Amol Joshi, assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship, was already bringing a treasure trove of experience and insight to his students.
Prior to joining the College of Business faculty in 2014, he enjoyed a 13-year career as an engineer, entrepreneur and executive in the telecommunications, electronics, software and semiconductor industries, working with both high-growth public companies and venture-capital-funded startups in Silicon Valley. He’d also spent time in Austria and Denmark in 2009-10, giving commercialization training to more than 50 teams of technical founders of companies that had spun out of government and university research labs.
Then last summer, his innovation management expertise soared to a whole new level when he received a $50,000 National Science Foundation grant, went through training in the NSF’s Innovation Corps program and learned the Lean Startup methodology.
“This is something the NSF has put a significant investment in, working with more than 1,000 science-based businesses over the last several years,” Joshi said. “It’s a very proven methodology.”
Introducing the Lean Startup concept is one change on the near horizon for the Innovation Management MBA track. Formerly known as Commercialization and offered only on campus in Corvallis, the track will be available in Portland beginning in fall 2016 and ultimately other markets in an online/in-person hybrid model.
“We’re making a number of changes based on feedback that we’ve received from industry and alumni, as well as understanding best practices from leading business and engineering schools around the country,” Joshi said. “The biggest thing is to build the program using a proven methodology that’s scalable and applicable to a variety of different businesses, that’s designed for speed and flexibility.”
Joshi, cofounder and former vice president of sales and marketing of a speech-recognition startup called BeVocal, points out that the biggest problem new companies face is going from proof of concept to first product introduction, crossing what’s called the “valley of death.”
“The reason is there are a lot of a barriers to getting your new technology, product or service into a form that’s usable or acceptable to the market,” Joshi said.
Overcoming those barriers is where the Lean Startup method, developed and taught by entrepreneur Steve Blank and originated by Eric Ries, comes in.
“The biggest idea is to use the scientific method,” Joshi said. “To take the fundamental assumptions that you have about your business and state them in the form of hypotheses and quickly go out and test them. Meet with potential customers, partners, suppliers, industry experts and try to validate or disconfirm your value proposition -- very quickly, in a matter of several weeks or a few months. If you find evidence to support your hypotheses, keep trying to gather more. If don’t, then you need to do a pivot, change your assumptions and move on to other ideas. It’s extremely well-organized and practically oriented common sense -- get out of the classroom, get off campus, get out in the field and talk to people and listen to their input.”
In the Innovation Management program, a key emphasis will be connecting and interacting with OSU alumni, many of whom are experts in their industries.
“I’m excited about working with our alumni as industry mentors and people who can help our student teams,” Joshi said. “This is a key element to make the Innovation Management track successful; mentors coach and guide teams with their insights and expertise.”
Alumni who are interested in participating are urged to contact Joshi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another change to the program is increased flexibility regarding the types of products and services students will work at bringing to market.
“In the past the program was mainly designed for students to commercialize ideas that were spinoffs of technologies developed here at OSU, and that will still be an important component,” Joshi said. “But there will be a greater emphasis on students with their own ideas that they want to develop and pursue, and not just in technology areas. It could be a new, innovative business model, or a social entrepreneurship venture; it will be a wider range of businesses.
“And it’s not just about startups,” he said. “These ideas will also be very useful for managers in large companies who are trying to bring more innovative thinking into their R&D organizations. It’s the same approach being used, for example, by General Electric. The big message is to try to improve speed and flexibility to help people make better decisions faster.”
Joining Joshi at the NSF Innovation Corps training was Karl Mundorff, director of the Advantage Accelerator, OSU’s business incubator. In addition to Mundorff and Joshi, the Innovation Management faculty includes Jonathan Arthurs, Tom Dowling, Chuck Murnieks, Evan Smouse and John Turner.
As part of the new Innovation Management MBA, students can apply for Launch Corps, a program that provides supplemental startup support and resources to founders, co-founders and teams. Select Launch Corps students can receive scholarships through the J.D. Powers Launch Corps Fellowship for tuition and program resources. For more information and to apply, visit business.oregonstate.edu/launchcorps