Cadre of UST entre students hit Silicon Valley to ‘dream bigger’

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By Beth Korth

Ten students from the University of St. Thomas will be traveling to California on January 12-24th to learn about tech startups and become immersed in the Silicon Valley culture.

The study abroad program offered through the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship at the Opus College of Business will be a first of its kind at UST as Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship Alec Johnson leads the students along the journey.

Focused on design thinking and lean canvas, students will be asked to identify, research, and consider real world problems.  Johnson says the goal is to get the students to “gain confidence in dreaming bigger.”

By traveling to Silicon Valley to see how entrepreneurship works on the coast, Johnson is hoping to give the students a chance to experience a different business culture and gain exposure to business on a broader scale.

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The course will begin with a two-day Design Thinking bootcamp facilitated by trainers hired from Stoked Project. This company teaches organizations how to use human centered design to find innovation, solve problems, deepen connections with customers, and spark cultural change. After completing this workshop, the students will have a research plan to execute in San Francisco.

Following the suggestion by Pivotal Labs, the program has adopted “Running Lean” by Ash Maurya, Founder of Spark59. Using the theories presented in the book, students will participate in a day-long workshop on the Lean Business Canvas/Hypothesis Testing framework at Pivotal Labs. As the course comes to a close, Mainsail Partners will provide an investment critique and help students understand how to move their projects to the next level.

Other companies on the itinerary include Plantronics, Shyp, LinkedIn, IDEO, and a social venture called Hand Up. At LinkedIn, the students will learn about the marketing strategies targeted towards their demographic, and get some tips on career development. While at IDEO, students will have an opportunity to learn more about Design Thinking.

Johnson is quick to point out that the trip is “not just a tour of businesses,” but intends to use the visits as a vehicle to expand ideas and action.  Aimed at a becoming a repeatable course of study, he hopes to offer it again — especially if the students themselves become practicing tech entrepreneurs.

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