A Crash Course in Success: Stanford’s Venture Lab
A couple years ago I was excited to discover that Stanford’s Graduate School of Business was uploading a vast number of its lectures and presentations to YouTube for all to enjoy – what a terrifically valuable and uplifting resource! Anyone choosing to regularly peruse the GSB’s video playlist over morning coffee and croissants instead of soaking up grim disaster and mayhem from the mainstream media would not only achieve an admirable grasp of high-level business concepts, but would also be likely to benefit from lower blood pressure and a sunnier disposition.
So it was with great pleasure that I learned more recently that Stanford had opened up not only its material but its entire educational process to all, by way of its recently-founded Venture Lab offshoot.
By running “Massive Open Online Courses” in tandem with traditional classroom-based learning, the Venture Lab platform allows individuals and groups around the world to run a parallel track to on-campus students; absorbing lectures, planning, building teams, creating projects.
What really sets the Venture Lab experience apart is a feature that, I suspect, was created by necessity in order to overcome a significant impediment to the university’s ability to offer such courses (which are free, by the way). The Stanford brand is not unknown outside the lofty confines of Silicon Valley or academia, to commit the understatement of the year, and consequently online students sign up in their thousands to the Venture Lab courses. The first offering of Technology Entrepreneurship attracted some 37,000 students; I am not sure how many attended our session but expect it exceeded that already astonishing number.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the peer review process. There are five or six assessments throughout this short course, and one’s team is likely to receive perhaps eight or nine peer reviews for each. For us, this was a marvelous experience. Given that Aegora is being created in order to serve the needs of predominantly young, intelligent, entrepreneurial first-adopters from around the world, the feedback we received from our fellow-students on the course was much more validating than a grade from a lecturer would have been, since these peer reviewers were highly representative of our target demographic. A rare moment of modesty prohibits me from quoting those peer reviews here (plus, they were provided in confidence) but let us just say that their overwhelming support, understanding and encouragement were greatly appreciated and went a long way to convincing us that we are on the right track with Aegora!
More fundamentally, the manner in which thousands of globally-distributed, diverse individuals formed organic, flexible teams in order to collaborate and create value in this academic setting has a clear and direct parallel with the lean, agile business structures that we seek to enable Aegora’s users to create. It is heartening to see the wonderful results of such collaboration, and speaks well for our future.
The Venture Lab platform is currently hosting a handful of courses, details of which can be found at venture-lab.org, and I expect to see more being added in the near future. I would urge anyone with even a passing interest in their subjects to take the plunge and sign up; not only are the courses of great value, but Venture Lab’s founders have created a blueprint for large-scale democratization of education that is well-worth experiencing in its own right.