Saturday, September 24, 2011

Learn how to build a startup - VIA class 1

today I'll tell you about my plan for the winter Internet Application Development course. I want to teach students what are the steps for developing a useful Internet application. I got a little inspired by Steve Blank LaunchPad. Today, many of our students work on their own projects and typically they focus on programming. Real hackers frequently fall in love with new idea or technology. They spend a lot of time developing, but only few of them convert the idea to a working product. In my course I’d like to help them to change it and in the same time learn what are the product development steps.

How do we operate? First I am splitting students in to teams of four. Each team must set up a web home page and write short essay describing what they want to develop. Next, they should use the home page to attract the users and check the idea. During the whole course I want students to track the development. We will use blogs or other journal like application. Documenting progress is always good practice. List of finished tasks is creating a good feeling of progress, it also helps to stay in focus.

Who are the customers and what do we want to deliver? Customers are all students of the CTU and we want to deliver applications making their university live easier. Since developers and customers are the same it should be easier to validate the product idea. Teams, students will test the product on students.

I am also narrowing the choice of application to Internet apps for mobile. There are many reasons, besides the sales numbers and popularity. Most important is that mobile apps are typically much simpler. They focus on one simple task. Small screen supports only easy UI. Simple, small and intuitive apps are our target.

I’d like to finish the semester with real working minimum set of features applications. To make the apps development as simple as possible we will offer ready to use sandboxes for Android and Google App Engine. This should quickly jump start the development.

What will the students learn? How to lead a project, how to organize the development, and how to create something useful and attractive for users. The most important take away is the hands on experience.

I do not know how the whole course will work out, are there enough ideas for applications, are our students inventive enough to pick the right set, do we have enough time to do something useful? There are lot of questions, but I am sure we need to search for new ways how to inspire students and help them achieving good results. This is my try. I’ll keep reporting about the progress.  See the deliverables specifications at VIA web pages. Keep your fingers crossed, comment, suggest!


  1. Great idea. From my point of view the first step is to start thinking about the new idea as a superstructure of existed product or service. It help students to keep the feet on the ground so the development process (and also the business part of whole idea) should be simpler. The question is if playing the market in the university environment is sufficient. eClub has a lot of opportunities to interconnect with real business environment.

  2. Its a great concept....but I hope you will write brief on this topic.....thanks for sharing with us

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