Startup Boot Camp Tests Business Savvy

Students from majors all over campus gather early on a Saturday morning for an eight-hour class on innovating and testing ideas. It’s their first and their last lecture of the semester, and once it’s over, they have five days to apply what they learned by creating a startup business plan to present to the professor the following Thursday.

This is Startup Boot Camp (BUS M 313): one lecture, one weekend, one presentation, and one step closer to becoming an entrepreneur. The class, which launched in Fall 2015, is required for all students in the entrepreneurship major as of this year, but anyone across campus is welcome to take the course. Several sections are offered during the semester.

After the student teams present, the instructor gives them feedback on their idea and how well they validated it. The team that wins in each section then compete with the winners from the other sections.

“The students who have moved past their first try at this process and don’t get discouraged when they encounter failure tend to have a lot more confidence in their next pursuits,” says Brian Reschke, assistant professor of entrepreneurship. “It’s one thing to understand content, but it’s another thing doing it. It’s our aspiration that they become critical thinkers.”

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Entrepreneurship professor Brian Reschke gives students feedback on their business models.

What can students gain from such a rapid and involved course? Here are five takeaways from faculty and students involved with the class:

  1. Learn how to bridge the gap.

“You usually come up with all these ideas and what you’d like to do with them, but you never go explore them,” says Brian Engstrom, an entrepreneurship junior from Draper, Utah. “What I appreciate about this boot camp is the ability to tackle something in a short amount of time and get out of your comfort zone.”

  1. Expand your network.

“The course allows students in the Marriott School to have an experience with students around campus,” says Nile Hatch, associate professor of entrepreneurship. “To create a successful startup, we need a variety of majors such as engineers, designers, and scientists to collaborate and work together.”

  1. Strike the balance between thinking and doing.

“I think we have a tendency to spend too much time analyzing and not enough time prototyping,” says Cade Dopp, an instructional psychology and technology master’s student from Salt Lake City. “In Startup Boot Camp, we were drilled to start acting right away to validate our thoughts and ideas.”

  1. Experience working under pressure.

“We had just one weekend to analyze our idea and test it to make sure it was a feasible business that could actually be profitable,” says Kaio Bezerra, a strategy sophomore from Fortaleza, Brazil. “We were able to learn how to build something from scratch in a really short amount of time.”

  1. Learn from your mistakes.

“We found out our idea was a need, but we realized we couldn’t compete with the resources that were already out there,” says Roscoe McGee, an animation sophomore from West Jordan, Utah. “It’s a valuable skill to have an idea and validate it so you don’t spend time on something that isn’t feasible.”