May 24, 2017

Keystone Course

I&E 352- Strategies for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Professor: Kathie Amato

Semester: Spring 2016

Artifact: Lu.Helen_Rent the Runway Case


I enrolled in the I&E Keystone course in Spring 2016. This course, which all students in the certificate program take, provides the foundation to launch a business. Classes were primarily structured around case studies, supplemented by readings, guest lectures, projects, and occasional problem sets that were related to the topic being discussed for the week. Additionally, each student was paired with a “mentor”, who could answer questions that the student had regarding launching a business, financing, marketing, and more.

I enjoyed this class so much not only because it gave me a lens into what pitfalls to avoid when implementing an idea, but it also gave me a high-level technical overview of valuing a business. As an Economics major at Duke, I felt like many of my Econ classes were more theoretical than practical; however, the keystone course provided practical knowledge about firm valuation and pricing.

Another key topic covered in the course was marketing strategy. Through different cases like Dropbox, Rent the Runway, and Envirofit International, we examined the qualitative and quantitative attributes of marketing a business, the importance of launching to the right target audience, and the (sometimes) necessity of pivoting.

The biggest personal challenge this course presented to me was the pitching part of the innovation process. All students were expected to pitch Better World Books, and while I had no problem introducing and explaining something I was familiar with (as I often did for my science research), I felt pushed out of my comfort zone when I had to pitch a company that I had not worked with before and did not know too much about prior. I felt that this experience prepared me, however, for the reality of entrepreneurship: I will encounter many instances when I feel uncomfortable and may not have all the information, but I will have to persist and be creative in how I deal with those situations.

Overall, I would say that I&E 352 has been one of my favorite and most impactful courses I’ve taken at Duke.