3 minute read  written by  . Published on December 18, 2014

MIT offers a popular MOOC, Entrepreneurship 101: Who is Your Customer?, taught by MIT Sloan School of Management senior lecturer and Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, Bill Aulet. The course has a new session starting January 9, 2015. Also, the first session of the sequel course, Entrepreneurship 102: What Can You Do for Your Customer?, is also scheduled to start on January 9.

Though there are several high-quality MOOCs on entrepreneurship available, MIT alumni have started more than 25,000 companies (for a video perspective on the stats, see here. The course includes perspectives and case studies from this broad alumni network. These MOOCs are based on MIT’s popular class 15.390x New Enterprises which has produced hundreds of startups. An alumni startup of New Enterprises, Hubspot, recently went public.

The Entrepreneurial Impact of MIT

“If you ask successful entrepreneurs, ‘What’s the most important thing during you entrepreneurial journey?’, many will will say that it’s looking at the world through the customer’s eyes ,” says Erdin Beshimov, lead member of the MOOC development team. He indicates that the MOOCs introduce aspiring entrepreneurs to a number if important tools: primary market research, market segmentation, market-sizing, full life cycle use case, high level product specification, and more.

If you ask successful entrepreneurs, ‘What’s the most important thing during you entrepreneurial journey?’, many will will say that it’s looking at the world through the customer’s eyes” 

The first run of Entrepreneurship 101 had 66,676 students enroll, with 25% of the participants from the U.S., and 75% from other parts of the world (among which, India had the highest representation). The course is not just meant to teach the theory of entrepreneurship, it is meant to be applied to action.

Learnings from Producing Entrepreneurship 101

After the MOOC, Erdin’s team followed the principles of the course and conducted interviews with over 200 participants of the course (all of his team was involved, giving each a direct understanding of the MOOCs ‘customers’). Though a large investment of time, his team learned a great deal from producing the MOOC and talking with the participants afterwards:

  • Students found the content to be very valuable, thus justifying the high investment in the initial content production
  • Most participants were very busy (too busy to read the associated book for the course), but appreciated the MOOC format because they could, when they had a free moment, watch videos, or even listen to them without watching the screen.

 The team decided to try something new: start a podcast. 

Based on this last finding, the team decided to try something new: start a podcast. This would allow them to create an ongoing resource for MOOC students after the course. The podcast will likely have lots of interviews with entrepreneurs, and cover issues that startups face.

A Good Example, and Future Plans

Erdin’s production team embodied the customer-focused principles of entrepreneurship taught in the course: they talked with customers, pieced together what they learned with what they can offer, and are trying a new innovation—the podcast. Whether that turns out to be successful or not, the team is looking to stretch the boundaries, and this will likely lead to valuable innovations in the future.

Universities and entrepreneurship have always had a synergistic relationship (exhibit A: the Internet), so it should be no surprise to see the same here, with a university helping to teach entrepreneurship, but learning and experimenting itself in the process. If you would like to take part, you can sign up for Entrepreneurship 101 or Entrepreneurship 102, both starting January 9, 2015.