Best Courses 2011: The Launch Pad
University of Miami
Taught by: Outside advisers
Some entrepreneurship classes live in business schools. Some live in engineering schools. The University of Miami's Launch Pad lives in the career center. "When students come in to talk about 'What should I do when I graduate?,' we advise them to think about their careers along a continuum, from working for someone else to starting their own business," says William Green, dean of undergraduate education. "Instead of treating entrepreneurship as something you do instead of a job, we treat it as a job."
The Launch Pad (no relation to the Stanford program) isn't exactly a class. There are no grades or credits. Rather, it is a mostly one-on-one study program in which outside advisers teach aspiring entrepreneurs what they need to know when they need to know it. Students apply by filling out a venture assessment form about their business ideas and resource needs. The Launch Pad's staff helps refine those ideas. Participants can attend brainstorming sessions with other students and weekly workshops on topics such as raising money and selling. "It's all just-in-time," says Green. "When you are in the throes of creating a company, you can't stop and take a course for six months."
Sixty advisers—local entrepreneurs, investors, lawyers, and others—mentor students when their ventures are sufficiently advanced. The advisers cannot invest in the ventures but will refer students to others who can, as well as to potential suppliers and customers. "We are trying to draw kids into the local business community, so they will keep their companies here," says Green. In three years, Launch Pad has produced 45 companies, representing 102 new jobs.
Syllabus for the Launch Pad: