This course covers assessment, development, and translation for a range of technical areas, such as pharmaceuticals, computer science, energy, and medical devices. The course is organized around the basic elements of taking technology from conception to development and commercialization, including understanding technology, developing a plan to get to market, and assessing the potential market. It combines lecture, case assignments, and discussion of real technology development opportunities.
I chose to take Technology Commercialization as my elective because I wanted to become more familiar with the process of successfully taking an idea to market. Before this course, I was focused on innovation and entrepreneurship in the context of social innovation. I had yet to explore it from a technology viewpoint. I was excited to gain this new lens of analysis and to understand how to navigate the private startup market.
One case study in this class that I really enjoyed was the Apple case study because it really made me look at the company from new perspectives. Nearly everybody is familiar with Apple due to the proliferation of the iPhone, but the average person does not spend time really analyzing what has made the company successful. In this case study, we addressed the questions: Is Apple the same without Steve Jobs? Would you buy, hold, or sell its stock now? Where do you think the battles between Apple and its key competitors are headed? In order to answer these questions, my team tried to really understand how Apple differentiates itself so well from its competitors. We decided that Apple excels and stands above its competitors as a digital ecosystem due to its “halo effect” – that fact that once someone enters Apple’s ecosystem by buying one of its devices, they’re much more likely to buy another Apple device. Its software platforms, including iOS and macOS, provide a seamless experience across all Apple devices. You can start an email or surf the web on one device, and then continue on another with ease. Even if other companies innovate more technologically advanced devices, these devices are less appealing for an Apple customer because they do not offer the same digital connectivity that an Apple device would offer. Apple’s extension into the services business, including the App Store, iTunes, Apple Pay, and Apple Music, also provides security that the company will only continue to grow and succeed. This case study was so interesting not only because it required us to think critically about the current state of the company, but because we had to think about how the company’s strengths will serve it as the industry changes over time.
Another aspect of this class that really challenged me to think critically was my final project, which consisted of pitching Amazon to acquire an Autonomous Vehicle startup. Our pitch included a comprehensive analysis of the market, competitive landscape, customer segmentation, value proposition, regulatory environment, intellectual property, inflection points, funding, and go-to-market strategy. This project was both challenging and enjoyable because it required my team to perform a comprehensive analysis of Amazon’s business and understand the different areas that would benefit from an AV capability. Evaluating potential synergies was very exciting, as our world is quickly moving towards Autonomous Vehicles. This project was also a key aspect of my development in the class because it required a pitch. I learned the importance of practicing a group presentation to ensure it runs smoothly, getting constructive feedback, and effective speaking strategies.
This course was also significant in my development as a team player. Because our case studies, projects, and other activities were team-based, I really learned what it meant to work effectively in a team. While I had been a part of plenty of teams in the past, the teams during this class were larger and unique in that many of company analyses we performed involved opinions about the future. This was more challenging, as I had to learn how to approach work where there was no clearly defined path or answer. Overall, I gained a tremendously rewarding experience from this class, but with technical knowledge about launching a venture and “soft skills” such as presenting and working in a team.