Keystone: Strategies for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Professor: Kathie Amato

Year: Spring 2016

Syllabus description


“This course covers the component elements of developing the skills needed to launch a venture, including both commercially-orientated startups as well as social entrepreneurship ventures. Starting at the point of need identification, the course covers lean methodology; innovation and entrepreneurship strategy; creating the needed financing and resource structures; effectively marketing/communicating the innovation and its associated benefits; leading, managing, and working effectively within teams; creating a positive and ethical work culture; and evaluating success. By the end of the course, you will have learned the fundamentals that will enable you then go on to create a business/project plan within the experiential aspects and/or the capstone course of the undergraduate certificate in Innovation & Entrepreneurship.” (Amato Syllabus S2016 1)



That time I raised $2 Million in 4 Minutes for Better World Books (BWB):

Everyone in class was given the same set of slides for the company Better World Books and each person had to act as a company representative to pitch the venture capitalist AKA Kathie on funding the company. May the best man/woman get an A.


Here are the modified slides I used to tell a story: Better World Books


That time I had to give Dropbox recommendations nbd:

We had weekly analysis assignments where we had to do a quantitative and qualitative analysis on real world companies and offer one (and only one) recommendation based on our analysis. Below is the analysis + recommendation I did on DropBox, whether they took my advice or not is a story for another day…

Dropbox it works



I LOVED this class. My goal was to increase my exposure to the analytical side of business and understand how the numbers worked. This class was it and more. I was exposed to everything from finance to accounting to marketing and I even got to be a consultant. This class was a favorite because I actually used what I learnt there in real life. That means a lot to me because remember, LAJA. The weekly discussions were engaging and relevant because it addressed real-life not hypothetical issues. I learnt the basics of reading a balance sheet, setting up prices, how to read and analyze case studies and a breadth of marketing terms that proved invaluable in my internship.  My biggest appreciation for this class and Kathie was her emphasis on learning and guiding us to redefine failure. The class was challenging but even when I didn’t get the best grades, I was more focused on understanding my mistakes than saving my grades.


On to my favorite assignment for that class, I  had to become a Better World Books rep and convince a VC capitalist to invest $2 million in their business. I love story telling and I did this pitch justice (you’re welcome BWB) but two things really struck me: how easy it is sell someone else’s products and how difficult it is to sell a product… especially when it’s yours. It’s contradictory but allow me to explain.


I’ll start with the former, my dad always told me the test of a great sales person (emphasis on sales person) is his/her ability to sell a product they don’t care for. While I don’t advocate for lying to people for money, this pitching exercise proved to me that people don’t buy products, they buy the experience or the lifestyle associated with it. It’s easy to sell something you’ve put so much thought and effort into, it’s like your child. You want the whole world to know However, it’s not quite the same with someone else’s product because unless you have a similar passion, you won’t see it the way they do. It’s all about establishing emotions and resonating with the audience. Why should they care?  Are they making an impact by being involved in the initiative? It’s all about being a part of something big, who doesn’t want that? After all, humans are social creatures. I was able to apply this to LAJA by being mindful of how I marketed my products and treated my audience. Were they feeling engaged? Empowered? Enlightened? Cared for?


On the other hand, this pitching exercise taught me why selling my own product was so hard. Why? Our creations/inventions are our baby and like any parent, you want to protect and care for it. Imagine going around the whole neighborhood screaming how awesome your baby is and why everyone’s child should be just like yours. Even if it’s the truth, it’s rather awkward and obnoxious. With BWB, I was selling someone else’s baby not mine. Thus, victories were cool and rejections were not taken personally. With LAJA, it’s a different ballgame. I had to (and still am) learning to  simultaneously attach and separate myself from her. I came to learn from this simple exercise that entrepreneurship is shouting at the top of your lungs why your child is the greatest and screaming even louder when you’re told to shut up.