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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Startup Success: How to Launch a Technology Company in 6 Steps

Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX Professional Education


This course discusses the lessons learned by Michael Stonebraker and Andy Palmer during their start-up endeavors over a 30-year period. The lessons are distilled into six steps that any entrepreneur can follow to get a company going.

Topics include the generation and assessment of ideas, the challenges of building a prototype, the recruitment of a talented team, the closing of the first financing round, and pursuing growth with the right business leadership.

This is a self-paced course ending on August 31, 2016. Participants can move through the lectures and materials at their own pace and once completed, a certificate of completion will be generated automatically. Please note that we will be moderating the discussion board about 3 times a week on average. This discussion board is meant to serve as a platform between participants to discuss the content of the course, to offer additional ideas and useful perspectives, and to get answers to questions from the moderators or other participants. We hope you find the discussion board useful.


Module 1  – Introduction

  • Mike Stonebraker Background
  • Andy Palmer Background
  • What It Means to be a Founder
  • What you will learn from this course

Module 2  – Step 1: Have a Good Idea

  • Examples of good ideas (Michael Stonebraker)
  • How to recognize good ideas (Andy Palmer)
  • How to develop good ideas (Michael Stonebraker)
  • How to differentiate “disruptive/innovative” from “crazy” (Andy Palmer)

Module 3 – Step 2:  Assemble a Small Team and Build a Prototype

  • Technical team (Michael Stonebraker)
  • IP Considerations (Michael Stonebraker)
  • Adult supervision (Michael Stonebraker)
  • Secrecy issues (Michael Stonebraker)
  • Partnership agreement among the team (Andy Palmer)

Module 4 – Step 3:  Find a Business Partner

  • How to recognize talent (Michael Stonebraker)
  • How to recruit talent (Andy Palmer)
  • What to do if this step fails (Michael Stonebraker)

Module 5 – Step 4:  Find a Customer (or a few)

  • Customer acquisition strategies (Andy Palmer)
  • Salesmanship and accountability (Andy Palmer)

Module 6 – Step 5  Pitch the VCs

  • Being selective – quality vs. quantity (Andy Palmer)
  • The pitch deck – managing expectations (Andy Palmer)
  • The rock fetch (Michael Stonebraker)
  • You need a “lead investor” – aka the leap of faith (Andy Palmer)

Module 7 – Step 6:  Negotiate a Deal

  • It’s not about cash flows and spreadsheets (Andy Palmer)
  • What to ask for (Michael Stonebraker)
  • Sample terms (Andy Palmer)
  • What to watch out for (Michael Stonebraker)

Module 8 – You Have Earned the Right to Start

  • Building great software vs. building a prototype (Michael Stonebraker)
  • Common technical mistakes (Michael Stonebraker)
  • You may get screwed (Michael Stonebraker)
  • How to manage the VCs (Michael Stonebraker)
  • Common business mistakes (Andy Palmer)

Module 9 – Case Studies

  • Lanka Internet Services Ltd.
  • Vertica Systems
  • Locu
  • Cilk Arts, Inc.

Module 10 – Wrap Up

  • It’s about your risk profile and your mission, dammit (Andy Palmer)
  • Walking the line between academia and commercial (Michael Stonebraker)
  • My Top 10 (Andy Palmer)
  • My Top 10 (Michael Stonebraker)

Taught by

Michael Stonebraker, Andy Palmer, Daniela Rus, Charles E. Leiserson, Saman P. Amarasinghe and Stelios Sidiroglou-Douskos


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