COURSE TITLE:  Food Innovation Studio


INSTRUCTOR:  William Rosenzweig


PREREQUISITE(S):  By application and consent of instructor and teaching team 

CAREER FIELD: Food industry leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship


‘If you have dreamed of turning an idea into a food business, this course will enable you to learn and practice the entrepreneurial skillsets, mindsets and toolsets needed to conceptualize, formulate and launch a new food venture or develop a meaningful food innovation for market. The course addresses a broad spectrum of food industry specializations including brands, products, food-service, agriculture, food-tech and provides the context, safe container and network needed to incubate and accelerate successful new and early-stage food-system ventures.’
The Food Innovation Studio is a two-unit accelerator practice-based course focused on enabling graduate business school students (and related graduate students and professionals in disciplines including food science, engineering, public health, environmental studies, law, and computer science) to identify and define pressing challenges and unmet needs in the broader food-system and develop market-based, entrepreneurial ventures to solve them.  
The course supports teams of learners to develop essential skill sets, mindsets and toolsets for successful entrepreneurial leadership in the food industry. The disciplines of human-centered design, lean-launch, rapid prototyping, business model development, venture formation and venture pitch-presentation are blended into a rapid paced and accelerated experiential learning program over 10 weeks. Industry experts in food safety, transparency, sustainable and just supply chains, food venture formation, IP law, and financing will participate in the course. The Food Innovation Studio will feature the personal involvement of accomplished entrepreneurs, mentors and sector experts who will enhance the students’ experience and opportunity for success in the marketplace.
Students choose an opportunity/unmet need that is relevant to their own interests and expertise and form or join a team to which they can contribute. Diversity of background and education/technical/professional experience is encouraged. In addition to student-led project submissions, there will be external organizations pitching to lead FIS projects. Members of the FIS course go on to participate in other Berkeley events such as the GSVC, Dean’s Seed Fund, Sky Deck and Launch. There are newly created seed funds created to support food-focused ventures at UC Berkeley.

Learning objectives and key activities:

  1. Learn and develop a rigorous approach to opportunity recognition
  2. Create an “innovations map” for a specific sub-sector that charts technology development, applications and innovations, leading to potential “white space” for a new venture
  3. Articulate the vision, values and unique value proposition for a new venture
  4. Imbed and amplify opportunities to scale impact through the health and sustainability attributes of the venture
  5. Practice customer interviews to vet your hypothesis
  6. Develop a business model canvas
  7. Develop and test a rapid prototype of the solution
  8. Create and deliver a pitch presentation for the venture
  9. Develop a professional network of key resources
  10. Generate relationships with prospective mentors
  11. Develop and practice the core tenets of entrepreneurial leadership
  1. Team size: 3 participants
  2. Team time commitment: 3 hours in class and 5 hours
  3. outside class per week.
  1. Project lead time commitment: 1 hour per week
  2. (check-ins and guidance)
  3. Team budget: $0 unless otherwise stated. 


“Flipped Classroom” where student teams present their weekly progress to fellow students and guest experts who provide rigorous feedback.  In-class presentations are complemented with guest speakers, field trips and feedback from relevant mentors and industry experts. Students will have an opportunity to test and participate in an online mentor platform that will connect them to domain experts. At the final class meeting, teams will present to a panel of professional experts and investors to receive feedback on the viability and potential for their venture.

The overall goal of the course is to advance an idea through a cycle of exploration, discovery, design and launch preparation in a single semester. We will customize the course content to support the specific interests of the students and the needs of the projects that have been selected for pursuit.

The course is led by William Rosenzweig, Social Impact Fellow at Berkeley Haas. Will is an accomplished entrepreneur, investor and educator who has been a faculty member of Berkeley Haas and London Business School. Will was the first program director for the Center for Responsible Business at UC Berkeley in 1999 and has served as a faculty advisor for the Global Social Venture Competition for fifteen years.  Notable ventures that were developed in his courses include Revolution Foods, Indiegogo, GoodGuide and World of Good. From 2002-2004 Will worked on the original impact investing initiative at the Rockefeller Foundation and co-authored the first papers on Social Impact Assessment. For the past 15 years, he has managed a series of venture capital funds focused on health and sustainability, the most recent being Physic Ventures, a $160M fund focused on investing in keeping people healthy. In 2010, Will received the Oslo Business for Peace Award recognizing his leadership in the field of Responsible Business. In 2016 Bon Appetit magazine named him one of seven people shaping the future of the food industry.