CSC454/2527+ CSC491/2600


About the course:

This course introduces you to the nature, structure, and dynamics of the contemporary software industry. It focuses on the key factors involved in ideating, hypothesizing, validating, and executing a viable and investable/return driven business model to launch a sustainable, scalable and profitable tech-based (software and/or hardware) business venture as a company founder or as an employee of an established company. The course will be a team effort of four students per team. The scope of the course does not include not-for-profit or charity business models.​

Course objectives include a meaningful understanding of:

  • The high-technology business environment in general and the software industry in particular.

  • The business concepts and principles behind creating and launching a successful tech venture.

  • How to produce, present, and critique business proposals and plans for ventures, and how to develop business simulation and forecasting models in support of these plans.

  • How to converse with and present to investors, executives, judging panels, incubators and accelerators.

  • Upon successful completion of the course, you will have first-hand experience of the stages, processes, and challenges involved in transforming an idea into an investable and scalable business venture, and will be ideally positioned to begin launching your own tech venture.

In this course, you will learn techniques and methodologies that will give you a distinct career advantage after graduation, whether or not you intend to work in a tech field. It is designed to give you a true-to-life experience of the thought processes behind successful tech business ventures, which apply whether you are planning on creating your own startup or working for an established employer. You and your team will devise a cool, innovative solution to a significant market problem. This will involve researching your customer base, forming and testing hypotheses, and producing a value proposition that will form the basis for your business model. You will investigate your customer base and market by identifying the key activities, resources and partners needed for fulfillment. This process culminates in a business model that both makes sense in a financial context and resonates with a venture capital (VC) or funding audience—the kind of audience who will eventually be visiting the class to critique your final product and business model.


This course sets very high standards for you because the business world demands nothing less. We have an obligation to ensure that your business education is thorough and demanding, and only students who are exceptionally dedicated and committed to developing mastery over the techniques and methodologies in this course will excel.

In both the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 semesters, you can select one of the following two choices:

  1. Take CSC454/CSC2527 as a standalone course, with no software development. You will develop a business plan and pitch deck, but with no software implementation.

  2. You can elect to take CSC454/2527 and also enroll in CSC491/CSC2600 Capstone Design Project in the same semester. This means you will earn two CSC half credits in the semester that you choose to take the pair. In CSC491/CSC2600, you will develop a software prototype to go along with your business plan and pitch deck in CSC454/CS2527. If you take both courses together, your software prototype will inform your work in CSC454/2527 (and vice versa) and thus can improve your business plan and pitch deck. This will also provide a more realistic startup experience.

Procedures to Apply for Fall 2020/Winter 2021 courses:

These courses are balloted and as part of the balloting procedure, you will need a PDF of your most recent unofficial transcript from ROSI/Acorn (i.e. a full academic history), a PDF of your up-to-date resume/CV and answers to a set of ballot courses.

Course Themes

Everything that we do in our courses is highly experiential — it’s the only way to begin to appreciate the demands that entrepreneurship places on teams and individuals. Additionally, the best startup teams embrace disciplinary diversity so we encourage all students from across UofT to participate. This is why we offer two of the most highly rated courses in parallel. A customer development course, the Business of Software (CSC454/2527 – that all of you will take), which informs the product development Capstone Design course (CSC491/2600 — that a subset of you will take). The former course (customer development) requires no previous computer science or business background, just an insatiable curiosity for entrepreneurship. 


Customer development teaches you how to engage prospective customers in order to validate the hypotheses you will make regarding your customer’s personas, their hair-burning issues and your value proposition to them. The knowledge gathered there directly feeds into a calculated product development cycle to rapidly iterate toward product-market-fit and minimize the go-to-market timeline. This all needs to underpin an investable, self-sustaining and ever growing business model.


The second way we create a true-to-life experience is by sourcing industry problems. That means we go out and seek industry partners that provide problem sets for our students to solve during the semester. Problems that are really challenging their businesses. No make-believe issues or theoretical hallucinations but the problems that are costing them financially or reputation every single day!  We’ve done this before with subjects such as law, biomed/biotech and human performance enhancement.

In the Fall 2020 semester, the Business of Software and the accompanying Capstone Design courses have partnered with the Royal Bank of Canada and will use problem sets from the financial technology business. As the financial services business is increasingly both fragmented and global, there are opportunities to create new tools for essentially establishing baselines for users and entities so that a probabilistic model (whether machine learning driven or purely statistical) can determine anomalous behavior. There is much written about the subject matter and if you are interested in reading more you can start with this document, Insider Threat Detection. It will highlight the many challenging and engaging opportunities.

One of the other side benefits of industry partners, in the class, is that they are always on the hunt for outstanding talent. They use this class as an extended interview platform to observe students performing and thinking through problems that plaque their business reputation, operations and governance requirements daily.

Course faculty:

Mario Grech, CSC454/2527

Interested in being a TA for the course? Apply Here


Questions? Email DCSIL Co-Director and CSC454/2527 Course Instructor Mario Grech:

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