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This new course could be a game-changer for cities

vertical farmWant to create the next Uber or AirBnB? Want to solve important problems in public safety, education, transportation, public health, or other areas? Beginning this Fall, a new course at the University of Michigan may help you do just that. The course is called Urban Entrepreneurship, and it aims to show budding entrepreneurs how to create profitable, sustainable, scalable businesses that address the needs of urban communities.

Urban entrepreneurship is not new, and human beings have created innovative ways to solve urban problems since before the Romans created the aqueduct system. Many entrepreneurs who have focused their energies on addressing urban needs have become billionaires, and many more have achieved the satisfaction of knowing that their energy and creativity have improved the quality of life for millions. What’s new and exciting today in the outlook for urban entrepreneurship is the availability of so many new technologies that create exciting opportunities in many areas of need. Now problems that once seemed intractable are being addressed with business innovation and technological prowess.

Students in the Urban Entrepreneurship course will work in teams to develop and validate a business model that addresses an important urban community need.  The class will engage heavily with current urban entrepreneurs, city officials, and urban non-profit organizations in order to gain a fuller understanding of the issues and challenges facing urban residents and urban entrepreneurs. Participants will spend significant time outside of class in facilitated community engagement activities.

Students will:

  • Gain an understanding of how for-profit businesses can improve quality-of-life in urban settings
  • Understand creation and use of business models in general, and urban business models in particular
  • Actively engage in determining conditions and needs in real urban communities
  • Drill down in a specific problem area to identify a scalable, for-profit business opportunity that addresses a real urban need
  • Learn the customer discovery process and apply it to the development of an urban business model
  • Effectively engage with teammates, urban community officials, and urban community residents
  • Understand the processes required to form, finance, and begin execution of a new business venture

Need identification, opportunity validation, and business model development form the core of current entrepreneurship practice. For this reason, the skills that students develop in the Urban Entrepreneurship course are transferable to many different kinds of entrepreneurial endeavors. Students will find the Urban Entrepreneurship course a valuable addition to their education experience, and effective preparation for creating business solutions to important problems.

Urban Entrepreneurship Course Instructor

David_TarverDavid Tarver will serve as the instructor for the Urban Entrepreneurship course.  David is a highly successful technology business executive with an incredible entrepreneurial journey and amazing success in corporate R&D, technology business startup, and social entrepreneurship. In 1983, David launched Telecom Analysis Systems, Inc. – a high-tech telecommunications instrumentation business. He sold it twelve years later for $30 million and then, working as Group President for the buyer, built a telecommunications business with a market value in excess of $2 billion. In 2012, he published the book “Proving Ground: A Memoir,” which details his entrepreneurial journey.

David left the corporate sector in 1999 with a hunger for community service. In 2001, he founded the Red Bank Education and Development Initiative, a community-based not-for-profit organization that catalyzed dramatic improvements in academic performance and opportunities for children in Red Bank, New Jersey.  Tarver has served on numerous civic and nonprofit boards—including the Board of Education in Red Bank, New Jersey; the National Advisory Committee for the University of Michigan (U-M) College of Engineering; the National Commission on NAEP 12th Grade Assessment and Reporting; the U-M Alumni Association board of directors and several other civic and not-for-profit organization boards. In 2014, David founded the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative and convened the first Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium on the U-M campus.

David has served as a lecturer in the U-M College of Engineering/Center for Entrepreneurship since 2012.

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