An outsider's perspective on LTV - Comments for prospective students and for Tom & Jeff

by Joshua Chuang

This January, I decided to take the plunge and take the course Launching Tech Ventures. On day 1, Jeff was addressing the class and explained that the intended audience for this course was the startup tribe. It was essentially for people who lived and breathed startups. While I expect to one day start up a company, I would be lying if I said I fell into the same camp as the others. I decided to "secretly" take the class anyway and see what this was all about. Now approaching the end of the semester, I can really say that it was quite a journey...

During the first three classes, I painfully realized that the majority of the class was in fact the hardcore startup tribe. Everyone in the class read TechCrunch regularly. Everyone in the class knew the names of all the large and respected VC firms. I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't even know what "pivoting" was until I took this course.

So to the prospective students without that level of startup knowledge that many others will have, recognize that it won't be easy. It took a lot more work on my part to keep up with the rest of the class. That said, I can roll with the best of them now. Don't be scared away by day 1. I almost was and I know now that I would've regretted it. Don't let the other students intimidate you. Make your comments from your perspective. I'd argue that you are able to absorb many of these principles more easily because you don't have any prior experience in startups.

What do you do about the 4 cases moving to TEM?

With the removal of the four cases to TEM (Dropbox, Cake, Rent the Runway, Foursquare), I would recommend that cases with similar key takeaways, that I outline, replace them.

Dropbox: As powerful and necessary as MVPs, usability tests, and surveys are, sometimes the founder know best. Drew Houston correctly trusted his gut and had a few ideas/principles on the product that he refused to compromise on. This case also demonstrated the times when it's more important to rush a product to market and fail many times (and hopefully reiterate many times) and when it's more important to wait and get the product right.

Cake: What can I say? Without this case, I probably would've assumed that startups are an easy means to either success (either through the company being the next big thing, getting acquired, or going on to a nice VC job). I didn't knows the meaning of failure in the context of a startup until I read this case. What made this case more relevant to the course was that it allowed us to see how an entrepreneur didn't use lean startup principles and failed. It made it easy to see how we could've potentially done it better.

Rent The Runway: This case was one of my favorites. It showed very carefully crafted hypothesis testing in action. Jen and Jenny made important hypotheses and tested them at each step. It was also a good example of when to scale up and when to take a gamble. I would argue that they hadn't necessarily proved they had a viable model because they didn't know whether demand would remain throughout the year. However, they relied on the fact that they had successfully generated huge demand from the public. Beyond the LTV principles, this was just a fun case to look at in general (also served as a good comparison for the Chegg case.

Foursquare: At this moment, I haven't yet read the case so I can't comment (but can't wait to read it!).

General comments:

As mentioned previously, I struggled to get in certain classes early on. There were some classes where the professors asked for people to share personal startup experiences as part of the comment. For someone in my shoes, that makes it hard to comment. However, to their defense, it was really nice to hear the perspectives of the other students.

I loved getting into small teams to work on people's business ideas. It was great to put the leanings to practice. Maybe have two sessions next semester. Keep bringing in the guest speakers (both protagonists and VCs).


  1. I would almost recommend putting in an optional course for the students without prior startup experience or who aren't as well versed in entrepreneurship lingo or math. 
  2. Have sessions to help us build our careers in this field. How do we break in? How do we find VCs? Let's practice building surveys. Let's "create" some fake smoke screens. Let's practice finding developers or engineering people. 
  3. Encourage more people to take the field course! One of my biggest regrets! 
  4. Keep up the great work! I don't think I can stop thinking with a lean startup mentality.