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Posted Sun, 01/27/2013 - 15:49 in Business

Students bring business ideas to market with Starting Lean course

Students from several faculties have a chance to bring their business ideas to life with a new course offered in the Rowe School of Business.

Key Points:

  • Professors Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach developed the Starting Lean course at Dalhousie, utilizing the Lean Launchpad model originally developed at the University of California. The inaugural class includes students from engineering, neuroscience, computer science, science and business. The course is designed to teach young researchers about commercialization and entrepreneurship.

  • The Starting Lean approach is unconventional in typical business education: students watch their MOOC (massive open online course) lectures online before attending class and then conduct market validation to explore customer needs. Then, they apply what they learn through weekly in-class presentations based on developing their business model.

  • Students are put into teams of four, with each student bringing a different set of skills and expertise to the table. An external mentor complements the collective experience, ensuring students are receiving real-world insight and feedback on their work.

  • The first class has seen a lot of success: several teams have received offers of development money and angel funding for their ideas.

Pull Quotes:

  • "Market validation is about getting out of the building to understand demand and supply. It’s about gaining a first-hand understanding of customers’ needs and wants, what is already available in the marketplace, market channels and strategic partners, etc., that allow start-ups to better understand their business model and make the necessary pivots along the way." -- Mary Kilfoil, assistant professor, Faculty of Management.

  • "The course is designed such that the students have an opportunity to apply what they learn both inside and outside the classroom. The focus is really on gaining a first-hand understanding of the market and applying it to their business model." -- Mary Kilfoil, assistant professor, Faculty of Management.

  • "Through the Starting Lean course, I had the opportunity to meet students with a variety of backgrounds and expertise. By putting such a diverse group of people together in the same room, Starting Lean created a unique and innovative atmosphere that was hugely exciting to be a part of." -- Chris Cowper-Smith, PhD student (neuroscience), Dalhousie University.

  • "As a result of the course, I co-founded a company called Spring Loaded, that is developing new knee brace technology to enhance the user's muscular strength. We are currently raising our first round of seed financing, and we aim to launch our first product by 2014." -- Chris Cowper-Smith, PhD student (neuroscience), Dalhousie University.


Assistant Professor Mary Kilfoil works with students in a Starting Lean classroom
Starting Lean
Assistant Professor Mary Kilfoil works with students in a Starting Lean classroom
Photo Credit: Nick Pearce
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Dalhousie Links:


  • Colin Craig, Manager, Media - Rowe School of Business: (902) 223-3981, colin.craig@dal.ca

  • Charles Crosby, Senior Advisor, Media - Communications and Marketing: (902) 494-1269, charles.crosby@dal.ca

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