Bite The Entrepreneurial Bug By Taking 7 Free Online Courses On How To Start A Business

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In any 21st century job, the work is hard and the hours are long. Thankfully, there’s a secret mantra revealed to the truly courageous – if you are not in a perfect job; create one for yourself. That’s where you stop swimming with the current and dare to go against it. Without a life jacket. From the cubicle cave you get to dunk yourself in the choppy waters of entrepreneurship.

The work is hard and the hours are long. The reward – being the master of your own destiny. A couple of years back; I mentioned ten websites where you could learn how to start a business. The article generated a fair amount of eyeballs, and that hinted at the interest around entrepreneurship. Personally, I am not one yet. I want to be. Two of the prime requisites — a passion and a business idea — are there. If the same bug is buzzing around you, here are seven free online entrepreneurial courses to put the building blocks in place.

MIT OpenCourseWare

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The name is usually found on top of any list on online study courses. MIT OCW is an initiative from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to make all educational materials from its undergraduate and graduate-level courses freely available online to anyone in the world. MIT OCW is one of the spearheads of the MOOC (Massively Open Online Courses) movement. Of the 2000+ courses that are available online, the entrepreneurship courses probably come closest to the MIT ethos. Why? To cite a 2009 report – “…the then-active companies founded by MIT graduates employed about 3.3 million people and generated annual world revenues of $2 trillion”.

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All the material taught in regular online and offline courses are available for free download. It calls for self-study, but with the top-notch lectures and tutorials in front of you, you can pick and choose from the papers listed. If you are looking for one specific topic, use the Course Finder.

Udacity – How to Build A Startup

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Steve Blank and Kathleen Mullaney take you through an intermediate class on how to build a startup from the ground up. The Udacity course takes off from the Customer Development Process and through nine lessons teaches you how to go out into the real world and gather customer feedback. The video classes’ help you define your customer segment, construct your value proposition, market the product, and finetune the business model. The course is self-paced and you can start anytime. No prior knowledge is required; only a willingness to learn.

Udemy – A Lean Startup Course

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The Lean Startup Course was recorded at the SXSW Interactive 2012 and is still available online for free. It is another self-paced course that gives you six hours of video lectures from the SXSW Interactive Lean Startup event. Steve Blank whom you meet in the previous link, joins speakers Ash Maurya, Todd Park, and Eric Ries. “Lean startup” is a business methodology that was first proposed by Eric Ries and talks about iterative business processes to reduce market risks and minimize initial costs.

Stanford Education ECorner

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The Entrepreneurship Corner has a collection of 2000 free videos and podcasts, featuring entrepreneurship ideas and innovation strategies by thought leaders. This is not a formal structured course but a walkthrough of real-world wisdom given by some of the best brains out there on the field. Though there’s no syllabus, the videos are neatly lumped into topics like Marketing & Sales, Product Development, and Social Entrepreneurship etc. Speakers like Mark Zuckerberg, Melinda Gates, Tim ‘O Reilly, and Marissa Mayer give their insights through a series of videos. Then there’s the YouTube channel itself where the videos are hosted. A must watch. You can also download the audio and carry it around in a media player.

Stanford – Technology Entrepreneurship

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Enjoy the best of entrepreneurship wisdom on technology at iTunes U given by Chuck Eesley (@eesley), Professor at Stanford University.  Entrepreneurship is age old, but the term got a fillip thanks to the Silicon Valley rush. The basics of starting a business are introduced and from there on the 28 podcasts take you through the chain of processes to the stage where you have to manage rapid growth. The podcasts are free and specifically on technology, but they apply equally well to others like social entrepreneurship as well. As the description says – it encourages an enterprising mindset which doesn’t see a problem, but rather a solution. You can also catch the playlist on YouTube.

Stanford – Entrepreneurship Through the Lens of Venture Capital

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Eventually, any successful business venture boils down to one simple fundamental – money. That’s where the art (or grind) of raising capita comes in through venture capitalists. This 12 part course on iTunes U is a capsulation of all that you need for pursuing successful funding. Guest lectures from experiences Silicon Valley hands offer invaluable advice on how to raise and manage capital. The particular course is held by Stanford’s School of Engineering and it is captured for free on iTunes U and YouTube for your benefit.

Young Entrepreneur Council

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YEC doesn’t run a structured course in the educational sense; Startup Labs started by them is more like an online mentorship program which connects you to entrepreneurship resources and successful entrepreneurs on the planet. YEC itself is a non-profit and includes among its rolls many successful young entrepreneurs of today who share their experiences and advice. The site was founded by Scott Gerber and today is well regarded for its programs. MyStartUpLab is the educational platform and brings a variety of learning resources to wannabe entrepreneurs (screenshot above). Digital downloads; live Q&A sessions; email tips; text chats; and local programs are on their roster. Join in by liking them on Facebook. It won’t cost you a penny.

These seven free entrepreneurial courses are among the best you can find online. The common feature is that they are self-paced, allowing you to jump in anytime. The second – and more important – feature is that the courses do not assume any prior business knowledge. Personally, I am drawing a lot of benefit from the Young Entrepreneur Council’s MyStartUpLab program. I may or may not go on to have a venture of my own, but the principles and practices learnt can be applied to our daily lives as well. Come to think of it, there is a lot of space for entrepreneurial thought in our daily lives. You can think like an entrepreneur in your present job, and take initiative while others hold back. Perhaps, the doors of success will open before anyone knocks. Tell us about your thoughts on this. Are there any other entrepreneurial goldmines I have missed? Have you taken a free business class yourself?

Image Credit: Zumpanos.com (via Flickr)

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2 Comments - Write a Comment

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Jack C

How could you exclude Coursera.org?

Saikat Basu

Hi Jack,

I didn’t forget about Coursera. But my focus was on courses that are not time bound, and a course you can start today — right now. Stanford covers a lot of ground and from what I can make it, they are probably the most comprehensive now when you take entrepreneurship and MOOC. Do correct me though if I am wrong, and your tips will be most welcome :)

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