Course Founders Describe the Course

Interdisciplinary groups of four students will work closely with an outside sponsor (industry; local, state, federal agencies; and NGO’s) to develop innovative solutions and/or rapid prototypes to address ocean-related problems. Lectures by subject matter experts will cover entrepreneurial, scientific, technological, and engineering topics.

​Students will be expected to attend and participate in weekly lectures, group meetings with sponsors, and project updates. Example project themes may include, but are not limited to, water quality, offshore wind energy, marine conservation, shoreline change, maritime security, and the application of advanced computational and technological tools for innovative solutions. Enrollment is limited and interdisciplinary team applications are encouraged.

This class moves fast! Student teams arrive on their first day having read the pre-calls material prepared to work on their chosen problem. The course provides teams with a deep understanding of selected problems and potential solutions which might be arrayed against them. Using the Lean LaunchPad Methodology the class encourages student teams to:

  1. Solve complex real-world problems
  2. Rapidly iterate solutions while searching for product-market fit
  3. Understand all stakeholders, roll-out issues, costs, resources, and ultimate mission value
  4. Deliver minimum viable products matching customer needs in a narrow window
  5. Produce a repeatable model which can launch other potential solutions


This course is team-based, thus working and studying will be done exclusively in teams. Teams and individuals must submit a proposal for entry before the course begins. Admission is done on a rolling basis, so submit your application as early as possible. Individual applicants can find a team by attending an Info Session.

​​The teams will self-organize and establish individual roles on their own. In addition to the instructors, each team will be assigned a mentor (an experienced domain expert), a contact from the problem sponsor, and other resources to provide assistance and support.


  • Admission is by teams of 2-4 from any department.
  • Individuals must submit a simple application and talk with the teaching team prior to the course start date in order to find a team.
  • The course list and wait-listed students will be posted online.
  • If you are looking to apply, select the Application menu link at the top of this page or click the APPLY NOW button on the home page.
  • Admission is done on a rolling basis, once you are admitted the instructor will give you permission to enroll.

Attendance & Participation

  • You cannot miss the first class without prior approval.
  • If during the semester you find you cannot continue to commit the time, immediately notify your team members and teaching team and drop the class.
  • If you expect to miss a class, please let the instructor and your team members know ahead of time.
  • ​We expect your attention during our presentations and those of your fellow students.
  • ​During your classmates’ presentations you will be required to give feedback online. Please bring a laptop to every class and be prepared to give your undivided attention to the team at the front of the room.


Meaningful customer discovery requires the development of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Therefore, each team should have the applicable goal of the following:

  • Product deliverables – whether hardware, software or service, teams deliver a minimal viable product every week.​
  • Your team will present a weekly in-class PowerPoint summary of progress.


  • Only limited pre-excused absences allowed. Class meetings require team engagement.
  • This is an intense class with a high workload (much like a start-up). While a heavy workload, your team will be conducting fulfilling work on real problems, hand-in-hand with real sponsors.


This course is team-based and the majority of your grade will come from your team progress and final project. Your peers will also grade your contribution to your team. The grading criteria are broken down as follows:

  • Individual participation in class. You will be giving feedback to your peers.
  • Out-of-the-building progress as measured by write-ups and presentations each week.

Team members must:

  1. Update mission model canvas weekly
  2. Detailed report on what the team did each week
  3. Weekly email of team member participation​
  • The weekly team “lesson learned” presentation
  • Team final presentation​

This total is multiplied by a “peer grading multiplier” as assigned to you by your team at the end of the quarter.

How You’ll Learn

Flipped Class​room

​Unlike a traditional classroom where the instructor presents lecture material, you will watch our lectures online as part of your weekly homework. The information in them is essential for you to complete your weekly interviews and present the insights the teaching team will expect in your presentation for that week. We expect you to watch the assigned lectures for the upcoming week before class and we will use time in class to discuss questions about the lecture material and to provide supplemental material. You need to come prepared with questions or comments about the material for in-class discussion. We will cold-call students to answer questions about the online lecture material.

Experiential Learning

​You will be spending a significant amount of time in between each of the lectures outside the class talking to customers. Each week your team will conduct a minimum of 10 customer interviews focused on a specific part of the mission model canvas. To meet your customers, you will need to truly get out of the building which means getting off-campus and going into the real-world. This class is a simulation of what startups and entrepreneurship are like in the real world: chaos, uncertainty, impossible deadlines in insufficient time, conflicting input, etc.

Inverted Lecture Hall

Sitting in the back of the classroom are experienced instructors and professionals who have built and/or funded world-class startups as well as academics with significant experience working in ocean research and business. We won’t be lecturing in the traditional sense, instead we comment and critique on each team’s progress. While the comments may be specific for each team, the insights and concepts expressed are almost always applicable to all teams. Pay attention.

P2P Culture

While other teams are presenting the results of their weekly experiments, the rest of the class is expected to attentively listen, engage, and react to what they see and hear. Sharing insights, experience, and contacts with each other is a key way that this unique laboratory achieves results

Class Culture

Startups communicate in a dramatically different style from the university or large company culture. This class simulates decision-making at startup speed. At times this can feel brusque and impersonal, and advice at times will be contradictory, but in reality the class is focused to create immediate action in time- and cash-constrained environments. We have limited time and we push, challenge, and question you in the hope you will quickly learn. We will be direct, open, and tough just like the real world. This approach may seem harsh and/or abrupt, but it is all part of our wanting you to learn to challenge yourselves quickly and objectively, and to appreciate that as entrepreneurs you need to learn and evolve faster than you ever imagined possible.

This class pushes many people past their comfort zone. If you believe that the role of your instructors is to praise in public and criticize in private, you’re in the wrong class. Do not take this class. You will be receiving critiques in front of your peers weekly. The pace and the uncertainty pick up as the class proceeds.

Intro to the Lean Launchpad Method

This class is not about how to write a business plan. It’s not an exercise in how smart you are in a classroom, or how well you use the research library to size markets. The end result is not a PowerPoint slide deck for a venture capital presentation or a Y-Combinator Demo Day, and it is most definitely not an incubator where you come to build the “hot-idea” that you have in mind.

This class combines Lean Startup theory with a ton of hands-on practice. Our goal, within the constraints of a classroom and a limited amount of time, is to give you a framework to test the business model of a startup while creating all of the pressures and demands of the real world in an early stage startup. The class is designed to give you the experience of how to work as a team and turn an idea into a solution for a real world ocean problem.

You will be talking to “customers” – government and non-profit stakeholders and end users – as you encounter the chaos and uncertainty of how a startup actually works. You’ll practice evidence-based entrepreneurship as you learn how to use a business model to brainstorm each part of a company and customer development to get out of the classroom to see whether anyone other than you would want/use your product. Finally, based on the customer and market feedback you gathered, you will use agile development to rapidly iterate your product or concept to build/design something customers would actually buy and use. Each block will be a new adventure outside the classroom as you test each part of your business model and then share the hard earned knowledge with the rest of the class.

  • We teach Lean Startup Theory + hands-on practice
  • You will learn urgency, Evidence-based entrepreneurship, Customer Development, and “good-enough” decision making
  • You will do this by talking to customers and presenting the results in class every week.

Lean Launchpad Resources


Pre-Class Prep

​This class hits the ground running. It assumes you have come into class having read the assigned reading, viewed the online lectures, started learning about the oceans, and looked over the potential problems to work on.

Choosing Problems

We suggest that you choose something for which you have passion, enthusiasm, and hopefully some expertise. Do not select this type of project unless you are prepared to see it through.

Shared Material

​Your weekly presentations and final Lessons Learned presentations will be shared and visible to others. We may be videotaping and sharing many of the class sessions.