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Entrepreneurship for High Growth Companies

Course Number:



David Mawhinney,

Sean Ammirati,





Course Description

Entrepreneurship for High-Growth Companies (45805) is one of two introductory entrepreneurship course offered to Tepper School of Business students and to graduate students from other CMU schools and colleges, as places are available. [The other introductory course is Entrepreneurial Alternatives (45806) – this course targets entrepreneurial opportunities that include acquisition of businesses, family enterprises, franchises, social ventures and other means by which entrepreneurial principles may be applied].  Each of these two courses serves as a standalone as an introduction to entrepreneurship, and the courses also provide a background for those seeking an entrepreneurship concentration or an in-depth Track immersion.

45805 emphasizes developing an understanding of entrepreneurial thought, mindset, and action, and then progresses thru idea generation, and screening for patterns to predict success, and which underlie entrepreneurial decision making for enterprise creation and growth. The focus is on identification of recognizing the difference between an idea and an opportunity first. Then we progress on how to develop a competitive advantage and a sustainable business model that creates, captures, and delivers value to the market.  High-growth ventures include tech-based ventures, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with high growth potential, typically ranging from 20% to 50% annually (not “lifestyle” ventures). The course also incorporates some fundamental aspects of building a team and financing the opportunity, whether it is a technology-based, venture capital financed opportunity or other ventures more suitable for alternative financing vehicles.  These latter two topics are included in more detail in subsequent courses. The course consists of a series of lectures, readings, cases, and discussions and also includes selected guest speakers/entrepreneurs from time to time.  Students form teams that are expected to develop and pitch an opportunity of their choice or one provided by faculty.  The course text (Starting Something) provides a “master case” illustrating chronologically the history of a high-growth company from inception to IPO and beyond.  This book provides a real world perspective on building a company particularly from the people side, but also covers financing vehicles across the company life cycle.

Teaching Objectives – The principal objective is for students to learn how entrepreneurs think, are motivated, and make decisions in entrepreneurial ventures that span from startups to emerging companies to mature companies and also to understand the role of entrepreneurs in the US and global economies.  Students are also expected to understand the details and balance of the entrepreneurial process model appropriate for each entrepreneurial venture: opportunity development, resource acquisition (people, partners, financial assets), team development and leadership.

Expected Outcomes – Teams will learn how to screen and select opportunities from many ideas that may be available to them, including those that they generate.  Each project team will develop an opportunity into a “plan” in the form of a venture opportunity-screening guide (that covers problem, solution, value creation, and a proposed business model), and make a business pitch.  It is expected that students will learn how to apply a set of tools that include: Value proposition and Business Model development, SWOT analysis, Porter’s 5 Force Model, and Product Life Cycle.  We also expose students to the principles of design thinking and agile innovation (including lean startups, agile product development, and outcome driven (or needs-driven) innovation.



Lecture: 100min/wk and Recitation: 50min/wk