Entrepreneurs can hop online and hone their expertise for free.
Education for entrepreneurs is slowly but surely becoming more mainstream. Traditional universities are offering entrepreneurs more tools than ever before. But Coursera and Udacity, education startups, have taken this a step further. They are offering in-depth classes on entrepreneurship taught by industry heavy-weights such as Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur Steve Blank for free.
Here are eight classes that every entrepreneur should take.
How to Build a Startup
Steve Blank, author of The Startup Owner’s Manual and The Four Steps to the Epiphany, teaches this nine-lesson class. Students learn how to identify and engage customers, use feedback, market a product, and make strengthen a business model.
“We used to think of startup as a smaller version of a large company,” says Blank on Udacity’s website. “We now know that a startup is something very different and very unique.”
Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies
Taught by James V. Green of the University of Maryland, this six-week course helps entrepreneurs navigate the transition from great idea to great company. The focus is on learning two key skills: how to use a business model approach to analyze each part of a company and properly evaluate whether there is any real demand for the product. Green also guides students through the initial steps of creating a business plan and raising the necessary capital to launch.
This 10-week course, taught by Balaji Srinivasan and Vijay Pande of Stanford University, gives entrepreneurs the skills they need to build a tech start-up from the ground up. Key tools and techniques explored include command line, dotfiles, text editor, distributed version control, debugging, testing, documentation, reading code, and deployment. The class also features guest appearances by senior engineers at successful startups.
Introduction to Finance
This course, taught by Gautam Kaul of the University of Michigan, teaches students how to make sound personal and professional decisions by discussing the concept of time value of money with real-world examples. This is followed by discussions of risk, uncertainty, financing, and the weighted average cost of capital.
Law and the Entrepreneur
This class, taught by Esther Barron and Steve Reed of Northwestern University, aims to prepare students to spot potential cracks in their start-up plans from a business and legal perspective. The goal is to understand choices such as the type of entity, selecting a name and trademark, protecting intellectual property, structuring agreements, financing, and the relationship between attorneys and entrepreneurs.
This six-week course, taught by Tobias Kretschmer of the Universität München (in English), explores how firms behave in situations where its actions affect a competitor’s profits, or vice versa. By analyzing how firms select strategies to gain the competitive advantage, the aim is to get students to think about business strategy in a more systematic way.
Design Thinking for Business Innovation
This five-week course, taught by Jeanne Liedtka of the University of Virginia, aims to ignite both the right and left sides of entrepreneurial brains. “Creative people don’t just wake up in the morning and have a great idea,” Liedtka says in a video on the site. “There in fact is a process and a set of tools that all of us can learn that can help us be successfully creative.”
Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Businesses (Part I & II)
This two-part course, each four weeks long, focuses on common challenges facing an entrepreneur who wants to grow his or her business. “Growth is not a linear function,” explains instructor Edward Hess, of the University of Virginia, in an introductory video on Coursera’s website. “Growth is a zigzag, detour-making, mistakes up and down process.” The course aims to prevent self-sabotage by giving entrepreneurs the tools to assess whether they are ready to grow, plan for growth, and assess the risks of growth.