Turning business students into entrepreneurs

​​​​The popular Entrepreneurship and Innovation Practicum graduate course helps MBA and other AUB students accelerate and validate their business ideas through a rigorous process, including a Pitch Clinic and Demo Day. Since the course was launched three years ago, more than 50 students have learned firsthand how to transform their ideas into products and companies which have more traction.

This OSB practicum is an experiential learning course, where students can create a real business upon graduation and two teams have done so successfully: MoodFit.com and Hum-n-Go. Work during the semester results in qualitative and quantitative improvement of a proposed startup idea so the participants understand the importance of going from idea generation to startup execution especially developing their Value Propositions and Business Models, while simultaneously validating their concepts in the real world with customers in the flesh.

“Our emphasis in this course is on achieving problem-solution fit and product-market fit before spending a penny on the startup. This is a practical class with a goal of creating an entrepreneurial and innovation experience for students including real world pressures and demands that occur in the early stage of a start up," says Dr. Bijan Azad. The course is designed based on Eric Reis's Lean Startup approach.

The projects of 24 students taking part in this year's course featured such diverse areas as biomedical devices, and a number of e-platforms in nightlife, music, wedding planning, human resources, and food ordering. The students completed weekly iterations focusing on each of 9 components of business model canvas and at the end utilized a Pitch Clinic with a professional pitch expert to improve their public speaking and presentation skills. “Startup teams get their hands dirty talking to customers, partners, and competitors as they encounter the chaos and uncertainty of how a startup idea is actually translated into a real business," added Dr. Azad.

For example, MBA student Joseph Majdalani and his team worked on a startup company called the MUSIConnect that connects musicians, home studios and publishing outlets. Majdalani pointed out that the most important concept he took from the course was validation. “The course taught me the importance of validating both problem definition as well as testing user engagement with our proposed solution through a minimum viable product before making any investments."

Another project named ResuMatch aims to develop a platform for matching job-seekers' profiles with job vacancies eliminating the pains that employers face in sifting through an average of 300+ CVs for a single job. After immersing themselves in the course, Narine Bolghourjian and her team discovered through first hand experience “that validation is what matters most and that the customer is always right. That's where we started to pivot toward a startup with higher chance of making it."