Steve Blank Podcast
Summary: Steve Blank, eight-time entrepreneur and now a business school professor at Stanford, Columbia and Berkeley, shares his hard-won wisdom as he pioneers entrepreneurship as a management science, combining Customer Development, Business Model Design and Agile Development. The conclusion? Startups are simply not small versions of large companies! Startups are actually temporary organizations designed to search for a scalable and repeatable business model.
You think startups are hard? Try innovating inside a large company where 99% of the company is executing the current business model, while you’re trying to figure out and build what comes next. Charles O’Reilly and Michael Tushman coined the term an “Ambidextrous Organization” to describe how some companies get this simultaneous execution and innovation process right. Their book Lead and Disrupt describes how others can learn how to do so. I was honored to write the forward to their second edition. Here it is in its entirety.
A week ago I got invited to an “innovation hero” award ceremony at a government agency. I don’t know how many of these I’ve been to in the last couple years, but this one just made my head explode.
Revolutions start by overturning the status quo. By the end of the 20th century, case studies and business plans had reached an evolutionary dead-end for entrepreneurs. Here’s why and what we did about it.
We just finished the 11th annual Lean LaunchPad class at Stanford — our first version focused on deep science and technology. I’ve always thought of the class as a minimal viable product – testing new ideas and changing the class as we learn. This year was no exception as we made some major changes, all of which we are going to keep going forward.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear from Suresh, an ex-student I’ve known for a long time. A U.S. citizen he was now the head of sales and marketing for a company in London selling medical devices to hospitals in the UK National Health Service. His boss had identified the U.S. as their next market and wanted him to set up a U.S. salesforce. Suresh understood that the U.S. health system was very different from the system in the UK, not just the regulatory regime through the FDA, but the reimbursement process and the entire sales process.
There are no facts inside your building, so get the heck outside: I just had a call with Lorenz, a former business school student who started a job at a biotech startup making bacteria to take CO2 out of the air. His job was to find new commercial markets for this bacteria at scale. And he wanted to chat about how to best enter a new market.
These Five Principles Will Accelerate Innovation by Steve Blank
The U.S. Department of Defense is coming to grips with the idea that the technologies it needs to keep the country safe and secure are no longer exclusively owned by the military or its prime contractors. AI, machine learning, autonomy, cyber, quantum, access to space, semiconductors, biotech are all being driven by commercial companies. At the front-end of these innovations are startups – organizations the Department of Defense hasn’t previously dealt with at scale. They’re now learning how.
I first met Shawn Carolan and his wife Jennifer at the turn of the century at 11,000 feet. I was hiking with my kids between the Yosemite High Sierra camps. Having just retired from a career as an entrepreneur I had started thinking about why startups were different from large companies. The ideas were bouncing around my head so hard that I shared them with these strangers around a campfire, drawing out the four steps with a stick in the dirt. Shawn immediately said the name I had given the four steps was confusing – I had called it market development – he suggested that I call it Customer Development – and the name stuck. What I didn’t realize was that both were graduate students at Stanford and later both would become great VCs – Shawn at Menlo Ventures and Jennifer at Reach Capital. (And Jennifer is now my co-instructor in the Stanford Lean LaunchPad class.)
The Latin phrase E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One – is our de facto national motto. It was a rallying cry of our founders as they built a single unified nation from a collection of states. It’s a good reminder of where we need to go. Today as our country struggles to find the common threads that bind us, we need unifying, cohesive, collective, and shared national experiences to bring the country together again. Here’s what we’ve done to get started. And why I did it.
The story of RYAN and Able Archer is an oft-told lesson of a U.S. intelligence failure, miscalculation, and two superpowers unaware they were on the brink of an accidental nuclear war — all because the Soviet Union relied on a software program to make predictions that were based on false assumptions. As more of our weapons systems and analytical and predictive systems become enabled by AI and Machine Learning, the lessons of RYAN and Able Archer is a cautionary tale for the DoD.
During the Cold War U.S. diplomatic and military alliances existed to defend freedom around the world. Today, these alliances are being reshaped to respond to Russian threats to the Baltics and Eastern Europe and to China’s economic, military, and technological influence worldwide.
After hearing from 20+ guest speakers, including two Secretaries of Defense, Generals, Admirals and Policy makers in our Technology, Innovation and Modern War class – the direction of technology and the future of national security came into sharper focus. This series of articles will offer suggestions to transform the DoD to face the challenges ahead.
After hearing from 20+ guest speakers, including two Secretaries of Defense, Generals, Admirals and Policy makers in our Technology, Innovation and Modern War class – the direction of technology and the future of national security came into sharper focus. This series of articles will offer suggestions to transform the DoD to face the challenges ahead. — “We need to couple the $150 billion a year U.S. Venture capitalists (VCs) spend to fund new ventures with the speed and urgency that the DOD now requires.”
Last week the Biden administration delayed seating several Trump appointees to defense advisory boards. It’s a welcome signal that incoming leaders recognize these groups are essential, not just patronage jobs. But the review needs to go much further than that. After this article was written the Secretary of Defense fired every member of all 40+ defense advisory boards and will start anew. Hopefully the suggestions in this post will help inform how they reconstitute the boards.