Stanford University is offering a course to young entrepreneurs which requires them to build a bitcoin crowdfunding system. Stanford is one of the most illustrious universities in the US, and so the inclusion of bitcoin is a sign of mainstream acceptance by exposing the business people of tomorrow to the digital currency.
The Stanford Startup Engineering course is given by Balaji S. Srinivasan and Vijay S. Pande. Srinivasan is the Co-founder and CTO of genomics startup Counsyl, and Pande Founder and director of the Folding@Home Project. Both have strong academic backgrounds too; Srinivasan has a background in chemistry and holds a bachelors, masters and PhD from Stanford, and Pande is Stanford’s professor of Chemistry, and holds degrees from Princeton University.
Guest lecturers from a range of Silicon Valley startups and established companies will be offering their wisdom to students too; including Twitter, Google Facebook, Uber, Square, Asana, and Coinbase.
The course guide [PDF] states that the course, entitled “Startup Engineering”, is what they [the teachers] wish they had while they were at university. They state that while academic training teaches people how to problem solve, it does not help them recognise which problems are the most valuable to solve. Hence this course has a far more practical syllabus.
Rather than teaching the business skills of entrepreneurship, the course looks at the technical skills needed to build an online business, such as web development, market research, development environments, etc.
After all those skills have been imparted, the students are tasked with their final project – to build their own bitcoin-powered crowdfunding site, featuring their own products.
Due to legal rules surrounding money prizes, the final-year projects will not provide any take-home money, but the tutors are offering prizes for bragging rights to the best projects.
According to the course guide, the main reason for using bitcoin is due to its world-wide public readability – in other words, the block chain. This allows the tutors to trace which project is getting the most attention.
What isn’t clear is what happens to any bitcoin that the students raise. The course only states that it is not necessary for students to buy their own bitcoins.
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