How to build a startup: Stanford's new free course

Now you can tap into Stanford's startup knowledge.

Stanford University is no stranger to startups. According to one study, Stanford students have gone on to create nearly 40,000 companies since the 1930s. And today, companies created by Stanford students -- like Google, Hewlett-Packard, and Cisco Systems -- generate an astounding $2.7 trillion in annual revenue.

So what's Stanford's secret to building successful startups? Now you can find out for yourself.

The university is offering the course "Startup Engineering" on campus, but a version of the course is now available for free through Coursera, a massive open online course platform. Here's a look at the course format:

The first part of the course will cover modern software engineering principles with a focus on mobile HTML5 development, taught via 5-10 minute video lectures with in-class questions, programming assignments, and quizzes. Guest lecturers from top Silicon Valley startups will bring these concepts to life with real engineering problems from their work.

In the second part, you will apply these concepts to develop a simple command line application, expose it as a webservice, and then integrate other students' command line apps and webservices together with yours to create an open-source mobile HTML5 app as a final project.  Lectures will continue in the second part, but will be focused on the design, marketing, and logistical aspects of creating and scaling a startup. No other homework will be given in the second part to permit full focus on the final project.

The course will be taught by Vijay Pande and Balaji Srinivasan. Pande founded Folding@home and Srinivasan founded Counsyl. But for Pande the impetus to teach a MOOC is much more personal. His mother is from Trinidad and his father is from India, and he want to give access to his startup knowledge to people around the world who might not otherwise have the opportunity.

"They're studying hard so they can pass exams and leave the village, just like my dad did," he said in a press release. "Our dream is that we can help them not only pass their exam but help them create a company that will give them revenues and profits. These are skills that can help the world in ways that a textbook on its own cannot."

Sign up for the course here.

Photo: Flickr/Robert Scoble

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