In Fall 2020, the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) launched the CDL-Wisconsin Program. The CDL-Wisconsin Program is a collaboration with the Creative Destruction Lab at the Rotman School of Management and is an initiative that provides learning opportunities for our students and connects entrepreneurs with CDL’s global network of experts.
CDL-Wisconsin is an innovative partnership between the Wisconsin School of Business, the School of Computing, Data and Information Sciences (CDIS) and American Family Insurance. The program leverages the UW’s highly ranked programs in Risk & Insurance, Computer Science and Entrepreneurship.
The Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) course in the spring 2021 semester offered a dynamic, challenging practicum that paired students with startups in the earliest stages. As many of the startups had little to no business expertise on their founding teams, the contributions made by UW students had an immediate and profound impact on the direction of the business.
It’s not only the course’s learning outcomes that set it apart from more traditional courses; unlike most classes, the CDL bridges two semesters which began in the fall 2020 semester and concluded at the end of the spring 2021 semester. Furthermore, because students were tasked with working as team members of various third-parties, some work was required over the winter recess.
Though students enrolled in the CDL program have increased responsibility, it is precisely for that reason many consider the course one of the bright spots of their education. Albert Elston Jr., who recently completed the CDL program and is the recipient of the LÜM Scholarship Fund, shared some of his takeaways from CDL:
“One way I feel CDL has helped me is by presenting real, tangible examples of entrepreneurship in action. As [my partnered company] started to pivot, my [teammates] and I were able to work with them and think through ways they could modify their go-to-market strategy to achieve more robust levels of adoption here in the U.S., which was an amazing experiential exercise I couldn’t have done elsewhere.”
Albert went on to say that while there is much to gain from the class, the CDL program does require its students come into the program with certain attributes. For one, because the class is more student-driven than others, to be successful students must be motivated to learn and be inspired by more than meeting deadlines. The year-long course is structured in such a way where the first half delves into topics like building a business model, customer acquisition, and methods for assessing venture opportunities. Then, in the second half of the program students may support their assigned startup with market analysis, customer development, financial analysis, and any other tasks deemed necessary to help scale the business.
Another graduate of the CDL program, Anna Cottrill, was similarly enthusiastic about her experience with the course, remarking that what she learned from the course on risk management, venture capital investment, and entrepreneurism were eye-opening. Anna also heaped praise on the course for being as she described a professional development opportunity:
“In my opinion, the best part of CDL has been working with a venture in an internship capacity. It allowed my team and I to form professional connections with entrepreneurs and to assist in growing the company. My team worked on a few projects for our company over the semester, and we certainly impacted the entrepreneurs. It was amazing seeing the company utilize the work that we did!”
Anna concluded by encouraging any students interested in entrepreneurship, risk insurance, or venture capital to consider applying to the CDL program. Students can learn more at the following link: CDL-Wisconsin Course Page.