Everything that we do in our courses is highly experiential — it’s the only way to begin to appreciate the demands that entrepreneurship places on teams and individuals. Additionally, the best startup teams embrace disciplinary diversity so we encourage all students from across UofT to participate. This is why we offer two of the most highly rated courses in parallel. A customer development course, the Business of Software (CSC454/2527 – that all of you will take), which informs the product development Capstone Design course (CSC491/2600 — that a subset of you will take). The former course (customer development) requires no previous computer science or business background, just an insatiable curiosity for entrepreneurship.

Customer development teaches you how to engage prospective customers in order to validate the hypotheses you will make regarding your customer’s personas, their hair-burning issues and your value proposition to them. The knowledge gathered there directly feeds into a calculated product development cycle to rapidly iterate toward product-market-fit and minimize the go-to-market timeline. This all needs to underpin an investable, self-sustaining and ever growing business model.

The second way we create a true-to-life experience is by sourcing industry problems. That means we go out and seek industry partners that provide problem sets for our students to solve during the semester. Problems that are really challenging their businesses. No make-believe issues or theoretical hallucinations but the problems that are costing them financially or reputation every single day! We’ve done this before with subjects such as law, biomed/biotech and human performance enhancement.

Industry Collaboration

In the Fall 2020 semester, the Business of Software and the accompanying Capstone Design courses have partnered with the Royal Bank of Canada and will use problem sets from the financial technology business.

As the financial services business is increasingly both fragmented and global, there are opportunities to create new tools for essentially establishing baselines for users and entities so that a probabilistic model (whether machine learning driven or purely statistical) can determine anomalous behavior. There is much written about the subject matter and if you are interested in reading more you can start with this document, Insider Threat Detection. It will highlight the many challenging and engaging opportunities.

One of the other side benefits of industry partners, in the class, is that they are always on the hunt for outstanding talent. They use this class as an extended interview platform to observe students performing and thinking through problems that plaque their business reputation, operations and governance requirements daily.