Management 235, Technological Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is a special linking course for M&T students and the archetypical M&T class – mostly M&T students, taught by Dr. William Hamilton (M&T founder and Program Director), and positioned within the technology commercialization process. Even the name, Technological Innovation and Entrepreneurship, screams M&T.
I was enrolled in the course over the fall semester, and really enjoyed it thanks to the discussions, the guest speakers, and the semester long project. Here’s a breakdown of the class and my favorite parts of each.
The Discussions: Every class period contains a discussion; we might review a business plan, recap the course readings, or work on a discussion quiz. The quality of the conversation is better than any class I’ve taken at Penn, largely due to the enthusiasm of the students and Dr. Hamilton’s moderating. The students are all critically invested in the subject area, and we subsequently come to class very well prepared. I’m sure the discussion could – and would – go on for quite a while if it weren’t for Dr. Hamilton. He has a distinct ability to craft the direction of the conversation without hampering its flow.
The Guest Speakers: Dr. Hamilton has been active in the both the entrepreneurial and M&T community for decades, and he uses that to his full advantage to bring in insightful speakers. We’ve had the chance to learn from early employee of PayPal and LinkedIn founder, Lee Hower; serial entrepreneurs, Rob Weber and Steven Polsky; founder and CEO of Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, Dr. Daniel Skovronsky; and a premier innovator in early-stage legal counsel, Steven Goodman. Each speaker has brought highly-relevant and insightful information related to their field of expertise, and their stories cause everyone to walk out of the class with a renewed motivation to start their own venture.
The Project: Throughout the course of the semester, student teams are expected to develop a full-fledged business plan for a legitimate entrepreneurial venture. From the 25 ventures that are presented to the class, six ventures eventually are chosen by the students. The large supply of eager ventures ensures the quality and diversity of the projects. This year, the companies included a compound developer aiming to revolutionize the cost and sustainability of oil sands extraction, a medical diagnostic firm that can determine whether a patient has experienced a concussion via a blood test, a tech firm that has developed a new video encoding technology, a MGMT235 student-led start-up that incorporates small helicopters into campus security, a medical diagnostic firm for detecting cancer, and a catalyst developer that can reduce enzyme costs in cellulosic ethanol production by 10 times (the venture I’m currently working on). In order to develop a satisfactory business plan, teams must dig deep into the technology and market – something that can’t be faked. I assure you, I know more about ethanol production than I ever thought I would. The time and effort-intensive process is designed to prepare students for developing their own ventures.