Washington University’s business, engineering and law schools are collaborating on a new course that embeds students in the center of the thriving entrepreneur community in downtown St. Louis.
The assignment: Execute consulting projects for eight resident entrepreneurs at T-REx, a technology business incubator, to better understand the inner workings of startups.
Student projects include identifying and quantifying customer value propositions, sizing the market, and analyzing the competition, says Ron King, senior associate dean and the Myron Northrop Professor of Accounting at Olin Business School. “This course is unique at Washington University and nationwide,” he says.
Nick Benassi, associate dean at the School of Engineering & Applied Science, collaborated on the design of the new course. He sees the convergence of multiple disciplines around innovation and entrepreneurship as part of a larger and necessary trend of interfacing talents to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Nelson Nolte, a professional MBA student who is also a patent attorney, worked with the startup Graematter, which consolidates FDA-related regulatory information and provides a web-based system for retrieval and analysis. He surveyed its potential clients to determine their interest and understanding of the product. “The results were very interesting,” Nolte says, “and it was a good lesson that you can’t assume potential customers will view the product exactly the same way that you would expect.” That’s a good place to start(up).