Co-teaching a new class at Cornell Tech: BigCo Studio

cornell tech

Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island in NYC

I’ve been formally involved with Cornell Tech as a Fellow for about a year now and it has been super-fun having a front-row seat to seeing a major university rise on an island in the middle of New York City, the greatest city in the world. Cornell Tech’s major point of differentiation from most graduate institutions is its Studio program. All the components of the program are described on the web site but to really boil it down, the Studio program is about combining a top-notch academic foundation with the real-world experience of building actual products and services with multidisciplinary teams (design, engineering, business, and legal).

The Studio program has had an excellent Startup Studio track for years, led by David Tisch. Many students coming out of Cornell Tech will work for larger companies (Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc.) and I’m excited to write that I will be co-leading and co-teaching a new track to complement Startup Studio with my good friend, former colleague, and Google exec Bradley Horowitz. We’re calling it BigCo Studio:

In this class, students will learn how to successfully navigate the opportunities and challenges of a BigCo (Big Company) and build products in a complex environment at scale. Students will also learn about how business development, M&A, and other corporate activities complement, and sometimes compete with product teams to drive larger strategic initiatives forward in BigCos. Students will work in teams matched with a real-world opportunity and advisor from a BigCo. Teams will then build and pitch a working product in three sprints culminating in a final presentation and demo. The class will include lectures and prominent guest speakers from the industry.

Here’s the syllabus (feel free to email us with feedback if you have it!)

BigCos and their products and platforms are increasingly central to our lives, even if you’re a startup (think Gmail, AWS, iOS, and Google Cloud, just to name a few). Chances are you are using one or more BigCo products to read this post. There is a vibrant ecosystem of blogs, books, and information about the startup world but very little practical guidance out there about life in BigCos. We’re looking forward to covering the good, the bad, and the ugly of building products that matter in complex orgs. We’ll be sharing the dark arts of life in a BigCo that we spent the bulk of our careers learning the hard way.

I am particularly excited to be working on this with Bradley, whose professional expertise I respect deeply but also someone I love like a brother. We went through some serious wars at Yahoo! while having an incredible amount of fun. We last worked together in 2008 and since then, Bradley has gone on to run product for some of the most-used consumer products in the world at Google and I joined a little startup called Etsy and grew it into a BigCo. I can’t imagine partnering with someone more suited to the work and it feels like getting a band back together.

If your company is interested in working with our students, first read the How it Works and FAQ sections on the BigCo Studio page and feel free to reach out. If you’re a leader in a BigCo and there’s a topic you really wish students knew more about when they joined your company, let me know. My email is