Online lectures: Technology entrepreneurship (a.k.a venture-lab.org)

This is the second part in a series about my experience with online education. Some months earlier I wrote about taking a couple of online classes. This second post is about Technology entrepreneurship class.

Spoiler alert – this class was a big disappointment. A waste of time, really.

The promise of venture-lab.org was to form a team and build a company. This fact alone should have been a warning sign, but I was optimistic and eager to try it out.

For the first two assignments, the system automatically diveds students into teams of 10 based on geographical location and language preferences. This worked well. When my teammates were chosen, I sent a first email saying hi to all of them. Just one replied.

The first assignement was that everyone of us should come up with either a best or worst business idea ever. We were supposed to fit it into the business model generation canvas. This was an easy and fun task and was supposed to bind the team together. Unfortunatelly, only one other member (Hi Carlos!) from my “team” participated.

Next, we were given an idea created by some other team in the first assignment and were supposed to create a business pitch. Either a slide deck, a video or a text selling the business to potential investors. Again, as with the first task, only two of us participated. I was starting to get annoyed.

These two tasks, however, were supposed to be just warm-up duties. The “real” would be the next one. We were instructed to create a 3 or 4 person teams (could be from the current teammates or any other enrollees). I sent another mail to my current team, again with no reply but one. Since they have been inactive for the whole course, I decided to post to the forums, looking for a team, advertising my skills. As I should have known, people who responded we’re “business types” looking for a iPhone developer to build their awesome SoLoMo app idea that’s better than Foursquare. I’m not kidding here, this really happened.

Irritated by the whole experience, I decided to spend my time more productively and quit venture-lab.org. This experiment was a failure.

There were also other mishaps resulting from the rest of the teammates not communicating, but I won’t go into details as they are not that important.

Another defect of the class was the organization of study materials and video lectures itself. It was just chaotic. I understand that it is the first year and so I hope they’ll improve it.

Yet I believe the whole premise of this course is flawed. You just cannot pick people at random, put them together and think they’ll build a company even if it’s the aim of every single one of them. If this course taught me anything, it was that building a company is all about people. Surround yourself with the right ones.

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