Keller Center - Educating Leaders for a Technology-Driven Society


ELE 491/591: High-Tech Entrepreneurship

Course OverviewEd Zschau with students

This course is designed for undergraduate juniors and seniors and for graduate students who are interested in starting up high tech companies early in their careers or who want to become key contributors in new emerging technology companies after graduation. The class size is limited, and enrollment is by application only. Undegraduate students should apply for ELE 491 and graduate students should apply for ELE 591 (same course, different catalog number). 



Course Highlights

The course is "hands-on" and practical, but it does provide students with several important conceptual frameworks and analytical techniques. The course introduces students to the analysis and actions required to launch a successful high tech company. Specifically, it addresses the challenges of evaluating new technologies and business ideas for commercial feasibility, determining how best to implement those ideas, attracting the resources needed to start a new venture (e.g., key people, corporate partners, and venture capital), preparing comprehensive yet focused business plans, structuring and negotiating important business relationships, and managing early stage companies toward "launch velocity." It also touches on "harvesting" the value from successful firms by the acquisition of a young firm by an established company.  


Several teaching and learning techniques are used in the course. The primary technique is the "case method" in which students read and analyze prior to class Harvard Business School cases describing real situations that confronted high tech entrepreneurs and then discuss in class, with the guidance of the instructor, how they would have addressed those situations and what lessons can be learned from them. Study questions are provided to guide the students' preparation of the cases, but students are encouraged to be creative with their own analyses and action plans. In addition to preparing the cases, there are required readings for many of the classes in order to provide conceptual frameworks, analytical techniques, background information, and guidelines for addressing issues raised in the cases. Further, some classes include "lecturettes" and discussions to highlight key techniques, and a few classes feature visits by entrepreneurs and investors who can provide current "real world" insight and guidance.
The most powerful learning opportunities are provided by the two written assignments. The mid-term paper gives each student the chance to apply what has been discussed in the early part of the course to finding a new technology and assessing its commercial feasibility. The final project provides the chance to study and analyze in depth a real startup company.


There are no prerequisites for the course, but students are expected to have already or to develop on their own a working knowledge of basic accounting principles (e.g., understanding the elements of a company Income Statement and Balance Sheet and how activities by the firm affect them) and how to apply that knowledge to making financial projections under various scenarios for a young firm. Students who do not have prior accounting knowledge are expected to complete on their own a "programmed learning" text Essentials of Accounting by Robert Anthony.

Class Schedule

The class meets Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 1:30 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. and is offered in both the fall and spring semesters.