CAS 4EN3: Software Entrepreneurship - Fall 2017


New: This year, taking 4EN3 is joining MacOutreach.Rocks Uninc. We will learn everything in the calendar description, but in the context of taking the company to the next round of funding, for which you need to demonstrate traction by collecting 10 000 submissions to our Hall of Fame. Your mark will depend on proposing initiatives within this framework, convincing your fellow employees to back them, and then executing.
Software is global by default. To have a competitive product, you need to be the best at something. Fortunately, we happen to have an an Outreach product which really rocks!
It is easy to get advice to: Do what you know. Well, hopefully you picked up something about education in 15 years!
Experiential education is learning through reflection on doing, so we are going to do a lot of doing, and a lot of reflecting, so that Plan B is better (or at least different) from Plan A.

This is a full-year course, but you only have to pay for three credits! If you have a great idea in October, there will be time to see if it pans out by April.

Calendar Description

Issues in starting up a new software enterprise, with the focus on independent start-ups. This course will cover the technical, financial, legal and operational issues encountered by software startups. Small groups of students will take an idea and turn it into a prototype, a business plan, and a sales pitch. Lectures will cover issues from team formation to appropriate software development processes to patent protection to venture capital.


This is not a course on entrepreneurship for a general audience. We will gloss over or omit issues which are not germane to software entrepreneurship, although they are very important to entrepreneurship in general. We will assume basic knowledge and experience with software technologies and software development methodologies.

Course Objective

In this course you will learn how to turn an idea into a new software business. You will learn about all aspects of starting a new software venture, and be evaluated according to your ability to relate this knowledge to a business idea chosen by your team. You will get to talk to experienced software entrepreneurs who will serve as both guest speakers, and as judges. We will adjust the order of presentation to take advantage of available guest speakers.

(1) Problem Identification

(a) Idea Generation - Where do good ideas come from?

(b) Market Validation/Monetization - Will anyone pay for a solution to this problem? Is it a general solution?

(c) Can I solve this problem with software? in what time? with how many people?

(d) Novelty - Is this solution or the presentation new? Can we solve it better than other people?

(2) Disruptive Technologies - Your foot in the door.

(3) Team Formation

(a) Identifying Required Skills

(b) Ownership

(4) Mentorship

(a) Finding mentors and advisors

(b) Processing advice

(c) Giving peers advice

(4) Marketing and Sales

(a) Elevator Pitch

(b) Demo

(c) Company Website

(d) Social Networks

(e) Advertising

(f) Local communities/organizations (e.g. IF, Communitech)

(g) Trade Shows, Events

(5) Monetization - How do we make money?

(a) Software as a product.

(i) Bespoke software.

(ii) Shrinkwrap software.

(iii) Agency model (e.g., iTunes).

(iv) Platform model (e.g., Facebook).

(b) Software as a service.

(c) Software as a vehicle for advertising.

(d) Service enhanced by software.

(6) Financing - How can we afford to get started?

(a) Self-financing / Bootstrapping -

(b) Angel Financing -

(c) Venture Capital -

(d) Bank Loan -

(e) Government loans/programs.

(7) Intellectual Property

(a) Patents

(i) ours - Can we keep others from copying our idea?

(ii) theirs - Can others prevent us from running our business, or make us pay royalties?

(b) Trade Secrets - Can we protect our idea by not telling anyone?

(c) Trade Dress.

(d)Ownership of IP (corporate vs. personal, i.e. who has the rights to it if someone leaves the company/team?)

(8) Teamwork

(a) What expertise do you need and how do you get it?

(b) Do you share - a vision, - a strategy, and

(9) Privacy

(a) Legal requirements.

(b) Handling financial data.

(10) Closed / Open Source

(a) Can you charge people for services related to software you open source?

(b) Licenses: Does using Open Source software force you to work for free?

(i) GPL*

(ii) BSD*

(iii) Limited Licenses.

(iv)Dual or multiple license scenarios (e.g. game companies sometimes open source the engine, but retain IP to assets for a particulargame. Redhat has some closed-source code, and maintains open and closed source Linux distributions for example.)

(11) Software Development Practices in a Startup Environment

(i) Software Product Families

(ii) The Waterfall

(iii) Agile Software Development

(iv) Live Testing

(12) Network Effects

(13) Platform Effects

(14) Partnerships.

(a) When should you share an idea and when should you keep it secret?

(b) Is half a revenue stream better than no revenue stream?

(15) Other legal issues.

(a) Incorporation/partnership.

(b) Liability.


Christopher Anand. anandc (circled a) (name of university) (country).
Office: ETB 112. (drop by, call x 21397, or best check on slack).


Ethan Do. doq4 (circled a) (name of university) (country).
Office hours: TBA.

Special Helper

This year we are lucky to have a helper.

  • Glen Crossley (Mac email: crosslg) is a Business Development Advisor at the McMaster Industrial Liaison Office (MILO), and in addition to helping you formulate your business plan, his day job includes helping McMaster students launch new companies, so he will be a good person to know.

  • Office hours: TBA.


  • Employee compensation will be decided by HR, after it exists. Any reasonable scheme will be accepted.
  • Schedule

    ETB 237, Mondays 7pm-10pm.

    Up to you

    Links useful in preparting pitch: how to do presentations.

    Different projects will interpret Prototype in different ways. Some groups may be able to develop a working prototype, other groups will only have a UI shell capable enough to do some usability testing.

    Although entrepreneurs may be invited to act as judges, course evaluation is the responsibility of the instructor, who will answer questions about how each deliverable will be evaluated in advance, and who will ensure that marking is consistent across the course.


    You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity. Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.
    It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at
    The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty: 1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one's own or for which other credit has been obtained. 2. Improper collaboration in group work. 3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

    If in doubt, ask the instructor how this applies to your work.


    In this course we reserve the right to use a web-based service ( to reveal plagiarism. Students will be expected to submit their work electronically to and in hard copy so that it can be checked for academic dishonesty. Students who do not wish to submit their work to must still submit a copy to the instructor. No penalty will be assigned to a student who does not submit work to All submitted work is subject to normal verification that standards of academic integrity have been upheld (e.g., on-line search, etc.). To see the Policy, please go to

    Personal Information

    In this course we will be using subversion, email and other on-line discussion fora. Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course. The available information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.

    Possible Changes

    The instructor and university reserve the right to modify elements of the course during the term. The university may change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances. If either type of modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. It is the responsibility of the student to check their McMaster email and course websites weekly during the term and to note any changes.xsxs