

How do you define a startup? 

Where’s the value in radical collaboration?

What are the positive and negative effects of innovation on society (book stores, malls, driverless cars, Netflix, Spotify)?

2) Skills

What’s in your toolbox – how can you expand your skillset and effectively showcase your skillset? 

What are your OKRs around coding (Treehouse), website design (Squarespace) and business communication and networking (email, pitching, and Linkedin)? 

What is the “wildcard” skill you hope to develop – why, how will this happen and write an OKR around this skill. 

What does effective mentorship entail?  How can you find and be a successful mentor?

What are your own rules and agreements for being a peer mentor?

 How will you effectively show progress and process while developing these skills?  How will you show failure and learning from failure?

3) The Idea

How can design thinking, business model canvassing, futurist methodologies and lean startup methodology help your refine your ideas? 

How can empathy interviews, customer validation and prototyping help your startup?

How do you effectively pitch your idea to others?

How did Startup CEOs in Portland arrive at their ideas – share the story.

4) Fundraising and revenue

How does supply and demand modeling impact your startup?

How do theories of the firm related to costs and revenue impact your startup?

What are the essential elements of a business plan?

What revenue model will sustain your company?

How do you determine pricing or products and of your company (valuation)?

What are the strategies and options startup CEOS can utilize to raise money?  Which fundraising method is best for your company? 

Compare and contrast the following methods of fundraising: crowdsourcing, angel investments, venture capital, SBA loans, grants, convertible notes, term sheets, consulting, IPO, equity stakes.

What legal structure will your company take on?

How will your company grow and scale rapidly?

5) Running a company: Operations

How do you create and reinforce a company culture (is it all about the Ping Pong or the Benjamins)?

Compare and contrast possible decision making strategies and how these strategies influence the company.

What will the organizational structure of your startup look like and how will that structure influence company culture and protocols?
How do you hire and fire people?

How and where will you manufacture your products?

How do you deal with a firehouse-like volume of email – everyday?

How do you manage crisis and failure as a company?

How will you market and sell your product?

How will you grow quickly and sustainably?

How will you change the world?

How will your startup survive when the odds are against you (90% of tech startups fail)? 

Course Expectations: Class Citizenship

*Be nice.  Everyone deserves respect.  Listen carefully and considerately, even if you disagree.

*Work hard.  This class (and life) is what you make of it. 

*Be on time. Tardies and absences will negatively affect your citizenship grade.

*Participate and be heard.  As a discussion-based class, you will be asked to participate on a daily basis.  Participation includes asking/answering questions, offering insightful opinions, taking thoughtful notes, talking with me individually and being an active member in all classroom activities.  We look forward to your participation in your own unique way.

*Expect and effectively respond to constructive criticism to help you grow.

*Be intellectually engaged – everyday.  Sustained intellectual engagement requires close listening, active participation, respectful comments and thoughtful questions.                  

Course Evaluation

1) Student Squarespace portfolios will be evaluated based on the AACU rubric for lifelong learning, with a focus on process and progress. Parent permission is needed to allow students to build a Sqaurespace portfolio.  Otherwise, Blogger or Wix will be used.  (50%)

Squarespace portfolios must include:

·       A student-written blog for assessment that includes weekly, “week in reviews” reflections

·       Posts that highlight skill development in 4 categories. 

·       The focus of the website grading will be on process, progress, and collaboration.  Websites must be totally functional, easy to navigate       and visually appealing.

Stand alone projects that need to be featured on your portfolio:

·       Interview with CEO and blog post/video post on how/why that CEO started her/his company

·       Business Case Study: present on a problem and your solution for a PDX startup during the operations unit

·       Final curated skills toolbox portfolio (curated work on one page of the student portfolio) based on the following skills: 1. Coding (required) – Treehouse pass 2. Design – website design through Squarespace 3. Communication and community – business writing and speaking persuasively (pitching), networking 4. Wildcard – skill of your choice

·  Final oral exam – 5 minute pitch of your company

 2) Peer mentorship and evaluation.  (30%)

·       Peer assessment will be used based on a student-generated peer mentorship agreement that protocols for peer mentorship, OKRs, and a blog that includes peer mentorship feedback and reflections.

3) Self-evaluation based on student-generated OKRs (objectives & key results) (20%)