Steve Blank The Lean LaunchPad class: it's the same thing, but it's different


It's the same, but different

We have just finished the 8thth annual Lean LaunchPad course at Stanford. Team presentations are at the end of this post.

It's hard to imagine, but only a decade ago, the leading class of entrepreneurship in most universities was how to write – or present – a business plan. As a serial entrepreneur turned educator, it made no sense to me. In my experience, I saw that most business plans do not survive the first contact with customers.

In 2011, with the support of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, we created a new entrepreneurial class: the Lean LaunchPad. The course was unique in that it was 1) team-based, 2) experience-based, 3) lean-oriented (hypothesis test / model). 39, business / customer development / agile engineering). This new class aimed to replicate the uncertainty of all startups in the search for an economic model while allowing them to understand all the components of an economic model, not just how to give a presentation or a demonstration.

(It's worth reading the blog post that became the class manifesto here, as well as what we learned when we first taught it here.)

Ninety days after we proposed this course at Stanford, the National Science Foundation named it NSF I-Corps (Body of Innovation) to train the best scientists in our country to market their inventions. I-Corps is now offered in 88 universities. The National Institute of Health teaches its version at the National Cancer Institute. (I-Corps @ NIH). (The NIST report on Unleashing Innovation recommended expanding I-Corps and the House had just passed the Innovators to Entrepreneurs Act.) The Lean LaunchPad / I-Corps program forms the basis of a series of mission-oriented business mind courses; Hacking for Diplomacy, Defense, Energy, Oceans, Nonprofit and Cities.

If you had been in 2011, the first time I taught the class, and you decided not to throw your head, you would say it was the same class. The program is almost identical, the teams still leave the building to discover the client every week, then come back to class and present what they learned each week, etc.

But although it's the same thing, it's different.

After thousands of students have taken this course, here are some changes to this course.

A great class lives beyond its author
I've always thought that good classes continued to thrive after the departure of the original teachers. While I created the Lean LaunchPad methodology and pedagogy (how to teach in class) and the trainer training course for the NSF I-Corps, the scale and success of the class are due to the efforts 100 national scientists. The instructors of the foundation and the NSF. And although I created the original course, the Stanford class is now headed by Jeff Epstein and Steve Weinstein.

To be honest, as I watch other instructors conducting these classes, I feel proud to "pass the torch" even though I am touched by the moments of King Lear and Ran of Kurosawa. Well beyond my punctual activities, the Stanford pedagogical team has professionalized the class thoroughly.

Expanded Education Team
In addition to the main instructors, Stanford's teaching team now includes George John, Mar Hershenson and Tom Bedecarre, who generously give their time. Each of them brings to the class a decades-long experience in the sector. This type of pedagogical power and number of staff was needed because the teaching team expanded class sizes to meet student demand.

Class size
For the first courses of the National Science Foundation, we trained 24 teams at a time with three instructors. We did so by dividing the class into three separate sections, grouping all the teams for our conferences and into sections of eight teams each at the team's presentation. (After painful trial and error, we discovered that the teaching team could listen to 8 teams present before our brains melted.)

At Stanford, we limited the class to 8 teams – four students per team. However, this year, the class was so over-abundant and the quality of the student teams very high, the teaching team admitted 14 teams and returned to the original NSF Separation model in sections. Additional members of the teaching team made this possible.

Velocity / Depth class
When we started this course, the concept of Lean (business models, customer development, agile, pivots, mvp) was new to everyone. Now these are buzzwords, and most students understand Lean well. This length of advance has allowed the teaching team to accelerate the speed and depth of learning beyond the basics.

Women
In recent years, Stanford's student teams were predominantly male, reflecting the composition of the candidates. While Ann Miura-Ko was part of the original teaching team, having all the male instructors in the past five years has not helped. After Mar Hershenson joined the teaching team last year, she made considerable efforts to recruit women. As a successful CEO and VC model, Mar was able to spark student interest and sponsor women's lunches, mixers and meetings for presentation to the class. As you will see in the presentations below, the result is that this year, 50% of the successful candidates and teams were women.

The lessons for me were: 1) the class had inadvertently reported a boys-only environment, 2) these unconscious biases were easily dismissed on the assumption that the composition of the class simply reflected the pipeline of candidates, and 3) when necessary active awareness by a woman to change this perception and bring more women into the pipeline and subsequent teams.

Product / market adjustment to the business model
My initial vision for the class was to use the canvas of the business model as a framework for teaching engineering students the nine elements of the business model: customer, channel of distribution, turnover, obtain / keep / develop, value proposition, activities, resources, partners and costs. And instead of the income statement, balance sheet and traditional cash flow, discover the "essential indicators" for their business model.

While students want to spend their time focusing on the product / market fit (who the customer is and what should we build for them) and build viable minimum product-centric products, I'm sure there is no need for them. I thought that Y-Combinator and other accelerators had already done a great job in this area. . My goal was to use the canvas to expose engineering students with other essential aspects of a successful business with which they may be less familiar (sales, marketing, finance, operations, etc.)

Admittedly, it was difficult to do because a quarter of the teams have not yet found the product / market fit and are reluctant to leave it until they do. But as my goal was to teach a methodology rather than running an accelerator, I traded time on the product / market based on exposure to the rest of the canvas.

If we design a program rather than a single class, we would offer it in the form of two semesters / quarters – the first looking for the problem / solution and the product / market fit, and the second half focusing on the rest of the feasibility of testing the canvas. and viability.

Looking at this year's presentations, you can see that presentations always tend to focus on product / market fit. Obviously, there is no good answer to what and how to teach, and the answer may change over time.

TA / Diagnostics / Mentors
Our teaching assistants ensure the smooth running of all moving parts of the class. Each year the teaching assistants continued to improve the course (although I must admit that it was interesting to see the assistants dispel any uncertainty of what students have to do week after week because had created a level of uncertainty in the classroom to mimic the teaching team and teaching assistants have added a considerable number of useful diagnoses to measure student responses to each stage of pedagogy and value However, the true art of teaching is to remember that the class was not designed by a discussion group.

Finally, the mentors (unpaid industrial consultants) who gave their time were professionalised and managed by Tom Bedecarre. The contribution of each mentor is noted by the students of the team they coached.

Things that need constant reminders
Whenever we escaped and admitted a team of engineers or MBA, their struggles reminded us that successful teams need to be diverse – that they include both innovators and entrepreneurs (usually engineers and MBA).

The same goes for pushing students. Each time we released relentless direct returns, we saw a corresponding drop in the quality of team results.

The teams
In the end, this course not only deals with what instructors are trying to teach students, but also whether students have dealt with what we wanted them to learn. Over time, two of our main ideas were: 1) it took the teams one week to process everything they had learned, and 2) we needed to teach them how to turn that learning into their story. course.

This year, all our teams have accomplished this and much more.

And after 9 years of classes, students are still finding that this course is what comes closest to a real startup.

Look at their presentations below.

Agai

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BeaconsAI

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Équifier

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Team

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Headphones

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Lemnos

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NanoSense

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Neuro

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NeuroDiversity Nerds

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Praxis

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Promote

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Right foot

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T opt

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Wanderwell

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Filed under: Customer Development, Lean LaunchPad, Education |