CS/YC Startup Spring 2018

CIS4930 CS/YC Startup format

CS YC Startup is an experiential-oriented course to learn entrepreneurial skills in Tech. About half of the class meetings are traditional and include lectures about a topic we think every young company needs to think about, and the the other half of the meetings are labs. Lab work is driven by student progress and by providing on the spot assistance to overcome roadblocks. Students will report progress at least once a week at a class meeting. The report should include the team's accomplishments in the last week and, perhaps more importantly, be ready to discuss the individual single biggest roadblock.

The course officially counts as 3 credit hours, but student are permitted to sign up for 1 or 2 credit hours. The class meets twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30am to 10:45am in LOV 301. Junior and senior majors of all disciplines (CS and non-CS majors) are welcome to apply!

Course materials

Stanford has offered two classes on building startups, and most of the content is online. Other material will include Thiel's class course notes. Altman's version is available as a series of videos and also includes an extensive reading list used with our course schedule.


Familiarity with Web programming or scripting languages is assumed when you take this class, such as Javascript, Python or Ruby, for example.

Course objectives

At completion of this course, a student will be able to...

  • develop a web site or mobile application using common development frameworks
  • apply software engineering principles
  • articulate business strategies
  • apply for incorporation of a business
  • deliver and assist with product development progress reports
  • understand branding and marketing strategies
  • understand the finanical responsibilities of a business
  • understand the impact of technology on society and economy


Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30am-10:45am in LOV 301.


Prof. Robert van Engelen

Office: 168 LOV

Email: engelen AT cs DOT fsu DOT edu

Office hours

Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:00PM-2:30PM.


There are a few specific assignments toward the beginning of the term when every team that forms a startup has some of the same problems to tackle. Beyond that, each team will be working on very different issues during lab meetings to develop their MVP as the major assignment in this course. Each team will also provide peer feedback via surveys to the other teams' based on the team progress reports.


Grades are assigned for the quality of student preparation for progress meeting and for student contributions during other teams' progress reports. Students should expect that the quality of the MVP and customer acquisition and satisfaction will be critical.

  • 10% Hiring Strategy and Organization - (team formation, assigning CEO/CTO/CFO roles, etc.)
  • 10% Business strategy report - (business model canvas)
  • 10% Value innovation report - (value proposition canvas)
  • 10% Tech Mechanics - (MVP, domains, webserver, dev environment, movile app, deployment strategy, etc.)
  • 20% Progress reports - (individual reporting)
  • 10% Progress help - (assisting others)
  • 30% Team dependent metrics - (customer research, customer growth, user engagement, UI design, marketing, downloads, etc.)


Because this is an FSU course, we must state the following FSU policies.

Students with disabilities needing academic accommodation should:
(1) register with and provide documentation to the Student Disability Resource Center; and
(2) bring a letter to the instructor indicating the need for accommodation and what type. This should be done during the first week of class.

This syllabus and other class materials are available in alternative format upon request.

For more information about services available to FSU students with disabilities, contact:
Student Disability Resource Center
97 Woodward Avenue, South
108 Student Services Building
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-4167
(850) 644-9566 (voice)
(850) 644-8504 (TDD)

The Florida State University Academic Honor Policy outlines the University’s expectations for the integrity of students’ academic work, the procedures for resolving alleged violations of those expectations, and the rights and responsibilities of students and faculty members throughout the process. Students are responsible for reading the Academic Honor Policy and for living up to their pledge to "... be honest and truthful and ... [to] strive for personal and institutional integrity at Florida State University." Florida State University Academic Honor Policy.

First class attendance is mandatory. Class meetings should be attended to keep up with the pace. You should not skip more than three meetings unless the absence is officially excused. Excused absences include documented illness, deaths in the immediate family and other documented crises, call to active military duty or jury duty, religious holy days, and official University activities. Accommodations for these excused absences will be made and will do so in a way that does not penalize students who have a valid excuse. Consideration will also be given to students whose dependent children experience serious illness. See FSU's General Bulletin.