Hacking for Energy at Columbia

UPDATE: Applications for Spring 2018 are now closed.

Want to make a real impact on energy issues? Consider Hacking for Energy, an immersive 14-week interdisciplinary entrepreneurship course where graduate students work directly with industry to solve some of the biggest problems in energy and sustainability.

Based on Columbia Senior Fellow for Entrepreneurship Steve Blank’s Hacking for Defense class, Hacking For Energy features problem statements for energy issues that need immediate solutions, supplied by industry hosts who also serve as mentors to the teams. Students develop and test solutions to critical problems facing the energy industry using the Lean Startup methodology.

Last year,  20 students (5 teams of 4) participated in the course, and they ended up interviewing over 507 industry professionals to test the viability of their proposed solutions.

With the post-class support of PowerBridgeNY, three student teams have continued to explore opportunities to commercialize their class project through a startup.

Solve Energy Problems in the Spring Semester, 2018

After independently forming interdisciplinary teams of 4, students apply to the class by proposing a solution to one of the several problems submitted by the energy industry. If accepted, the student teams will use the course to test and build their solution by getting out of the classroom, talking to customers, and interacting with industry professionals. The teams will also get an accelerated education in entrepreneurship as they investigate the viability of a startup built around providing the solution they are building.

What You’d Be Getting Yourself Into

The course is designed to help students learn how to launch a startup while simultaneously learning about the energy industry as a whole. Class will be into divided into three activities:

  • Homework that includes conducting 10 customer interviews a week, watching the How to Build a Startup lectures on Udacity, and reading about the energy industry
  • Presentations by students about their project progress
  • Lectures from industry domain experts on energy topics

Teams will be assigned a mentor to assist them in getting customer interviews, interpreting the results, and preparing the weekly presentations. They will also have access to a liaison from their industry host.




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