96-800 Real World Software Engineering
 for Entrepreneurs (A Startup Accelerator)-Silicon Valley Campus - Carnegie Mellon University

96-800 Real World Software Engineering
 for Entrepreneurs (A Startup Accelerator)

Developing Your Software Company

In this twelve week experience, your goal is simple: launch a software product, and start a company. You'll need to hit the ground running as you'll want feedback from users quickly. You'll need to build a team and find people who have skill sets that complements yours. The course will end with pitch day where well known Venture Capitalists will evaluate your final product. As Randy Pausch said, walls are there to remind us how important we want something. Come to California, the heart of software development and venture funding and overcome all challenges!

The Proposal Process

Any team is welcome to apply to the course. Students not from the Silicon Valley campus, must be present at the Silicon Valley campus during the summer semester to participate. Enrollment in the course is limited. Student teams are encouraged, but are not required. Consider forming teams around the skill sets needed to complete your project. At least one participant needs to have proven technical skills necessary to build the app. Teams will submit a one page project proposal and each team member's resume. We have found that the ideal team size is two to three people. We will consider smaller or larger teams. Email todd.sedano@sv.cmu.edu with your application.

We only have room for six teams. Priority is given to teams who submit their project proposals early. Here is a template, yet feel free to make your own document. Please submit applications prior to April 15th, 2013.

Course Description

Students will deliver a "real world" application. Success is judged and measured by customers. You will be learning key technical and managerial skills necessary in developing a block buster application or starting a company. Working and collaborating with other teams is encouraged. Students are encouraged to release their product early so that they can gather feedback from the community.

Course Details

The "final" pitch will be made to VCs or entrepreneurs judges who critique the application. Think American Idol for Programmers.

Fail Safe - We "celebrate" failures. Although we'd prefer you to be immensely successful from the beginning, we realize that failing does happen. We see "failing" as a key part of the learning process.  We'll encourage you not to be afraid to start again, or to made radical modifications. Entrepreneurs sometimes call this the art of the "pivot."

Your Product - We don't think that there are experts on what the market wants. The only way to find out what the market really wants is to interact with the market, which is what we have you do. You want to find this out quickly before spending lots of time working on your product. Previous teams quickly learned that the customers didn't want to pay for their product, or didn't understand the value, or knew of a competitive product they liked better. For most of our talented engineering teams this was the FIRST TIME they had ever tried to "sell" a real piece of software. This is the first time they had "cold called" a stranger. Every team learned how hard it is to sell their applications. Most didn't like selling. They preferred to develop! We're here to help you with this hard transition in become more entrepreneurial.

Collaboration and Open Source - Teams are encouraged to learn from each other and to involve the open source communities. Reusing open source code is encouraged. Reusing code from other teams is encouraged. We want to foster a rapid learning environment where people pioneer new ideas. 

Grade - Just like industry, you'll be evaluated based on how successful your product is. How much traction did you acquire? How many "friends" actually play the game?  As you prototype your application, you'll want to look at actual stats and see which features get used or don't get used.  Learn from real traffic.  Launch early and iterate.  Don't focus on bugs that don't matter.   There are many feature of this game which will never get used. That is a major learning experience.

Entrepreneurship - Entrepreneurship is integrated into the course.  You'll learn the dynamics of a Silicon Valley start-up as well as the software engineering discipline to get the job done.

Technology Details

We're open to all kinds of software techonology. In the past, teams have developed Facebook applications, iPhone applications, and Android applications. This year we have access to Google TV. We'd love to see teams develop social networking apps such as games, web sites, facebook plugins, and so on, as well as corporate apps such as SaaS and technical apps: security, technology features etc.

Course Outline:

Wednesday nights
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
May 23rd 2012 - August 8th 2012

Week 1 - Set up the infrastructure
            - Functional Spec
            Weekly demo with faculty and other students.
Week 2 - Wire Frames
             - Competitor assessment.   What features can be "borrowed".   How can we grab the code, widgets
             - Weekly demo of wire frame, design concepts.  Differentiation of prototype.
             - Identify core functionality, and optional technology.   Avoid feature creep.
             - Demo
Week 3 - Prototype - core functionality and navigation
              Demo   - invite prod managers from Facebook or Apple
Week 4 - Refine core prototype.  Hurry up.
Week 5 - Prototype - core functionality and nav.   Get less sleep
              Demo Day - Demonstrate to wider alumni base.   Get reactions.
Week 6 - Design
Week 7 - Launch + Revenue Model
Week 8 - Launch + User Testing
Week 9 - Launch + Traffic Monitoring
Week 10 - Demo Day of VCs to judge.  Present early traffic.
                   "Failure Awards" - Try again
                   "Success Awards" - How can we keep the app going?  Next version?  Moonlighting?

(Note that the course is 12 weeks and we have a two week "buffer"  to deal with topics unique to your project.)

Course Instructors

Todd Sedano


This course costs $4,587.50 plus $100 enrollment fees.