Entrepreneurship (Part II) - Please help!

Last month in my post titled MicroIVs - Making Dreams Come True, I described trying to instill the entrepreneurial spirit in my two eldest children. In what can only be described as yet another manifestation of my insanity, I'm considering teaching an "Entrepreneurship 101" class at the Grace Prep School, where my son will be attending 10th grade. Two factors make me think this would work; First, I'm on the advisory board for the local public high school's Technology education programs, where I've seen this work. As part of the marketing curriculum, the students have managed all facets of a successful store, located right in the high school building. Second, Grace Prep is a pretty progressive school ... it has already embraced many non-traditional learning techniques and values education with experience over rote learning. There may be a third alterior motive, since I'm concerned that I'm not boring enough people through this blog (although, based on the lack of comments I've received, I suspect that you are indeed snoring before you reach the "add new comment" link). I suspect there would be some real satisfaction in lulling a student to sleep and then calling on them. In any case, I'd like your opinion on both the concept and the implementation.

Here's the elevator pitch: Have the students in the class create a real MicroISV. The students could be divided into groups (Sales/Marketing, Customer Support, Management, Product Research and Development) based on their interests and/or aptitudes, with each group responsible for a portion of the business. I would provide the domain name, web site and software development (a program I wrote in less than a week last year). I believe that this software is saleable and have considered creating a MicroISV for it, so I don't feel bad using it as the company's product. The students would have to start the business, market and sell the software, handle customer interaction and direct product development.

Here's a rough outline of the topics that would be covered during the class:

  • Business
    • Legal Issues
      • Sole Proprietorship, Partnerships, LLCs and Corporations
      • Ficticious names
      • Taxes
      • Benefits
    • Employees
      • Payroll
      • Benefits
      • Taxes
      • EIN
  • Sales and Marketing
    • Sales
      • Target Customers
      • Channels, Partnerships, Distributors and Rebranders
      • Cold Calling
      • Making the Sale
        • Shopping Carts
        • Credit Card Processing
        • Paypal
        • Checks
    • Marketing
      • Market Research/Requirements
      • Focus Groups
      • Vertical versus Horizontal Markets
      • Website and Promotional Materials/Programs
      • Ad Campaigns
        • Adwords
        • Overture
        • Magazines
        • Other Media
      • Pricing
      • Market Segmentation
  • Product Research and Development
    • Product Development
      • Product Specifications
      • Ease-of-Use
      • Consistency
      • Look & Feel
      • Software Languages
      • User Interface
      • Development Methologies and Processes
      • Source Code Repositories and Versioning
      • Coding Standards
    • Product Research
      • Brainstorming
      • Customer Feedback
      • Use Cases
      • Complementary Products
      • Library Availability
  • Customer Support
    • E-mail Support
    • Telephone Support
    • Forums
    • FAQs
    • Problem Customers
    • Bug Tracking Systems
    • Incident Tracking Systems

After I created the class syllabus, I realized that Bob Walsh's book "MicroISV - From Vision to Reality" would be the perfect text book. If you combine the real-life experience provided through Patrick McKenzie's blog, you have both the theory behind creating a viable business and what I consider a perfect example of how to bootstrap a MicroISV.

So here's the questions I have:

  1. What's missing from the syllabus above?
  2. How many students would this realistically take?
  3. How many hours a week (per student) would be required?
  4. How many hours a week would be needed for lecture and resitation?
  5. Can one person realistically teach a class of this breadth?
  6. Would it be possible (or better) to team teach this class using SMEs for each high level discipline?
  7. Can I pull this off (or am I really too boring)?

Answers to these questions, as well as comments on omissions or errors would be greatly appreciated!

Good idea

That's a great idea, Steve, it seems totally feasible, and the lessons learned for the students would be very helpful.

It might be a good idea to strip it down to the basic, fun(?) stuff, like exploring ideas, paying for search ads, tracking stats and conversions to get them interested. Watch something like "the apprentice", and try to pick a couple of bite sized tests or exercises to get it going. For example, you have a piece of software you wanted to use, divide the group into two teams, and make them write a Google Ad and a landing page for it. Give some kind of prize for the team with the most conversions by the next session.

Let them see how satisfying or easy it can be to run some parts of a business, then start to include the heavier stuff like legal issues, market classification, support and development infrastructure.

And try not to be too disheartened by the lack of comments (I know it's not easy). I've been reading along, but I haven't usually had anything to add.

Division of Labor

I think one of the most important aspects would be to get different team members to focus on different areas. We all have areas we naturally gravitate towards but often have to work with people in those other areas and/or handle them ourselves.

What might be even better is - if there's time - do a second version of the project with the positions shuffled.

I would have loved to play with this idea in high school or college.

Thats why I think I'd start

Thats why I think I'd start with a series of simple tests or contests. You can shuffle around responsibilities pretty easily and give everyone an idea of what each area does.

>I would have loved to play with this idea in high school or college.

Me too, it sounds like a lot of fun.