The Entrepreneurship course, designed and conducted by Professor Jianxi Luo at SUTD, nurtures student startups based on their hands-on user-centered design projects. The course proceeds like a 3.5-month pre-seed accelerator for experiential learning with an academic and theoretical foundation drawn from social-technical system design theories and principles. The practical venture building projects are aided with lectures, sprint workshops, panel discussions and weekly readings. Entrepreneurial students learn underlying factors and forces for decisions in the entrepreneurship process and the principles for designing products, processes and people organizations under extreme uncertainty and resource constraints. The course has been supported by a large international network of 150+ entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, design and manufacturing experts around the world.
"One of the best courses and professors who has taught me ever! Thank you lots Prof :)"
"The passion of Prof JianXi can clearly be seen each lesson he teaches. He has a vision that more students from SUTD will have an entrepreneurial spirit."
"30.111 forces you out of your comfort zone and tells you where your passion lies. This course prepares you for the real world critique on your product design that no other courses will teach."
"The concept of crowd funding is a brilliant one in that it supports anyone with an idea or prototype to continue building despite any personal limitations on resources they might have. Having a first hand experience on crowd funding from page designing and write-up to video-taking to getting people from all over the world to back us was truly a rewarding experience.
"I would strongly recommend students take this course in order to fully grasp the concept of starting up a company. Entrepreneurship is a skill that needs to be executed, practiced and fine-tuned which is often easier said then done correctly. The Entrepreneurship course taught by Prof Jianxi brings deep insights and understanding key important skill sets and tools which are often neglected by most people in bringing the product out to the market."
"The Entrepreneurship course provides a unique and conducive ecosystem for SUTD students of different pillars to come together to create innovative technologies and solutions for the real world. The different domains of entrepreneurship such as finance, human capital and marketing also are integral part of this holistic curriculum. Students are patiently and meticulously mentored by Professor Jianxi Luo, making it one of my most favorite modules in SUTD!"
"The crowd funding experience that was brought about during the entrepreneurship module was especially helpful and essential as it provides a realistic pillar of learning.
"In crowdfunding, the network you gain has greater value than the funds you raise."
"Very original, makes a lot of effort to bring in seasoned entrepreneurs and investors to share their insights."
"Prof has many connections and passionate in teaching us the entrepreneurial spirit."
"Prof Jianxi puts a lot of effort into making sure we have the right amount of exposure in this course through the course materials as well as organizing dialogue sessions with experienced entrepreneurs"
"Very knowledgeable and well networked!"
"Practical and interesting"
"Weekly readings are very useful."
"The course provides us with exposure to the world of entrepreneurship and the things to think about when starting a business. The midterm trip to Shenzhen was an eye opening experience and was definitely the highlight of the course."
"Great course! Everyone interested in entrepreneurship should definitely attend this instead of thinking that they can always start later on."
"I have gained many insights and also realized the parameters I have overlooked."
"The industrial guest lectures and fireside chats are particularly relevant to our coursework because they help to inform our decisions in our fledging ventures as budding entrepreneurs."
"The guest lectures are also a perfect way to learn because they complement the theory and yet, provide insights that are directly actionable."
"The tips that guests gave were also invaluable and would be unlikely to be transpired from traditional methods of teaching."
"The guest lectures and fireside chats were really insightful as we got the rare opportunity to ask burning questions and get genuine feedbacks about our start-ups from experienced entrepreneurs."
"During the Shenzhen trip, we manage to make contacts with some of the companies to learn of their in house design and engineering capabilities as well as contacts with suppliers in Hua Qiang Bei who could potentially support our project’s requirements. Shenzhen was an interesting and rewarding experience of this course and of SUTD, and I hope more people do get the chance to learn about this in future."
"The visit to HAX (Shenzhen) opened my eyes to the world of what it is like to work in an accelerator/incubator for hardware products, and the services and facilities they offer. It was really interesting to see so many entrepreneurs, engineers and designers from all over the world working in the same space. But what was most beneficial was the pitching feedback session we had with the people working at HAX, where they provided really valuable insights to how a good pitch should be done and what to look out for when pitching to different audiences. The comments immediately helped us to refine and improve on our campaign story and would be useful pitching to investors in the future.""
"Other than knowledge, we built connections with companies like AQS, Higgs and Hax. Hax was very open to start-up ideas that want to be incubated by them. From Higgs and AQS, we learned about what they are capable of doing and how to contact them for a quote or for assistance about bringing the product to life. It was a fruitful trip as I managed to see how things are done on a production line, the importance of quality control, and the many other steps to do before really putting a product into the market."
"I think I learnt the most information at World Maker Group in the session where the senior engineer talked about product realisation and designing for manufacturability (DFM). From that lecture, I learnt about the process of converting an initial concept idea to a fully finished product and what are the challenges and hurdles that would be met in between."
"I gained plenty from the Shenzhen trip in both knowledge and experience and I would recommend future students of the course to not miss out on this fantastic opportunity to discover things that can’t be taught in class and establish useful contacts."
"Being in Shenzhen electronics’ hub is definitely eye-opening as EVERYTHING is there. It’s insane but spectacular as well. I bought a pirated Go Pro that costs only 1/6 of the real price but yet of considerable quality. I see and understand why rapid prototyping is plausible and how is it salient in allowing companies to pivot and change directions."
"We learnt significantly from AQS and World Maker Group about manufacturing processes and design for manufacturing (DFM)."
"The visit to AQS was an eye opener, it allows me to understand the processes in a factory. From sourcing of raw materials, to the packing of goods and deliver it to the clients. The interactions with the staffs, allows me to find out about their concerns, what are the things that they will require from my team, if they were to manufacture our product. Similar to AQS and HAX, the trip to World Maker Group was able to provide us a more comprehensive of the processes need for a product to reach the market. World Maker Group gave us an enriching lecture on product development process, product realization and design for manufacturing. My team went on to further visit the Fabrication lab of World Maker Group, of which we manage to check out their facilities and was introduced to a personnel who works at Huaqiangbei. It was crucial in helping us to purchase the electrical components that we needed."
"Visiting different incubators, accelerators and assembly plants in Shenzhen, I was exposed to manufacturing practices, and that there is more to designing a product than I had previously known. Courses in SUTD have a strong focus on design and prototyping. However, through this trip, there was constant emphasis on the importance of having a manufacturing-friendly design, to minimize the occurrence of manufacturing defects. This opened a whole new perspective of design for me, and it made me realize that the design process does not end after producing a working prototype. Designers need to communicate with manufacturers to come up with a product design that can be properly mass produced. Through this process, there will be multiple design revisions, and the designer must be able to understand that there are manufacturing restrictions to their designs and accommodate these design changes."
"The Shenzhen trip brought us out of our comfort zones to talk to different people, to be free to meet them and talk to them. As a co-founder of a startup, this is very important as I would need to share my idea with many people of different scales, be it a one-to-one or to a big crowd, the story would need to be the same throughout."
"The keyword of Design For Manufacturer came up on multiple of the visits which proves that this is a very important and vital phase to being able to mass produce and fulfill the products. I have also learnt about the rough timeline it takes for an actual product to be produced and the volume capability of a factory gradually builds up over time due to the human factor, which is very vital to factor in such additional time for manufacturing and delivering of products."
"An insight was brought up by HAX as they say that the “SanZhai” movement is actually beneficial to them as they can now cheaply buy an imitation item and tear it apart in order to study and learn from it, and how they manage to keep costs low and optimise the product, which changed my perspective of “SanZhai” products from a negative one to a positive one."
"Being at Huaqiangbei is a real eye opener to the opportunities and how fast and rapid new ideas and technologies can be prototyped and tested, and HAX is in a very ideal location where they can literally go downstairs to grab the components that they need without the delays of having to order it online and wait for shipping. Being at Shenzhen also means that having physical access to the factories are much easier to get inspiration as well as vetting the suitability of a factory for manufacturing."
"I managed to gather a lot of useful contacts from the factory, accelerator visits as well as from Huaqiangbei vendors, as well as getting myself familiaried with WeChat as this proves to be a very vital platform in order to communicate with the vendors and to establish a good relationship with them so that I can seek for their help when I need it."
"The level of technological accomplishment that I have seen in Shenzhen is more impressive than what I’ve seen in Singapore."
"We have seen that some of the companies which we have visited such as AQS and WMG are able to help us develop our product through the DFM phase and also product industrial design inputs in order to guide our product towards mass production."
"During our visit to World Maker Group, I’ve gained some useful knowledge on design for manufacturing by an engineer there, who shared with us the entire process from designing to mass manufacturing. I admit that I have over looked this process as I was unaware of so many adjustments and many forms of designs that are required. Some examples are design for manufacturing, design for engineering, design for servicing, etc."
"This trip to Shenzhen gave me the opportunity to witness the prosperity and the abundance of opportunities in the 'Silicon Valley of Hardware'."
"Overall the trip to Shenzhen was really meaningful and gave me a good understanding of what it means/takes to work in a hardware startup."
"Crowdfunding enables us to promote the product and company to validate the design. The unsuccessful experience helped me realize that the products or ideas I come up with to be great may not be in accord with the market needs, and marketing strategy is vital."
"After these theories, we came to Crowdfunding Campaigns part, in which I found that the real battle is different from theories. I mean sometimes we know how to do, but when we are really do it, we will find that we don’t achieve what we supposed to. Practice do teach us a lot, make us know our cofounders’ real abilities, characteristics, make us know our product’s disadvantages, make us know our real market."
"We still weren’t that sure of customer demand. Fortunately, Prof, as part of the course, pushed us to launch ourselves on Kickstarter. So far, it’s been a hell of a ride trying to cobble together a campaign within a month. But it was all worth it in the end because it gave us access to a small number of early adopters who took the initiative to come forward and commend our idea. To have customers look for us, instead of the other way around, was something that couldn’t have been possible without an online campaign."
I learn from this kickstarter campaign that it is not so much about the product but more about how I market it. If we can start all over again, I will have: 1. spent more time in developing a wow factor for our product or our product should have a specific pain point of general public that it can solve; 2) lower our Kickstarter goal to $5,000 so that we can hit our goals earlier and get free publicity and coverage just like Kins Wallet. I have learnt to make use of the various resources provided by the school to do rapid prototyping and also marketing material. All these were instrumental in gaining the initial growth to $18,000 in the first week of our launch.
"Creating and managing the campaign was a good experience. It was probably something I did not foresee doing anytime soon but the course had put me through it. It gave us some marketing experience of engaging with tech blog writers, Facebook followers etc. We managed to gather around 5 organic responses which tells us that there are some people out there, experiencing luggage storage problems. We also realized our mistake of selling fizzy grapes to generate activity and buzz in our kickstarter campaign since it was against bootstrapping and it wasn’t much of a success for our campaign to get noticed.
"In this class, I have experienced the hardness of starting up the company ,the happiness of working with our team, and the sense of achievement when we finally launched in the kickstarter."
"This course has also pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones of the school environment, and has brought us to the international stage. We had to stop thinking like an engineer, but as a consumer and our target audience to allow us to find out more on how what kind of information we will need to share with the public and our potential backers, and to word them carefully so as to bring across the right message to them at the shortest time given. We also had our hand in going cold-emailing and cold calling to various parties to promote our events. Similarly, this has brought the whole team onto the edge by “forcing” the team to go out to promote our campaign and cause, and this has led to various degrees of success."
"Before this module, I believed that a great idea will be able to attract attention with minimum effort as people will want to be engaged. However, I could not have been more wrong. Through the entire module, our team found it hard to engage the interest of strangers and to explain to them what our vision and product is. Along with the crowd funding campaign, we learnt how necessary publicity is for a start-up. We had to find numerous ways like social sites to campaign and attracting media outlets to publicize our product in order to gain traction. I believe it is hugely beneficial for me to have experience the difficulties of running a good campaign. It is easy for outsiders who have never experienced running a campaign to diminish its difficulty but it is truly is an arduous task."
"The importance of validated learning, as promoted by the Lean Startup methodology, was something that I discovered throughout this module. From doing face-to-face interviews with potential users and starting a Kickstarter campaign to test hypotheses and a target market, I have gained so much insight to the feasibility and potential of my groups idea."
"On Kickstarter, there are total 10 backers of our project except our friends and teacher. Some of them are very fond of our product and would like to spend money to get it. They also give us some advices and communication which give us a lot of encouragement and movement. Every little progress is not easy. And I very happy we keep it up and make it. Though there are many things we need to improve, I think what we did is quite a breakthrough for us."
"The journey and process of starting a company and developing a business idea, from a small and simple thought that appeared during our discussion, to launching it on a crowd funding website, there was a sense of satisfaction and joy whenever we managed to achieve some goal or aim, no matter how small and trivial. It made us feel that we were on track to achieving something, that we were maybe going to create something great and meaningful for us and society."
"The Kickstarter launch and working towards it exposed me us to new opportunities and experiences. As product designer for the group, I had to create a minimum viable product and gained many insights in terms of designing for the product...I am more aware now of what is the requirements for setting one up. This includes the technical and non-technical aspects, such as the marketing and planning involved, how to communicate effectively with photographs, graphics, and videos, and the importance of and how to create a convincing pitch with clear customer propositions and customer voice. This project also exposed me to various networks and contacts...We also learnt a lot from results of the campaign. In general, the current conclusion about the product so far is that it is a good one and there is customer demand for it (from the Kickstarter backers report, we had almost 30 overseas backers out of 130+). Most of the concerns we had were about the materials used and the strength of having such a lock, which was difficult to justify with a 3d printed MVP.
"The practical and theoretical aspects of the course complement one another well and has given me a much clearer picture of what exactly entrepreneurship is and what it entails; and the Shen Zhen trip was the highlight of the course for me as I got more real life exposure out of it. A key personal takeaway from this course is that I should be more willing to try new things, engage more with others and test ideas. In fact, I am seriously considering entrepreneurship as a career after graduation, which has changed my view towards how I would be spending my remaining time as a university student in SUTD and SMU, to not only take advantage of the resources around me, but also to look for the right opportunities and networks to make a change in the world."
"Through the execution of the project kickstarter campaign, I got to experience of making a product, marketing it and selling to people around the whole world. This experience is sold me on the concept of early adopters. People are willing to give you money even when the product is relatively “ugly” aesthetics wise because they believe in the vision, mission and the team."
"The kickstarter campaign was a really good experience because the act of running a campaign is new and different. It gave us the freedom to be in control and see how the market actually react. The backers’ feedbacks gave us opportunities to see where and what we can do differently. The interaction with early adopters and VCs allowed us to understand the market better and change what is unsuitable. It also allowed us to fine tune our value proposition and ensured the focus that we are on."
"The trip to ShenZhen broadened my horizons with respect to sensitivity of time to market as well as insights on large-scale manufacturing process."
"The greatest experience I have in this class is to launch our product on Kickstater. This campaign gives me a true feeling of entrepreneurship. During this campaign, we have been closely engaged with those backers and thus get to know what our flaws are. Meanwhile, we also learn a lot from other kickstaters, especially from those who have achieved great accomplishment."
"A lot of experiences has been gained from this module in terms of reaching out to people and building a network. The act of sharing our project with many people outside of our usual circles really helped to push ourselves and our project forward. This is something we would not have extensively done without this module. Without these experiences, it would have been a much slower path to figure out how we can bring this product to market."
"Lastly, towards the end of the term, through our Kickstarter marketing, we managed to find a potential partner for our product who wants to collaborate to make 50-200 pieces while providing us with a user base for testing. Without all these efforts placed into Kickstarter, we would not have found such an organization. This was a great step for our team in moving forward."
"From this module, all founders also are equipped with a myriad of basic entrepreneurial skills - crafting suitable agreements, effective product development, bootstrapping, market validation, company valuation, engagement with VCs – which will help us greatly in building our start up."
"the crowdfunding campaign also allowed me to put myself and my work to the people around me, and I received a lot of great feedback and advices from people, which also helped build some connections and extended my network. People are now acquainted with the work I do and I think there are a lot more opportunities for people to help me with my work when they know I’m in this field."
"The recess week trip to Shen Zhen was mostly beneficial, it allows me to obtain valuable feedbacks from a manufacturing point of view. By changing certain designs of a product, it can reduce the manufacturing lead time and costs. It was a platform that allowed me to network with some manufacturers and incubators."
"I realized that our product design was towards creating something “COOL” but may not something as marketable. This was learnt during the launching of our campaign. We thought that our product would go viral but realized that people like the concept but not willing to pay for the product. After analyzing a few other successful campaign projects, I realized that our product lacked the customer analysis on what people really want. More customer and market analysis had to be done during product designing stage."
"This class differs from other entrepreneurship classes taught by other schools and universities, in the sense that we are required to launch and fully go through a Kickstarter campaign. This is really helpful as it throws us into the deep end of the pool and we really fully learn from this experience – learn by doing."
"Most of the design modules and technical modules that I have taken in SUTD stops at the prototyping stage, which led me to have the false perception that it was all it takes to create a good product – a working prototype. But from this module, my group was required to consider selling our product, which meant that we had to bridge the gap between a prototype and an actual, sellable product. This made me realise the importance of understanding manufacturing processes and designing for manufacturability. "
"From our Kickstarter campaign, we found out that marketing is really important. Even though one’s product may be very good (in terms of its functionality and usefulness), if there is no outreach and publicity for the product, it will be difficult for it to be discovered."
"It also opened up a possible career option for me in the future, and it is interesting to wonder about what lies ahead for me in the future."
"The kickstarter campaign was the pinnacle and most memorable aspect of the module to me. I had a good taste of running a company, putting it out to the public eye for criticism and learning from these criticism to further improve the product offerings. It was definitely a tough but enjoyable journey. Though our campaign was not funded successfully, we managed to get 25% of our funding goals and gather lots of feedback from the public (some negative, mostly positive). I have no personal regrets on the result, but rather, I’m glad to have this rare, guided opportunity to launch a kickstarter."
"In our entrepreneurship class, I like how things are systematically taught to make entrepreneurship more like a science than art where one has to consciously iterate one’s ideas, conduct experiments to understand the market, derive numbers to prove one’s case, etc."
"I think it was amazing that we had the opportunity to launch something real on kickstarter and pitch to real venture capitalists. These opportunities allowed us to turn what we learn in class to real-life. The experience also challenged us to be bold and fearless in marketing our idea to people."
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