Startup Studio

Prof. Steven Dow

Fall 2020, T/Th 11:00-12:20 pm

Location: Entirely virtual through Zoom and other digital tools

Office Hours: Prof. Dow TBD; TA Srishti TBD; IA Hailey TBD; IA Christopher TBD; IA Chaitanya TBD

Attention entrepreneurs, designers, scientists and engineers! In this course, students will learn tools and processes for innovating novel business concepts to solve problems involving the interaction between humans and technology. Students will work with an interdisciplinary team to understand unmet user needs and to create a value proposition that balances technical feasibility, financial viability, and desirability. Ultimately, student teams will prototype a novel product or service, write a business plan, and produce a video suitable for launching a crowdfunding campaign. To inform the innovation process, students will learn new techniques for leveraging social media and crowdsourcing to discover users' needs and to obtain feedback on preliminary concepts. Selected readings will cover ubiquitous computing, service design, business modeling, creativity methods, crowdsourcing, and crowdfunding.

Learning Objectives

Students will learn how to adopt an attitude of trial and error. How to be a lean startup. How to alternate between exploration and focus. How to reframe problems and explore/refine design solutions. Students will learn to conduct productive design critiques and interviews with potential stakeholders.

Leverage the internet for research, ideation, and feedback. Students will learn how to use Web-based resources — including online collections, Web analytics, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, and social media — to inform and drive an innovation process. How to collect feedback online. How to conduct an A-B test.

Articulate value in the mobile service marketplace. Students will learn about the emerging market for location-based, just-in-time, context aware, and highly social applications. They will learn how to assess and communicate a value proposition, how to conduct a competitive analysis, how to brand a startup concept, and how to pitch an idea through writing, presentations, and video.

Course Topics

  • Mobile information services, app design, product design

  • Value propositions, business models

  • Needfinding, interviewing, analyzing social media

  • Divergent thinking, brainstorming, generating alternatives

  • Synthesis techniques and problem framing

  • Storytelling, storyboarding, and video production

  • Prototyping/blueprinting for service design

  • Crowdsourcing, web analytics, A-B testing

Course History

Startup Studio originated as a course called Mobile Service Innovation developed by Prof. Steven Dow, Prof. Jim Morris, and Prof. John Zimmerman at Carnegie Mellon University. Prof. Dow taught this course for several years CMU on the semester system and has now adopted it for UC's quarter system.

Instructor: Steven Dow

Steven Dow is an Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego where he researches human-computer interaction, social computing, and creativity. Steven received the National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2015 for research on "advancing collective innovation." He was co-PI on five other National Science Foundation grants, a Google Faculty Grant, Stanford's Postdoctoral Research Award, and the Hasso Plattner Design Thinking Research Grant. Before UCSD, Steven was an Assistant Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University. He holds an MS and PhD in Human-Centered Computing from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a BS in Industrial Engineering from University of Iowa.

Srishti Palani is a third-year Cognitive Science PhD student at UCSD, excited about research in Human Computer Interaction. Through her research at the Design Lab, she designs tools that empower everyone to be more creative. In her undergrad, she majored in Computer Science and Psychology, and worked to establish educational mentorship programs to bridge the gender gap in tech. When she’s not researching, you can find her playing squash, learning to cook, or running.


Hi y’all, I’m Hailey a 4th year Cognitive Science (Design and Interaction) major. I am passionate about creating products or experiences through human-centered design that promotes self-growth and improvement. I am excited to be your IA for Cogs 122 this fall and please feel free to reach out at any time to chat!


Yoo what’s up y’all! I’m Chaitanya, a 5th year Cogsci (design and interaction) and CS major. I’m passionate about designing products that make social impact, move the needle in terms of business metrics, and enable sustainable growth. When I’m not busy pixel pushing or writing code, catch me jamming out at an electronic concert (unfortunately not anymore because of the pandemic), watching the NBA and the Premier League (go Clippers and Chelsea!!), or checking out the next shoe drop. I’m super excited to be your IA for COGS 122, and feel free to reach out any time to chat about design, portfolios, and the class in general! Happy to answer any questions or just chat in general 🙂


Hey everyone 👋 , I'm Chris a 5th year Cognitive Science: Design and Interaction major with a passion for defining meaningful products and crafting delightful experiences through the lens of building communities and shared experiences!

When I'm not stitching together wireframes or A/B testing you can find me chef-ing it up in the kitchen, jamming out to 2000s RnB, and following product trends in tech, fashion, and entertainment. Excited to be your IA for COGS 122, love talking about design so feel free to reach out and chat 🙌


Past Startup Studio Projects

Winter 2018

A peer-to-peer valet service where drivers can get their car parked at any location and valets can earn money parking cars.

Kickstarter Team Folder Video

Connects customers with local woodworkers to design and make custom wooden furniture.

Kickstarter PrototypeTeam Folder Video

QuickCare provides personalized care-package delivery services for people in a friendly environment so that they can feel the love of home, away from home.

Kickstarter Team Folder Video

An ultimate team finding application that allows video gamers to connect with other video gamers that they desire.

Kickstarter Team Folder Video

Helps refugees share their hardships and hopes, and allows donors to send money directly to families in need.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Utilizes local resources to create a rapid-response network in communities by connecting those who want to help with those who need help during natural disasters.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

A platform that aims to leverage the unique talents of individuals skilled in a particular field and other businesses looking to collaborate on cohesively developed products and services.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Connects patients with mental health professionals working independently to provide on-demand care.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Helps travelers plan their trips by generating custom itineraries within a set budget, which they can then order as a packaged deal.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

A peer-to-peer storage solution that will allow you to find cheap, convenient storage so you don't have to lug your stuff around.

Kickstarter Team Folder Video

Spring 2017

Don't have the time for an oil change? Sends mechanics to your door at the convenience of your schedule.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Why go out alone? Meet other people through events.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Quickly discover and schedule photographers at your convenience, whether you're out and about or setting up an event.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

A premium water bottle service which provides quality vacuum sealed bottles as alternatives to disposable plastic bottles.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Transforms movie ticket purchasing, where ticket prices get cheaper as more people purchase them. Let's experience movies again.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

An emporium where fans can sell and purchase fan crafted goods.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Wamé works with businesses with long lines to provide customers location-themed games to play with others in line to win discounts.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

A smart savings service that doesn't sacrifice your lifestyle. Effortlessly save by integrating your daily habits.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

A travel planning tool that helps you design an itinerary and discover the local culture and flavors. Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Immerse yourself in a new culture with food and facts. A world of cuisine at your doorstep. Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Spring 2016

No one knows a university better than students. Helps mid-sized companies establish an on-campus presence by training student ambassadors that can grow your brand and discover talent. Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Connects travelers with cool locals so they get to see offbeat places and have an authentic and personal experience. Locals earn cash! Kickstarter Prototype Home Page Team Folder Video

It’s time to reinvent the way we shop for clothes. Introducing an innovative system that provides personalized sizing recommendations at your fingertips.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

An interactive lecture supplement for both students and professors. Facilitate collaborative learning through in-class activities and generates comprehensive study materials.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Delivers top-notched evidence-based UX research and design by recruiting and mentoring talented young designers in your area. Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Feeling stressed or down? Helps you find a therapist you can truly trust, and talk to immediately, whenever you need.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Our service seeks to bridge the gap between you and your doctor. Our personal help bots will keep track of your recovery in between visits. Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Saving money with those closest to you can be stressful. A fun and easy way to team up with friends and family to work towards a common financial goal. Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Spring 2015

Connects individuals who need help learning new technologies with tech savvy mentors through community workshops.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Missing a great event because no one wants to go? Create new social connections around events! Find new friends and buy tickets for concerts, sports, and shows. Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Discover where your creativity unfolds with an app that helps creative individuals find inspiring places to innovate.

Kickstarter Prototype Website Team Folder Video

Makes travel planning fun and easy by allowing globetrotters to collaboratively discover and adopt travel itineraries from others.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Makes gift giving less stressful, less time consuming, and more fun by helping you find inspired and highly personalized gift ideas for friends and family. Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Helps foodies connect with local chefs for unique personalized cooking experiences, from choosing the freshest ingredients to mastering the kitchen. Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Helps runners and other athletes connect with new workout partners, enter challenges together, and motivate active lifestyles.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

Offers fast and cheap shipping from local retailers by opportunistically enlisting other shoppers as delivery drivers.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Website

Offers convenient, affordable breakfast delivery to working professionals.

Kickstarter Prototype Team Folder Video

An online marketplace for homemade food that allows urbanites to buy home cooked meals and sell their own dishes to others.

Kickstarter Prototype All deliverables

A social mobile app that offers themed scavenger hunts in multiple locations and allows users to explore and learn about their cities.

Kickstarter Prototype All deliverables

An e-commerce service that provides a seamless shopping with multiple brands and allows shoppers to create and visualize outfits with different looks.

Kickstarter Prototype All deliverables

An app that helps drivers easily find parking spots by providing information on public parking spot availability and letting users rent out their personal parking spots.

Kickstarter Prototype All deliverables

Allows people to pay for parking through their mobile phone. It works by scanning a QR code that would automatically pair their car to the spot until they returned....more

Has two main functions: polling and betting. The user purchases a team's season that he wishes to follow and participate in polls and bets happening throughout the game. ...more

Rwanda Headlines provides news items to cell phone users in a place where newspapers are expensive and television rare. ...more

Real Aware is a website service and certification board to help consumers identify restaurants that responsibly recycle their food waste....more

A service designed to help disabled voters learn about voting locations and to arrange carpools on voting day....more