Technology startup companies have held the attention and fascination of the American public via popular culture and media. Television shows, movies, news coverage, and podcasts have portrayed, satirized, and romanticized life at these companies. But, what do we really know about these companies and the environment in which they exist? Who are the people that start these companies? What is day-to-day life like for founders and employees? How do companies actually secure venture funding, and who actually gets funded? Why do people throw themselves into a field where everyone is “killing it,” yet the vast majority of companies fail or never manage to secure investors? This course examines aspects of technology startups that are often overlooked in media and popular culture – from mechanics and organization, to mental health issues, race, class and gender inequalities, and what it looks like to succeed or fail in the Silicon Valley model.
As a class, we will become familiar with the past and present state of startups through readings from and conversations with current and former entrepreneurs, engineers, investors, scholars and members of the media. What can we learn about what works and what doesn’t in Silicon Valley? What types of individual and structural changes might be made to improve issues of inclusion, mental and personal health, ethical conduct, and quality of innovation? How do we ‘disrupt’ the ‘disruptors’?
This course is designed for those who have curiosity about technology startups, including those who may have interest in potentially joining the ‘startup community’ at some point. Students with all levels of technical expertise are welcome and encouraged to take this course.
This 7-week course is followed by Financing Social Value-Oriented Enterprise for the second 7 weeks of the semester on the same days and times; while enrolling in both courses is not required, the course is highly recommended for students with an interest in further study related to this topic.