A Letter To My School

Ben Buie | 11/28/12

I came to CU to launch a company. I don’t want a job when I graduate, or ever for that matter. I want to raise money, launch a startup, and possibly get into TechStars. I chose to study at CU because I believe it is the best MBA program in the country for doing that.

As I prepare for my last semester, two classes outside of the business school are particularly enticing, the problem is that the MBA admin may not let me take them. One is a startup class through an innovative program called BDW (Boulder Digital Works). I would be put on a team with ambitious and talented designers and have a semester to launch a company. This is the first semester it will be open to other degrees on campus and I want to take it. Computer science also has a new startup class that would get me on a team with engineers. I presented these classes to the MBA administration office and they said no. They said I need to write the MCPC board to get higher approval. So, I did.

I’ve included my letter. I’d love to hear your thoughts and whether you think it will work or not. I don’t have the syllabus for the computer science class yet, so the letter below only mentions the BDW class. Their concerns are (1) that the outside classes would overlap with our internal startup class (I address this concern in the letter below) and that BDW is not a traditional graduate class in that it allows continuing education students to take it and something about the degree BDW offers. That said, the BDW class is an official graduate 5000 level class at CU.

My Letter:

In a recent article about the pros and cons of Boulder’s startup ecosystem CU was surprisingly listed as one of the cons. The writer, Trevor Gilbert, after interviewing a handful of local companies, claims that we aren’t a catalyst for growth and there is a lack of enthusiasm in the community for CU.

I don’t agree with Trevor, Paul Jerde and Brad Bernthal are amazing resources for the startup community and have done a great job providing value. However, there is one thing we must do better–we need to increase the number of successful startups that come out of CU.

Despite Trevor’s criticism, USA Today just ranked Boulder among the top 10 cities for startups and TechStars, the #1 accelerator in the world, was started in our backyard. With this in mind, I need your help to help CU mirror the energy in the community.

To increase the number of successful startups, business students need to form teams with students outside the b-school, they need engineers, computer scientists, and/or graphic designers. A team of 4 MBAs has little chance of raising money, and therefore, reaching success.

There is a solution. I’m asking you for permission to take a startup class offered through Atlas by BDW (Boulder Digital Works). This is not a traditional MBA class offering, but with the advent of new education models like Coursera, now is the time to be open to new classes and new structures. Now, more than ever, is the time to break down the silos we’ve build that keep MBA students in MBA classes and graphics students in graphics classes.

There are some that are concerned about me taking a startup class outside the b-school. They say that the class might overlap too much with our startup class. I submit that it no more overlaps than digital marketing overlaps with marketing. Like digital marketing, BDW’s startup is essentially digital startup.

I’ve included the syllabi in this letter and have reviewed them side-by-side myself. Although there is some overlap, the overall structure of the class is vastly different. The BDW class will connect me with two sets of mentors one-on-one and requires weekly labs on a wide variety of topics not offered though our business class.

In addition to the curriculum overlap concern, there are other concerns that I have not specified; however, I can tell you no one I’ve talked to is concerned about whether this class will further my career and make me a more successful alum. I have no doubt that this class will increase my chances to raise funding and help me launch a startup upon graduation.

I commend you for being one of the most open programs in the country, letting us choose more of our electives, and letting us take more credits outside the b-school than other schools. To be honest, this is one of the reasons I chose CU. This is the reason I believe you are the #1 public university in the country for entrepreneurship. In this spirit, I ask that you let me take the digital startup class offered by BDW. Help me help you increase the number of successful startups out of CU.

Thank you,

Ben Buie

About the Author

Ben currently works as a contract web developer and business consultant in Boulder, Colorado.

His passion for entrepreneurship led him to study business and learn to code. Although he never anticipated working on the web, Ben has spent the past 9 years learning everything he could about building and operating websites and web assets.

When not at work, Ben spends a lot of his time with family. He is married to a “beautiful” woman and they are raising 4 energetic boys. In his spare time he loves keeping up with technology, playing guitar, eating Sweet Cow ice cream, and painting (although he has very little time for painting these days). Other than that, Ben is a supporter of freedom and liberty, a fluent speaker of Russian, and he tries to be a humble follower of Jesus.

Read more about Ben.