Gabriel Bianconi : Technology Entrepreneurship MOOC

I’ve always tried to learn beyond what’s taught at school. I’d already learned much from online tutorials, but they usually lacked organization and continuity. Only recently made popular, MOOCs solve these problems (usually).

The first MOOC I joined was a course on Technology Entrepreneurship offered by Stanford University. I was still in high school; it was long before I became a member of it’s Class of 2017.

The aim of this course was for students to learn about entrepreneurship while they tried to create their own startup in groups. This experience taught me a lot about the subject, but there are a few lessons that I feel are worth sharing.

1. Practical learning is awesome

This course’s practical approach is what made it stand out for me. The lectures by professor Eesley were superbly insightful, but I feel that most of what I learned came from the projects.

Trying to do something by yourself is very rewarding. You often face obstacles and have to learn how to deal with them. Usually you have to go beyond what was taught to create something great. In the process, you learn things lectures can’t teach you. It’s the closest to real life you can get.

As a result, I think that the best way to learn about entrepreneurship is by trying to launch a startup. My group’s project failed, but the experience and knowledge remain.

2. A motivated team is essential

This was actually the first lesson the course taught me. The teams for the first assignments were randomly chosen. My team, consisting of 10 people, was totally worthless. Some said they didn’t have time. A few had just signed up for curiosity and didn’t intend to participate. And the others were totally unreachable.

I tried to interact with others, but I was the only member who actually wanted to take that course. With the deadline in mind, I had to do the assignments on my own. Of course I learned something from them, but I’m sure I’d have learned much more if more members had engaged in discussion.

Luckily, my team for the startup project was very active. Although the project failed, I learned a lot from interacting with them.

3. International teams are a double-edged sword

The team for the startup project  had members from several countries: China, Ecuador, India, Ireland, Latvia, Singapore, and the US. It was hard for all of us to communicate. For example, it was hard for me, living in Brazil, to chat with the member from China.

It was very hard for all members to be online at the same time. In order to overcome these problems, we used tools like Trello (task management), Skype (real-time conversation), and Facebook (chatting).

However, this characteristic of our team had positive aspects too. Each teammate had a different background and thus managed to contribute in a significant way. It also allowed us to be present in different parts of the world without big costs – something especially helpful for an early-stage startup. It was a very interesting experience to work in such a group.

4. Bootstrapping is usually possible with creativity and determination

As an early-stage startup without funding, it was fundamental for us to keep costs to a minimum. Sometimes this was hard, but with creativity and determination we made it possible.

For example, we needed a tool for task management and messaging. The most popular solution in the market is probably Basecamp – but it’d costs us at least $20/month. Therefore, we decided to search for alternatives. In the end, we found Trello, which together with a Facebook group solved our problem. The only cost we had during the project was a domain name.