When most people hear the phrase scientific method, they think of physics or biology, not starting a company.
Professors at BYU Marriott are changing that perception in Entrepreneurship 113: Startup Bootcamp, a course that Taylor Halverson, associate teaching professor of entrepreneurship, describes as “learning the scientific method for how to launch a business.”
ENT 113, a prerequisite for the entrepreneurial management major and entrepreneurship minor, is open to learners across campus. The course helps students understand that “entrepreneurship is a disciplined process, and it’s more about solving problems than it is about making money,” explains Halverson. “That’s a mind shift for most students.”
In order to create the kind of intense, hands-on experience that “boot camp” implies, professors pack fifteen hours of instruction into a two-week period, with the class meeting all day on a Saturday and then on the following two Tuesday or Thursday evenings. “Teaching this class in a traditional format would be like trying to play a basketball game in five-minute chunks,” says Halverson. “It would disrupt the flow of the game.”
The course is based on lean entrepreneurship, a methodology that uses a more scientific approach to developing a business. Before the class meets for the first time, students read articles and watch videos to gain a basic understanding of course content. On the first morning of class, instructors split students into groups and immediately give them exercises that will help them start to identify problems they might be able to solve. A crucial part of this process is leaving the classroom to observe behavior and talk to people.
Once group members feel confident they have found a real problem, they begin prototyping and testing solutions. By the end of Saturday, groups have walked through each major element of business development and tracked the process on the “lean canvas”—a single page where they document assumptions, create hypotheses about those assumptions, and then test them.
Professors pack fifteen hours of instruction into three sessions as they teach the scientific method for how to launch a business.
In the following days, teams meet on their own to further refine their ideas, returning to class on one evening to pitch their solutions and receive feedback from classmates and professors. After another week’s work, the course ends with each group making a final presentation to explain the progress they’ve made toward starting a business.
“We don’t have a predetermined outcome,” says Halverson. “In fact, this is one of the few classes on campus where you can get credit for doing things wrong. What we care more about is that students show they can follow the lean entrepreneurship processes, even if their original business ideas turn out to be wrong.”
Maddie Baker, a senior from Meridian, Idaho, majoring in illustration and minoring in entrepreneurship, says the format of the class pushed her. “Quick deadlines call for action. It was fun to learn so much at once, and it made me feel like I had the entry-level know-how and resources to start exploring startup ideas on my own.”
Whether or not they go on to start a business, students leave ENT 113 with decision-making skills they can apply to many areas of life. Notes Halverson: “If they follow the scientific process, they will be more likely to succeed.”
Entrepreneurship is a disciplined process, and it’s more about solving problems than it is about making money. That’s a mind shift for most students.
Written by Shirleen Saunders