LTV Overview

Career Focus

Launching Technology Ventures (LTV) is designed for four types of students:
  1. Those who will start their own companies.
  2. Those who will join early-stage startups (typically in a product manager, business development, sales, marketing, or growth role).
  3. Those who will work at growth stage technology firms (in a similar range of roles) that try to maintain a similar, nimble operating model as a startup.
  4. Those who are interested in investing in startups.
The class focus is on pre-product-market fit technology-based ventures in a range of information technology-based sectors. Business models covered range from SaaS to freemium to e-commerce to transaction-based.

Educational Objectives

The course takes the perspective of founders struggling to achieve product market fit in their early-stage startups. Our cases focus on founder decision during this search and discovery phase, both in the experiments that they design and run as well as the organizations they try to form.

LTV has a tactical, implementation bias rather than a strategic one and will largely avoid concepts covered in Entrepreneurial Finance and Founders' Journey. There is a modest overlap with Product Management 101/102 and Entrepreneurial Sales, and Entrepreneurial Marketing, but LTV is solely focused on pre-product-market fit and the perspective of the founder. In that regard, LTV is a complementary to Scaling Tech Ventures (STV), which focused more on post product-market fit startups.

LTV helps students learn the playbook for finding product-market fit while learning to design business models for success, answering the question why some startups are valued at only 2x revenue while others are valued at 20x.

Course Content

Through a series of case studies and intimate conversations with startup founder, LTV students examine management challenges in early-stage startups and the range of experiments that are conducted during this phase of development. Taking the perspective that a startup is an experimentation machine and that those experiments should cover all facets of the startup’s business model, we will explore six modules:

  1. Ideation and Customer Value Proposition Experiments. What are the best methods to develop and test startup ideas early in the development process? What are the right analytical techniques to derive insight into the power of a value proposition, conduct customer discovery, and determine whether a startup has achieved product-market fit?
  2. Go to Market Experiments. What is the right mix of direct and indirect selling efforts and at what phase in the startup's lifecycle should each be employed? How can founders themselves be the most effective sales engine for an early-stage company, even though it clearly does not scale as a go to market approach? What is the optimal mix of different customer acquisition methods, such as growth hacking, SEO, SEM, email, and affiliate programs? How should a startup think about working with channel partners or other gatekeepers in the face of asymmetric bargaining power and potentially divergent interests? What are the best practices for attracting and managing developers who can leverage a platform's API?
  3. Business Model Experiments. When is the best time to trigger monetization experiments and how should a freemium model be best executed? What are the different pricing and business model approaches that a startup can take, particularly when trying to deploy an innovative model and drive adoption in the context of a network effect-based business opportunity? How does one evaluate the quality of the startup business model and appreciate the relative pros and cons of business model choices?
  4. The Startup Organization. What is the best design for a startup organization intended to effectively execute on running startup experiments? When should a seed stage startup recruit its first sales professional and what hiring criteria should they use? The first marketing hire? How can a growth organization be created and how should it interact with the other functions, particularly product and marketing? When is the right time to build a community team? How can modern, flexible product development techniques, such as agile and continuous deployment, be utilized to enhance the rate of experimentation and thus the chances that product-market fit can be achieved?
  5. Financing and Exits. What is the best way to align financing needs with a startup’s operating plan, considering the key milestones and valuation inflection points ahead? If things are going well, or (all too frequently) not well, how should a founder consider and navigate exit options?
  6. Ethics. What are the important ethical considerations that a startup founder needs to consider, particularly as they face key moments such as financing and exit opportunities? How are a founder’s obligations to stakeholders challenged under pressure and uncertainty? More broadly, why does the startup ecosystem contain so many market failures that lead to biases and inequities – particularly in terms of access to capital for female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color?

The course has 25 cases, 2 exercises (one focused on startup business model deconstruction using current student’s startups and the other on pitching pre-seed/seed stage financing) along with a wrap-up session. In nearly all of the cases, the case protagonist will be a class guest. Case protagonists are 50% female, 50% male, and racially diverse. In addition to meeting the case protagonists in class, coffees and lunches are arranged to allow for more intimate exposure to a wide range of startup founders and investors, helping students build a strong network in startupland.

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