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Suzanne Bergmeister's multi-discipline entrepreneur class mixing med, legal and engineering students on startup teams

by Terry Boyd

Suzanne Bergmeister

This is how they do it in The Valley.

More and more, building a startup calls for cross-pollination, says Suzanne Bergmeister, entrepreneur in residence at the University of Louisville. It takes skills across the continuum – from coders to attorneys to accountants to the doctors, let’s say, who have great ideas for a life-sciences company.

So, why not get them working together as graduate students?

In that spirit, Lean Startup expert Bergmeister is teaching Entrepreneurship 600, a U of L College of Business class open to all students enrolled in graduate programs at U of L.

Entrepreneurship 600  starts Tues., May 14 and ends Tue., July 2.

The class is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the College of Business.

The 8-week, in-depth course will not just introduce the students from different disciplines to the entrepreneurial process, but will reveal the secrets of what it takes to start a company.

“How to think through markets. How to think through customer development,” Bergmeister said.

Entrepreneurship 600 is designed to take all those law school students, engineers, future docs and dentists, as well as arts and sciences types, divide them into teams of six or seven people, “and they’ll actually start up a business,” she said. “They have to come with ideas. I’m not going to give them ideas.

The class is capped at 35, and about 20 were registered last week. Though you get the feeling that if you’re a technical type,  Bergmeister will fit you in.

“We’re really trying to get the scientists and the engineers,” said Bergmeister, who has engineering degrees in addition to her MBA. “We have a couple of law school students signed up already.”

Right now, the U of L business school has a strategic partnership with the Brandeis School of Law, so her programs get several law school students to take entrepreneurship classes and work with business plan teams.

Teams will be assigned “so that not every engineer is on one team,” she said. “Make them work together on integrated teams.”

Bergmeister’s expectations are for real companies to come out this class.

“That’s my Holy Grail. Real ideas that have been vetted in the eight weeks we meet. We’ve done customer development. I want real ideas that can become companies. Not all of them will, of course, but that’s what I want.”

Entrepreneurship 600 is based on an approach used at Stanford University.

 “This is how Steve Blank does it at Stanford. He gets teams of engineers, designers, business people, accountants … puts them together, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Blank, a longtime entrepreneur, teaches a number of classes at Standford University in Palo Alto including Technology Entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship 600 will include Blank’s Lean LaunchPad videos posted on Internet education site udacity.com.

Entrepreneurship 600 opened at U of L last year as a trial and got favorable reviews from students, Bergmeister said. She’ll be incorporating more Lean Launch methodology in the 2013 version.

“If it gets traction, maybe we can offer it twice next year.”

Now, here’s the tricky part.

What if these teams hit on a great idea they don’t want to give up on to return to class … do they do a Steve Jobs and drop out?

If companies take off, Bergmeister said, she sees students possibly taking off a year to see how far they can go.

“I was just down in Austin this past weekend at the Venture Labs Investment Competition – the global champion – and one of the teams in the final four was from Northwestern. One was a med student, one was in law school. Both took a year off with Northwestern’s blessing to work on this startup.

“In other words, they deferred them a year. Students always have he possibility to do something like that.”

Bergmeister said interested U of L grad students can see their student advisors for more information.

Or, they can email her at:  s0berg02@louisville.edu

Here’s the synopsis:

ENTR 600-01 IMBA (Entrepreneurship MBA) 3.0 credit hours

Summer 2013 –May 14-July 2 –Tuesday evenings 5:30 –College of Business

Course Objectives

The primary aim of this course is to build all aspects of a business plan. The course specifically

focuses on business model development, strategic positioning, funding sources as well as

working entrepreneurially within an organization (profit or non-profit).

Restricted to Graduate level students from any discipline within U of L.

Contact Dr. Sharon Kerrick-Associate Director Forcht Entrepreneurship Center College of

Business for more information –Sharon.Kerrick@louisville.edu –502-852-4683

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