Karl Ulrich


CIBC Endowed Professor at The Wharton School



A holder of more than 20 patents for medical devices, tools, food products, sporting goods, and more, Karl’s expertise is in innovation, entrepreneurship and product development. He is the co-founder of the Weiss Tech House and the Integrated Design Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Karl’s Xootr scooter was recognized by BusinessWeek as one of the coolest products of the 21st Century.

The Wharton School

Karl T. Ulrich is Vice Dean of  Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the CIBC Professor of Entrepreneurship and eCommerce at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He also holds an appointment as Professor of Mechanical Engineering. His research is focused on innovation, entrepreneurship, and product development.

He is the coauthor of Product Design and Development (5th Edition, McGrawHill, 2011), a textbook used by a quarter of a million students worldwide. His most recent book is Innovation Tournaments (Harvard Business Press, 2009). He is the winner of many teaching awards, including the Anvil Award, the MillerSherrerd Award, and the Excellence in Teaching Award at The Wharton School. At Penn, he cofounded the Weiss Tech House and the Integrated Product Design Program, two institutions fostering innovation in the university community.

In addition to his academic work, Professor Ulrich has led dozens of innovation efforts for medical devices, tools, computer peripherals, food products, webbased services, and sporting goods. As a result of this work, he holds more than 20 patents. Professor Ulrich is a founder of Terrapass Inc. which the New York Times identified as one of the most noteworthy ideas of 2005, and he is a designer of the Xootr scooter, which Business Week recognized as one of the 50 coolest products of the 21st Century. Professor Ulrich holds bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT.

Karl Ulrich, Would Graduate School Work Better if You Never Graduated from It?.

Karl Ulrich, Business School, Disrupted in The New York Times.

Karl Ulrich, A Tool for Finding the Best Employees in The Wall Street Journal.

Karl Ulrich, Three Ways Customers Could Gain from Small Data in The Wall Street Journal.

Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich (2014), Will Video Kill the Classroom Star? The Threat and Opportunity of Massively Open Online Courses for Fulltime MBA Programs , William and Phyllis Mack Institute for Innovation Management.

Karl Ulrich, Young Entrepreneurs' Secret Weapon: SocialNetworking Savvy in The Wall Street Journal.

Karl Ulrich and Laura J. Kornish (2014), The Importance of the Raw Idea in Innovation: Testing the Sow's Ear Hypothesis , Journal of Marketing Research, 51, pp. 1426.

Karl Ulrich, It Pays for Entrepreneurs to Have Rich Friends in The Wall Street Journal.

Karl Ulrich, For Capitalism to Work, Everyone Has to Think It's Fair Game in The Wall Street Journal.

Karl Ulrich, Most Colleges Aren't All That Expensive in The Wall Street Journal.

Past Courses


The course is designed to meet the needs of future managers, entrepreneurs, consultants and investors who must analyze and develop business strategies in technologybased industries. The emphasis is on learning conceptual models and frameworks to help navigate the complexity and dynamism in such industries. This is not a course in new product development or in using information technology to improve business processes and offerings. We will take a perspective of both established and emerging firms competing through technological innovations, and study the key strategic drivers of value creation and appropriation in the context of business ecosystems. The course uses a combination of cases, simulation and readings. The cases are drawn primarily from technologybased industries. Note, however, that the case disucssions are mainly based on strategic (not technical) issues. Hence, a technical background is not required for fruitful participation.


This course provides tools and methods for creating new products. The course is intended for students with a strong career interest in new product development , entrepreneurship, and/or technology development. The course follows an overall product design methodology, including the identification of customer needs, generation of product concepts, prototyping, and designformanufacturing. Weekly student assignments are focused on the design of a new product and culminate in the creation of a prototype, which is launched at an endofsemester public Design Fair. The course project is a physical good but most of the tools and methods apply to services and software products. The course is open to any Penn sophomore, junior, senior or graduate student.


The course is first and foremost an intensive, integrative, project course in which student teams create one or more real businesses. Some businesses spun out of the course and now managed by alumni include Terrapass Inc. and Smatchy Inc. The project experience is and exciting context in which to learn key tools and fundamentals useful in innovation, problem solving, and design. Examples of these tools and fundamentals are: problem definition, identification of opportunities, generating alternatives, selecting among alternatives, principles of data graphics, and managing innovation pipelines. The course requires a commitment of at least 10 hours of work outside of class and comfort working on unstructured, interdisciplinary problems. Students with a strong interest in innovation and entrepreneurship are particularly encouraged to enroll. Please read carefully the syllabus posted online before registering for this course.

Elective Teaching Award – Wharton Executive MBA Program, 2015 Excellence in Teaching Award – Undergraduate Division, 2010 Teaching Commitment and Curricular Innovation Award – MBA Program, 2010 Excellence in Teaching Award – The Wharton School, 2007 Distinguished Fellow – POMS College of Product Innovation and Technology Management, 2006 Anvil Award – The Wharton School, 2000

Xootr Scooter – 50 Coolest Products of the 21st Century, Business Week 07/29/2009 Nightly Business Report – 30 Most Important Innovations of Past 30 Years, PBS 02/16/2009 Practicing What He Preaches, Wharton Alumni Magazine 11/01/2008 Nightly Business Report – Interview with Melissa Harmon on Innovation, PBS 08/08/2008 Harper’s Index – Energy Saved by Bicycling – October 2006, Harper's 10/01/2006 Are Cyclists Destroying the Earth?, The New York Times 07/22/2006 Description

Coverage of working paper on longevity and bicycling.

New York Times Review of Most Noteworthy Ideas of 2005 – Terrapass, The New York Times 01/01/2006 Description

Terrapass, a venture founded as an MBA class project is described by the New York Times as one of the most noteworthy ideas of 2005.

Knowledge @ Wharton

  • Why Bicycles Are Making a Huge Comeback in China, Knowledge @ Wharton 03/30/2017
  • Disrupting the Disruptors: Startup Accelerators Feel Pressure to Evolve, Knowledge @ Wharton 07/28/2016
  • How (Not) to Name a Company in the Digital Era, Knowledge @ Wharton 07/13/2016
  • How Vision – and Persistence – Built Bangladesh’s GrameenPhone, Knowledge @ Wharton 06/08/2016
  • Disruption Ahead: What MOOCs Will Mean for MBA Programs, Knowledge @ Wharton 07/16/2014
  • What’s Driving Tesla’s Open Source Gambit?, Knowledge @ Wharton 06/25/2014
  • Domain Name Land Rush: More Room for Companies, Competition and Scam Artists, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/21/2014
  • Separating Facts from Fiction About 3D Printing, Knowledge @ Wharton 07/31/2013
  • In Wharton Innovation Competition, Seeking Solutions for Middle Eastern Challenges, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/14/2013
  • Wharton Experts: Middle East Innovation Needs Institutions, Policies and Quality of Life, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/14/2013
  • Inside a Health Care Innovation Center, Knowledge @ Wharton 11/06/2012
  • Wharton’s Karl Ulrich: Access to Capital, Better Property Rights, and Stronger Education Needed to Cultivate Middle East Innovation, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/29/2012
  • Wharton’s First Innovation Tournament in the Middle East: A Competition of Ideas, and a Comparison of Challenges, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/14/2012
  • Wharton’s Karl Ulrich Analyzes the Strategies of Today’s Most Successfully Innovative Companies, Knowledge @ Wharton 02/20/2012
  • Procter & Gamble: Mastering the Art of the Innovation Tournament, Knowledge @ Wharton 12/20/2011
  • The Customer Lifetime Value Equation: Will It Pay Off for Tech Companies?, Knowledge @ Wharton 12/07/2011
  • Life after Steve Jobs: What to Expect from the Next Generation at Apple, Knowledge @ Wharton 10/12/2011
  • Putting the Squeeze on Consumer Choice, Knowledge @ Wharton 09/23/2011
  • What’s Fueling the Tech Patent Bull Market?, Knowledge @ Wharton 09/14/2011
  • Is Zynga’s Dependence on Facebook the Key to Its Success — Or Its Downfall?, Knowledge @ Wharton 08/03/2011
  • The Innovation Gap: As Product Cycles Turn, Nokia and RIM Scramble for Market Share, Knowledge @ Wharton 06/08/2011
  • 2011 Innovation Tournament: Finding ‘A Novel Match Between a Solution and a Need’, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/25/2011
  • With Its New Music Storage and Player, Can Amazon Deliver in the Cloud?, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/11/2011
  • Innovation Strategies for a New Economy, Knowledge @ Wharton 03/31/2011
  • When to Gamble — and When to Fold? Innovation Strategies for a New Economy, Knowledge @ Wharton 03/31/2011
  • Is Google Stuck in ‘Perpetual Beta’?, Knowledge @ Wharton 03/30/2011
  • In Search of the Perfect Search: Can Google Beat Attempts to Game the System?, Knowledge @ Wharton 03/16/2011
  • Weekend Business Plan Brainstorming Comes to the Middle East, Knowledge @ Wharton 01/11/2011
  • The Envelope, Please: From Eight Great Innovative Tools, Which Ones Are the Winners?, Knowledge @ Wharton 12/28/2010
  • Surrounded by Rivals, Can Research in Motion — and the BlackBerry — Prove That It’s Hip to be Square?, Knowledge @ Wharton 12/08/2010
  • Will Tablets Close the Book on eReaders?, Knowledge @ Wharton 07/07/2010
  • Tarnished Brands at Bargain Prices: Will the Tech Sector’s Latest Growth Strategy Pay Off?, Knowledge @ Wharton 06/09/2010
  • How Group Dynamics May Be Killing Innovation, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/12/2010
  • Apple’s iPad: A Gadget Killer — or Just Another Gadget?, Knowledge @ Wharton 02/03/2010
  • How Can You Find the Most Promising New Opportunities? Hold an Innovation Tournament, Knowledge @ Wharton 07/15/2009
  • As Smartphones Proliferate, Will One Company Emerge as the Clear Market Winner?, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/27/2009
  • A World Transformed: What Are the Top 30 Innovations of the Last 30 Years?, Knowledge @ Wharton 02/18/2009
  • The Net Impact of Netbooks? It Depends on Who Uses Them for What, Knowledge @ Wharton 11/26/2008
  • It’s a Breeze: European Firms Bring Years of Experience to U.S. Wind Power Market, Knowledge @ Wharton 10/15/2008
  • Bridging the Global Digital Divide, One Laptop at a Time, Knowledge @ Wharton 06/11/2008
  • An Earful on Ethanol: Rising Food Prices, Inefficient Production and Other Problems, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/28/2008
  • Getting Credit for a Novel Approach to Offsetting Auto Emissions, Knowledge @ Wharton 03/23/2005
  • The New Age of Service Robots: From Fighting Fires to Serving Beer, Knowledge @ Wharton 11/20/2002
  • A New Approach to Valuing Biotech Stocks, Knowledge @ Wharton 10/24/2001


Courses Taught

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